Corbyn and the media: Is there any point in him being polite to the press?

New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attracted nearly universal opposition from national newspaper leader columns and has failed to win many friends in the media since his victory.

Left winger Corbyn won the Labour party election on 12 September getting almost 60 per cent of more than 400,000 votes cast. 

Two days before Corbyn became leader of the Labour party Paul Connew wrote  in The Drum: “Well, even as someone hostile to Jeremy Corbyn’s run for leader, I have to admit his treatment by the Mail, Sun, Telegraph, Times and Express and their Sunday sisters has been as savage as anything dished out to Ed Miliband.”

Connew noted that Corbyn has instead got his message across via social media: “In the event of Corbyn’s anticipated triumph, the significance of a recent YouGov poll showing that 57 per cent of his supporters cited social media as their main source of news, compared to 41 per cent of Yvette Cooper’s, 39 per cent of Andy Burnham’s and 38 per cent of Liz Kendall’s will not be lost on political and social historians and political analysts and strategists."

He continued: "For, if ever there was any truth in the Sun’s famous, ‘It was the Sun wot won it’ boast when John Major overturned the odds and defeated Neil Kinnock, then ‘It was social media wot won it’ could probably more credibly be applied to Jeremy Corbyn.”

Huffington Post piece by Louise Ridley noted Corbyn's reaction to media criticism of his shadow cabinet appointments: “And after criticism that what some see as the biggest three jobs in his shadow cabinet have all gone to men, Corbyn walked in silence and blanked journalists who repeatedly questioned him on Sunday night. He was reportedly heard saying that 'these people are bothering me' to an aide.”

In response to a report of Corbyn not appearing on the Radio 4 Today programme a spokesperson for the BBC stated: "It is inaccurate to say that he pulled out as he was never confirmed to appear."

The New Statesman is one of the few titles to secure an interview with Corbyn. In it he said: "There have been some amazing statements that have come out about me in the past few days. Apparently people know what’s going on in my mind so I don’t need to think any more. I just read the papers."

Corbyn has also given interviews to Scotland's Daily Record (which backed his campaign) and BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Channel 4 television interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy resulted in an argument between the two over Corbyn's earlier description of Hamas and Hezbollah as friends.

He said: "I spoke at a meeting about the Middle East crisis in parliament and there were people there from Hezbollah and I said I welcomed our friends from Hezbollah to have a discussion and a debate, and I said I wanted Hamas to be part of that debate. I have met Hamas in Lebanon and I've met Hezbollah in this country and Lebanon."

Corbyn continued: "The wider question is Hamas and Hezbollah are part of a wider peace process. Even the former head of Mossad says that there has to be talks involving Hamas."

He then said: "I've also had discussions with people from the right in Israeli politics who have the same view possibly that the state of Israel should extend from the river to the sea, as it is claimed people from the Palestinian side do."

In an interview with Jim Pickard in the Financial Times, Corbyn fired a warning shot to UK national newspaper owners such as Rupert Murdoch. He said: "I think there is far too much concentration in the hands of too few and so I would look at that again. Diversity in media is something that is intrinsic to a democratic society. We do not want the whole media owned by one person."

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian noted Corbyn's decision to turn down an appearance on BBC’s Andrew Marr show on the day after he won the Labour election.

He said: “Could his silence then be considered as an instance of a pre-planned decision to keep schtum? In other words, is it part of his media strategy? In fact, Corbyn has no media strategy at all. Well, that needs explanation. After his election on Saturday, his own team – including his head of press, Carmel Nolan – were superseded by the Labour party machine.”

Corbyn writes a regular column for socialist daily newspaper the Morning Star and has written pieces for the Daily Mirror.

Writing in the New StatesmanOwen Jones urged the media not to ignore Corbyn and the movement he represents: "An incredible political moment arrived over the summer. It would be a travesty if it was buried because of an all-out media offensive that wasn’t checked." 

But writing on Politics UK, Ian Dunt suggested Corbyn was right to shun much of the mainstream media.

He said: "…the media will always be hostile to Corbyn, so he shouldn't bother with them. This point is largely true."

"There is no point in him being polite to the Sun, Express, Mail, Times or the Telegraph. They'll never come onside. The Mirror, Guardian, Independent and even the FT, however, are worth his time. They may not be natural supporters, but they will provide some supportive coverage on individual issues, even if they never throw their weight behind him entirely."

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