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Monday, November 02, 2015 

Be as dissenting and creative as possible? Yeah, OK Tristram.

Once upon a time, the Daily Telegraph was a newspaper.  It was regarded as a very good newspaper, offering the widest and most in-depth news section of any of the broadsheets.  Even during the time Conrad Black was owner the news section remained in much the same shape as it always had, if the comment section went even further to the right.  Then came the reign of the Barclay brothers, who live offshore and favour profitability above everything else.  Gone has any real semblance of separation between the news and editorial sections, the lowest moment probably not being the paper's extremely limited coverage of the HSBC tax evasion scandal, due (allegedly) to the lucrative advertising contract between the two, but instead the paper's editor sending out an email the night before the general election urging readers to vote Conservative.

When the paper isn't shilling for any variety of grotesque regimes through sections paid for by said governments, it's running articles for which it doesn't have the slightest evidence but are motivated by doing over the Labour party in any way, shape or form.  Like today's piece claiming that Kate Godfrey, who previously said that Jeremy Corbyn's appointment of "fascism apologist" Seumas Milne as communications director was to devalue everything Labour stands for and shame it in front of the world, was rejected by unions at the first stage after she put her name forward to be the prospective parliamentary candidate for Oldham West and Royton.

The Telegraph's story is all but needless to say based on a single unnamed source, when a simpler explanation might be that 6 prospective candidates have already made the list, and there was little point putting someone on it who has criticised the party leadership in hyperbolic terms.  The sort of terms that make it very easy for journalists to put yet another "Corbyn's a terrorist sympathising loon" story in their paper.  Clearly, what Labour should have done is accepted Godfrey onto the shortlist just to make crystal how open and encompassing the party remains under Corbyn, just as the previous leadership would have done had someone openly critical of Blair, Brown or Miliband applied to stand.  Obviously, if a journalist went along for an interview with the Telegraph and said the Barclay brothers were a pair of weirdos running a once great newspaper into the ground and that editor Chris Evans was just a lackey for them without any ideas of his own, they would have been hired forthwith.

Such things are nonetheless to be expected, just as it was also predictable that newspapers would discover that a couple of years back Corbyn said he couldn't see much point to commemorating the first world war, except to remember the slaughter of so many.  It doesn't seem to matter he was referring directly to the government's plans for memorials, rather than any sort of reference to the yearly commemoration of all war dead, of which there was wider criticism and comment on.  According to Matthew d'Ancona this is still enough to with "no exaggeration" make Corbyn unfit to prime minister, as he is apparently unable to see "remembrance as a collective expression of gratitude" rather than a "celebration of warfare".

Trying to paint Corbyn as unpatriotic, as unsympathetic or hostile to Our Boys is just about the oldest trick in the book, which is no doubt why UKIP plan to run with it during the Oldham by-election.  We don't so much as need to mention that not donkey jacket, or need remember the Sun tried to do over Gordon Brown for daring to write a personal letter of condolence in his dodgy handwriting to the family of a soldier who died in Afghanistan to know where this is all going.  It also doesn't really need pointing out these renewed attacks came after Labour had a good week - Osborne fell into his own trap on tax credits, Corbyn accordingly trounced David Cameron at PMQs, time clearly to turn debate back to Corbyn and all those Labour MPs scared witless about being purged by this Marxist madman.

Step forward Tristram Hunt, whose comments have also been somewhat misconstrued, or rather used in probably the way he knew full well they would be.  The best way to serve the Corbyn leadership, he told students at Cambridge's Labour Club, was to be "as dissenting and creative as possible".  Tristram is determined to be the former while there's not as yet much to suggest he will ever be the latter, but let's give him a chance.  His comments on Labour becoming a sect are not in truth that far from a warning someone like, ahem, I would give: that there is a danger of falling into the fallacy of mistaking friendship circles on social media as representative and othering anyone who disagrees.  The same though obviously applies to the diminishing moderate or centrist wing of the party, currently priding itself on not being in thrall to Corbyn.

More questionable was Hunt's peroration, urging the 1% in attendance to "take responsibility and leadership" going forward.  You could argue it might just have been the PPE tendency in all parties that has led to Westminster becoming so derided and sneered at, that we need MPs from all backgrounds rather than a narrow elite.  Corbyn might not be the leader many of us would have chose if we were to pick someone both left-wing and electable, but he most certainly is an antidote to politics as usual.  Hunt and the other Corbyn-baiters in Labour have yet to offer a realistic alternative beyond the electoral strategy of winning 36% of the vote on a platform barely indistinguishable to that of the Conservatives, one that seems palatable neither to the electorate or Labour supporters and members.  When that creativity does occur, as it hopefully will, it deserves hearing and considering.  Till then, Hunt is doing little other than helping those who don't need any help in denigrating Labour.

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