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The independent London newspaper

Postcard from Brighton: Chasing Corbyn

Press lose sight of debate and discussion amid seafront pursuits

27 September, 2019 — By Richard Osley in Brighton

Camden councillor Lorna Russell visits The World Transformed in Brighton

SOCIAL media is the death of politics, warned a worried man in a workshop tent at The World Transformed, the festival organised by left-wing group Momentum to run alongside the Labour Party conference.

“The put-down has taken over, the quip has become most important,” he told the session, which was discussing solidarity between different campaigns within their movement.

That’s not a bad assessment of the press pack in general, who often seem more seduced by the instant adulation from a funny one-liner on Twitter than the need for serious investigation.

The worrier went on to say that the online obsession was hurting participation; people were supportive but not involved, they were liking tweets but not out on the streets.

At another session, a member had the contrasting view that Labour need not bother with the national print press because they could outflank titles who appeared biased by trumping diminishing readership figures “with the excellent videos we’ve been doing”.

Work with it, or not work with it, like most things in the Labour Party, there is a split in opinion about what would be best.

Nothing highlights the mistrust in these media relations than the annual conference, where a thin-skinned cohort of look-the-same reporters chase around a party leader who will not play by any of the normal access rules.

This leads to pursuits down the seafront and through the conference centre where reporters bark increasingly banal questions at him, looking to get a snappy reaction for their feeds.

Occasionally, Corbyn responds, this week shouting at the scrum like a headmaster about their pushing and shoving.

He’s flipped, was the cheap press response, look at him rant and rave.

His refusal to do more interviews leaves him open to such a circus, as does his thespy exasperation when policies and positions are questioned.

But in obsessing over the hunt for angry Corbyn expressions, which can be exchanged for synthetic love on Twitter, our heroic press rarely looks under the bonnet of conference.

Some of the policies announced this week were received with shock and surprise – where on earth did that come from? – and yet most of them were debated at conference meetings journalists didn’t go to in Liverpool last year.

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