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Jeremy Corbyn's media strategy so far has been to disregard the media – can he go on like this?

By Chris Boffey |

September 15, 2015 | 5 min read

Jeremy Corbyn's media strategy is reflected in his appointment of Kerry McCarthy, a vegan and opponent of mass food production, as shadow farming minister. It equals, in either its naiveté or rigidity, John McDonnell's role as chancellor of the exchequer: a politician who wants to abolish capitalism.

It shows that Corbyn doesn't actually care what the media thinks, but more importantly it comes down to the crux of the matter: he is working in a tunnel where the only light is his own beliefs, and his startling victory in the Labour leadership contest has reinforced them, and also how he deals with the mainstream media. And his appointments of a vegan and an anti-capitalist show his contempt for the mainstream in either farming, finance or the press.

Corbyn had the support of only one newspaper in his victory ride but still he trounced his opponents. His campaign has been lauded for its strategy in encouraging people to sign up to the Labour party and vote for him and has been seen as the future in mass participation. Who needs the media?

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I think the next few months and – if he lasts that long – the next few years will answer that question.

During the leadership election Corbyn employed a vast machine of enthusiastic volunteers, aided by help and finance from unions, to get people to become affiliated to the Labour Party and vote for Corbyn. It was remarkable but I would love to see a breakdown of the vote. How many of them had never voted before, how many voted Tory or Lib Dem at the last election, and how many voted Green or for minor socialist parties?

I doubt that many didn't vote in the last election. Corbyn managed to attract the disaffected and those with rosy visions of a socialist utopia where armies are not needed, where the gap between rich and poor is negligible and where terrorists are happy to come to the table and talk.

Now the election is over he doesn't have hundreds of people working the phones in union paid-for offices and will not be involved in mass hustings throughout the country which will be shown on television. He will have a small press team at Westminster, most of whom do not support his views. One of the best, Paddy Hennessy, has already moved on.

Normally an election winner will have a honeymoon period. Corbyn has missed out on this and gone straight for the divorce.

The television pictures of him staring straight ahead and refusing to acknowledge, never mind talk to, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, blanking Sky News after his shadow cabinet appointments with the aside "these people are bothering me" and his rejection of the Andrew Marr Show also showed a bizarre disregard for engagement with the media which causes his press spokesperson Carmel Nolan to tear her hair out, especially as the circle around Corbyn will not even engage with her.

But there could be very simple answers. To have a media strategy politicians first of all have to have carefully thought out policies that acknowledge the consequences of their actions. The best strategy in the world cannot mask policies that are unworkable.

Or it could be that old leftie Corbyn sees his enemy, the lackeys of the capitalist press, at every door as he has done for the whole of his political life. This time he could be right... in spades.

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government


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