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Westminster journalists failed to grasp what was happening to Labour Party

Media commentator Roy Greenslade’s blog post this morning is as predictable as its headline: “Jeremy Corbyn’s first day and press coverage, predictably, is hostile.”

Writing in the Guardian, it is not surprising that he did not analyse the paper’s coverage beyond the editorial. But it is the handing over of two important comment slots to writers who are not part of the Westminster village that seems to be to be significant.

Gary Younge, freshly back in the UK after 12 years in the USA, is given a front page spot and it is clear why none of his parliamentary new colleagues could have written it. He says:

Party grandees thought his [Corbyn’s] presence would offer a debate about austerity; few assumed he would win it. His candidacy was supposed to be decorative but never viable.

From the moment it was clear that assumption was flawed, the political and media class shifted from disbelief to derision to panic, apparently unaware that his growing support was as much a repudiation of them as an embrace of him. Former Labour leaders and mainstream commentators belittled his supporters as immature, deluded, self-indulgent and unrealistic, only to express surprise when they could not win them over. As such this reckoning was a long time coming. For the past couple of decades the Labour leadership has looked upon the various nascent social movements that have emerged – against war, austerity, tuition fees, racism and inequality – with at best indifference and at times contempt. They saw its participants, many of whom were or had been committed Labour voters, not as potential allies but constant irritants.

Yes, Guardian and Observer writers must be included those who were unaware that they were being “repudiated”.

The main comment space inside the paper is handed over to Zoe Williams who writes under the headline: “By ripping up the rulebook, Corbyn is redefining our politics. Whether or not he can win power Labour’s leader has a chance to give opposition a new meaning.” I mentioned this article in my previous post, suggesting it reflected the views of many who voted for Corbyn.

It looks as if there was a rapid recognition among Guardian editorial chiefs that given their record in the past few weeks, these prominent comment spaces could not credibly be given to the Westminster reporters whose lack of understanding of what was happening has been apparent in recent weeks.

It has long been held by many journalists that their specialist colleagues get too close to their subjects to be reliable reporters. That has certainly happened in this case. On the other hand specialist reporters are needed for their understanding of their subjects and the Westminster reporters will recover quickly.

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