There’s an article in yesterday’s Herald that ought to be astonishing. It really ought to be. But it isn’t.
The ‘Blairite’ faction of the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party), or ‘right-whingers’ as I prefer to call them, whinged to the newspaper that they are being ‘trolled’. By Jeremy Corbyn:
And that they’re bearing it in dignified silence:
They go on to claim that Corbyn is, essentially, baiting them:
Many MPs now think that he is trolling us. He keeps trying to pick fights. If he can keep saying that the problem is Labour MPs not supporting him then he thinks he can explain away the terrible poll numbers.
This goes beyond irony. Beyond satire. It’s as desperate and shameless an attempt to frame the narrative as I’ve ever seen.
‘Frame the narrative’? If you’ve ever seen The West Wing, you’ll know that Martin Sheen’s President tells his staff not to let opponents ‘frame the narrative’ – decide how a problem is going to be described, addressed, perceived. It’s a frequent Tory tactic and was used to devastating effect to tar the then-Labour government with the blame for a global financial crash that had nothing to do with Labour overspending. It was, of course, absolute nonsense – but Brown and then Miliband failed to attack it and it stuck.
This is similar, but in its way even more nonsensical. Here’s why.
“The policy now is ‘don’t rise to it'” – except you don’t ‘not rise to it’ by going bleating to the media about it. You especially don’t do it by having multiple MPs anonymously briefing against your leader.
No, that’s not ‘not rising’ or dignified silence. It’s like an incompetent co-worker who’s always complaining about how much harder s/he works than everyone else and threatening to leave: ‘I’m going. I’m leaving. I really am!” while everyone else in the office is just praying they’ll do it and knowing they won’t.
So the ‘policy’ is nothing of the kind. It’s just an attempt to varnish the huge, steaming turd of ongoing right-wing plotting.
You ain’t no victims, bruh
There are various definitions of a ‘troll’ that appear on Google, but universal to all of them is that the troll has a victim.
Corbyn is on record once saying that poor polling is a result of the summer’s leadership challenge and the MPs’ behaviour that surrounded it. Once is not ‘keeps picking fights’.
So, when asked to provide an example of the supposed ‘trolling‘, the right-whinger being quoted has to scrape the bottom of a very low barrel:
She pointed to Mr Corbyn’s decision last week to hire a key aide from Sinn Fein, an appointment which horrified many Labour MPs.
Except that’s not ‘trolling’ by any definition. And it didn’t ‘horrify many Labour MPs’ – not least because one of the key anti-Corbyn figures in the Labour party wasn’t just an employee of Sinn Fein, but used to be a member of that organisation. Which is no crime or anything worthy of criticism, but does make the ‘horror’ of Labour right-whingers utterly hypocritical.
But that’s not the only reason the ‘moderate’ PLP contains no victims. They are, in fact, the aggressors – the most egregious and cowardly bullies imaginable, as this account of the beginning of the summer’s ‘chicken coup’ shows:
As one MP was quoted, the intent was ‘to break him as a man‘, so determined were the plotters to end his leadership.
Corbyn trolled nobody and has shown incredible forbearance, but even if he did choose to hit back, who could blame him?
Truth is an absolute defence
The title of this section is a legal maxim concerning alleged defamation of character – if something is true, it can never be defamatory. But it applies equally in this case.
Corbyn has said – once – that the plotters are responsible for Labour’s current poor polling. Assuming that the pollsters have a clue how to predict or measure anything in the current, volatile political climate – which is a huge assumption – Corbyn’s attribution of responsibility for it cannot sensibly be questioned.
If a party’s MPs appear at every opportunity, as the right-whingers have done, to tell anyone who’ll listen that Labour is unelectable, then the question is ‘why are those MPs still in the party rather than drummed out for disrepute?‘, not ‘why are its polls bad?’.
It’s also empirically demonstrated that the whines and undermining are at the heart of poor polling – because as soon as the ‘moderates’ shut up, Labour’s polling improves.
And in fact, at real polls involving real voters, in any seat that could be remotely considered winnable and, after a month or so of the rebels keeping quiet, even in some that previously couldn’t, Labour’s vote-share has improved – which takes us back to the fact that pollsters are all at sea in the current circumstances.
So, what do we conclude? Labour’s right freely admits that its key strength is organisation and (sometimes) ‘message-discipline’, that is, spin.
What the Herald article represents is a rather desperate and utterly hypocritical attempt to control the narrative by a bunch of agitating bullies attempting to appear otherwise. To cast the target of their bullying – I won’t say ‘victim’, as Corbyn has proven far too strong for that – as the aggressor and stirrer.
It’s pathetic, really – but the media will play along all too happily, so it’s as well to spread a realistic perspective in case anyone falls for it.
After all, never let the other side frame the narrative. And the right-whingers are, beyond question, ‘the other side’.
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