Sunday, 13 September 2015

Who is the mysterious public?

I write this in the wake of a landslide victory of Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership. There are a number of issues that show the blindness of politicians and BBC news reporters. It is their assumptions about the voters who backed Corbyn in this election and the “public” whom they assume won't back Corbyn in a general election. It raises the question who are these members of the Labour party who voted for Corbyn and who is this mysterious “public” referred to by the news media. First of all, I am not a member of the Labour party and probably never will be so I didn't vote in this leadership race but I am of the view that Corbyn and his supporters are saying some things that need to be heard and listened to.

What disturbs me is the way that Corbyn supporters and those who might vote for him are being written off by many senior political figures and the BBC news reporters. According to the news reports, this was the largest number of voters who voted in a Labour leadership election and that a staggering 59.5% of these Labour party members voted for Jeremy Corbyn. I don't know enough about the change in Labour party membership leading up to this election but I don't believe the Labour party membership more than doubled in the lead up to the vote. This means there must be a reasonable amount of support from existing party members for the Corbyn views or maybe an alternative view to that dominating politics.

Let me turn my attention to the reporting and in particular to the way that the Labour party voters are referred to and the way that the media refers to a mysterious group called “the Public.” The media seems to be saying that “the Public” wouldn't vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his policies so does this mean the 251,417 of the 422,664 votes cast in the Labour leadership election are not part of “the Public”? If they are not part of “the public” then who are they? Where did this huge number of eligible voters come from that stands opposed to the view of “the Public”? After all, the way the term “the Public” is used, I am supposed to know who they are and that they wouldn't tolerate Corbynomics so these supporters of Jermey Corbyn must be some terrible infiltrators of the system who must be stopped.

But wait, I don't agree with “the Public” view as expressed. In fact, I wouldn't vote for anyone who stood for what “the Public” is supposed to believe even if I wouldn't vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Does this mean that I have been disenfranchised? My vote and possibly thousands and possibly millions like me are excluded from “the Public”? Should we have no voice? Rather than asking who these mysterious people are who voted for Corbyn, I should be asking who this mysterious “public” is who wouldn't back his policies or policies that disagree with the current minority Conservative government. Yes, they have the majority of the seats but they won less than 50% of the vote. At least Corbyn can clam a majority of those who voted for the Labour leadership.

As I listened to last night's news reports on the BBC, I wondered how they would refer to me and people like me. We don't believe in austerity. We challenge the current economic thinking. We don't back the arms industry. We show compassion to the poor and disadvantaged. We might be a minority but are we not part of the wider British Public?

The use of the word “public” in these reports implies that there is some group of people who hold to a particular view of how things should be and should work (a framing story). This is not the framing story that Jeremy Corbyn holds but I am lead to believe by the reporting style that if I am a member of “the Public” then I should hold this view. My problem is that I don't so I am not part of “the Public” and neither are the 251,417 people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn. My vote and their votes don't count. I and they have some weird view of how the world should be and we need to be told so.

Maybe the BBC and the politicians need to wake up that a quite percentage of “the Public” have spoken and that they don't actually agree with the framing story being sold to them by politicians, business leaders, and leading news media outlets. Maybe, there is a greater percentage of this mysterious public who disagree with the direction our economics is charging in and who want to see an alternative. Are the politicians and news media ready to listen and to allow this disenfranchised minority or majority to have a voice?

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