Media and the movement: Facing these attacks together….
So, the last 24 hours have seen the predictable diatribe unleashed against both Labour’s new leader and the labour movement as a whole. One of the disheartening things about this campaigns was the viciousness with which the unions were attacked not just by the press but by some Labour Party members and now that has redoubled. An injury to one is an injury to all and that is a basic principle of the solidarity that should be the watchword for party and movement. This doesn’t mean we always have to agree or that anybody has to suspend critical thinking but it does mean that repeating the media mogul myths in an unthinking, red-baiting and union bashing way simply isn’t on.
Let’s be frank; the press should always be treated with caution by the labour movement. Even supposedly neutral institutions like the BBC display worrying signs of inherent bias, at the very least towards protecting their own interests. In the case of the BBC, since the government holds the purse strings in the form of the licence fee, this often has much the same end result as with a commercial station that ultimately cannot afford to ignore the interests of the monied. Trade unions know they cannot expect fair and balanced coverage for their side of an industrial dispute, for example, unless they fight every inch for it. Labour should rediscover some of its healthy skepticism when it comes to dealing with the media and assume at the very least it will face passive-aggressive hostility virtually as a given.
If our economic narrative changes along the lines beginning to be outlined by Ed Balls this will get even worse and every commentator under the sun will be wheeled out to make us look ‘loony’ and ‘lacking in credibility’. We will have to struggle and scrap to get our message out and the days of spin will be gone to be replaced by days of hard-slog; perception is nine-tenths of politics and this could present problems. However, if we resolve that we will use the tools we have to get our message over the heads of the established media in many cases then a problem could become an opportunity to reconnect. New media has a particular role to play in this process and although it will never be a replacement for existing channels (at least not yet) it could well be a productive avenue in getting our message across and reconnecting with lost Labour voters as well as winning new adherents to our traditional values.