Originally written for the Chat Politics website back in 2015, this piece looks at whether Jeremy Corbyn’s election could change the way Rupert Murdoch’s empire reported events.
By Will Barber – Taylor
Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise leap into the place of front runner in the Labour leadership election has surprised many; thrilled some and made others worry about the direction that the Labour party is going into. Corbyn’s chances of becoming Labour leader have already split the party with one faction denouncing Corbyn for his views on industry and his foreign policy whilst others have hailed him as the saviour of the Labour party and movement. The narrative that has emerged from the scrap for the Red Throne is clear in the papers whether left wing or right; the Labour party is a mess. While the Conservatives take the upper hand and use their slim majority to make them as strong and effective as possible Labour is more concerned with “petty” political point scoring.
This isn’t Corbyn’s fault of course; he has as much right to stand as any other candidate but what wasn’t expected and what has tipped the party and the papers into a flurry is his popularity (which almost seems a surprise to him too). Yet even though the papers and members of his own party have marked Corbyn down as an election failure, his support still flourishes. Aside from the hundreds of Twitter accounts that are dedicated to spreading the heir of Benn’s message as far as possible, Corbyn seems to now regularly draw a crowd consisting of thousands of people both young and old like some political Taylor Swift. Corbyn defies the expectation of the media; instead of being the “joke” candidate in the election, he has flourished. MPs such as former Deputy Leader, Margaret Beckett have declared that they now regret voting for him because they only wanted him to be on the ballot. Not win. That would be out of the question. Corbyn’s appeal has changed the way the party operates with anti-austerity members becoming more and more vocal thanks to Corbyn’s backing of their ideals. The question of whether Corbyn can change the Labour party is now redundant; whether he wins or not is irrelevant as he has already changed the mentality of the party and shattered any unity that may have been felt during Miliband’s leadership. The real question, that one that is not being answered is whether Corbyn will be able to change the media’s perception of him and if so does it matter?
Throughout his time as a major media mogul, Rupert Murdoch has never been left wing. His ideals and the ideals of his newspaper have only briefly chimed with those of the Labour party, during the run up to and after Blair’s premiership. Of course, in a way Murdoch had no choice; after the series of botched mistakes and mishaps that Major’s government were involved in in the run up to the 1997 general election, Murdoch would have been foolish to side with a party that looked more and more like outmoded, weak, desperate dinosaurs. Therefore, he jumped ship and the rest as they say is history. Yet as soon as he could, Murdoch jumped ships back to the Tories and put his full weight behind their 2010 campaign (even though it resulted in a less than a palatable result). As soon as he could, Murdoch returned to making out that the Labour party, and Miliband in particular, were “loony lefties” who could never govern Britain. However as Corbyn has managed to change his own party and brought people back to it that had previously left for other groups, could he change Murdoch?
If Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour party which is a distinct possibility, his support may grow. If it does, and he already has a great deal of support, surely Murdoch and other right wing organisations could hardly write him off as the leader of a one man band. The real test of strength of course would be an election; if Corbyn wasn’t elected then Murdoch and co would be proved right, that an overtly left wing message wasn’t what the people of Britain wanted. Yet the far more intriguing, though remote, possibility is what would happen if Corbyn won.
If Corbyn became Prime Minister in 2020 then Murdoch could hardly call Corbyn and his followers insane as surely some of them would be readers of his newspapers. Therefore, Murdoch would either have to make a u turn that could be viewed from space or take on the angle that Fox News took after Obama’s election as President. Having being able to have the comfort of Republican rule for eight years, Fox felt it had a strong position. When Obama became President in 2009, Fox was left in an intriguing position. While still one of the largest, if not the largest, news network it had backed the losing side. Therefore, Fox adopted the voice of “the underdog”, the voice of the oppressed right wing. This would mean a major shift in Murdoch’s editorial output; no longer would it be the narrative of the strong, powerful Conservative party but that of a party weakened by evil left wing neo Marxist beard stroking revolutionary terrorist likers. Whatever happens, Corbyn’s possible election will surely have some effect on Murdoch; either ratifying his newspapers deep-seated beliefs or a colossal shake up.