Regular readers may have noticed rather less coverage of the Labour Party on ConservativeHome recently. This extends not just to our opinion and analysis pieces, but also to the daily newslinks, where we collate and summarise all the political content in each day’s newspapers.
There’s a reason for this – Labour has become less and less relevant to the nation’s political life. Indeed, where normally we could provide at least one headline and several bullet-points about the Opposition in each day’s newslinks, currently it’s common for the Labour Party not to have a single story of interest in the entire national press – even in The Guardian. Labour is disappearing from the media about as fast as it is falling in the polls.
If anything, that shortage of news flatters Labour. Often when there is news about the Opposition, it isn’t news of new policies or campaigns, but of further infighting and splits – like today, for example.
In the press, at least, Corbyn’s Labour appears to be being consumed by a pincer-movement. On one hand there’s the ongoing civil war, the loss of faith among his MPs and the constant accusation and counter-accusation among the left and (relative) right of the Party. On the other is the incompetence and dysfunction of the Leader and his team, whom one suspects would succeed in losing the air war even if the Government and their own internal opponents all went on holiday at the same time.
It might be possible to drown out at least some of the internal dissent by producing a steady stream of well-conceived, attention-grabbing and capably-briefed policy news. Strong shadow ministers – backed by able researchers, advisers and speechwriters – delivering interesting speeches, communicated to the lobby by savvy media operators, could fill at least some pages in the papers, serving at minimum to occupy a vacuum into which negative news will otherwise rush.
But that simply isn’t happening. The quality of most of those willing to serve in the Shadow Cabinet is strikingly low, many of their experienced staffers have abandoned ship in despair, and the Leader as well as those around him are primarily focused on fighting their own internal war to cement their control of the Labour Party. Even if Corbyn had good ideas, there’s little interest and even less capacity to competently communicate them.
The diehard Corbynites, of course, do not want to hear this. They point to their Party’s poor showing in the media as evidence that Fleet Street is part of a giant conspiracy against them. Their fellow true believers eagerly retweet and share such claims, which provides a bogus confirmation to them that they are right and the media is ignoring vast support for Corbyn. This, in turn serves as an excuse for Labour tanking in the polls – everyone would love what he has to say, you must realise, if only he was allowed to say it.
The truth is simpler and altogether less comfortable. There’s media space for Opposition news, but the Opposition is currently incapable of offering anything coherent and interesting enough to fill those pages. So newspapers do what newspapers do – they look elsewhere.