Labour needs People on TV, not Political Pundits

Left-over WhatsApp groups from the elections and Twitter are all full of Labour members talking about the Labour leadership election, and also the direction that the party should take (Me included). We need not only a new leader. We need new people in the media.

Many people agree that Labour should reconnect with its roots. Many have even gone down the path saying we need a northern, female, Brexit supporting MP with no baggage and that will continue with the Corbyn project. Whilst this list is longer than any Christmas list I have ever had, I also think there are many other things to think about.

It is the media wot lost it. Wos it?

Apart from the leadership, keeping parts of the last manifesto, organising grassroots movements and reconnecting with the local community, one thing that has popped up a few times is: creating a left-wing media to battle the billionaire owned news outlets.

The election has been eye opening for more than just Corbynites. Regular people have seen how ‘badly managed’ (in favour of the Tories) the BBC has become. The BBC have been worrying and in recent days the ex-head of ITV tweeted a survey result that stated the BBC was less trusted than ITV. Even the Beeb’s heavyweights Andrew Neil and Huw Edwards have responded to such worries.

The left is trying to build a new media, but without big-money-backers it will find it difficult with just the Mirror backing Labour. Even the Financial Times and the Independent, at times, are Labour friendly, but this is not enough. Many even mistrust the Guardian when it should be an ally.

The left has the Canary and Sqwarkbox and a little more accessible is Novara media. These are the equivalent of fanboy magazines, not general news outlets, these are for serious left-winners that sit in the echo chambers of Twitter and watch parliament like other people watch EastEnders. As good as these maybe, and this has parallels to the leadership choice, the left must be practical and play the game to eventually change the rules. By this I mean we need good left-wing spokespeople and journalists in the mainstream media. The last four years we’ve seen an increase in left-leaning political pundits, however they are mainly young, ideologically pure (or Paul Mason), but generally betrayed as ranting lefties. 

Ash Sarka, Owen Jones, Aaron Bastani, James Butler and Michael Walker are all seen as members of the same crowd. Whilst it is great that we can get people with these left-wing credentials on television, it doesn’t do any great favours for the image of the movement. One stereotype that the Corbyn project was haunted by was the image of being full of out-of-touch, young millennials from the city. And whilst this couldn’t be further from the truth, what people see on TV between channel hopping matters and these are the people they see.

Power to the people

We need a wider range of more diverse and likeable people to represent the population not just the party. People that can be critical, but also analytical, of what is going on. The above-mentioned people do a good job however we need more people like George MonbiotFrancesca Martinez or Faiza Shaheen. They can take on the likes of the BBC and any other media outlet. Remember, they are not fighting just for the left, or just for a Labour government, they are fighting for equality for a fairer society. Just like us.

Labour should push for project leaders that know their area to get into the media. People that are running the food banks and stopping the evictions. People that journalists and politicians cannot bullshit. Labour has the clout; it needs to use it better. I know that media outlets choose who they want to go on, but Labour can be influential. It can help boost these peoples’ media presence and give them connections. We should encourage people to share their output and help this movement grow beyond Labour members and supporters. We need faces at the front of it that are not only likeable but can connect with a wider majority of the population. We need real people. People like Darren McGarvey.

These people can help encourage other activists, start conversations and help people look at things from a different point of views. This needs to be done. We don’t just need people towing the party line or giving their opinion. We need active people to speak out against the Tories. Voices with things to say and that need to be heard.

Oh to be young…

Youth isn’t a gift that is wasted on the young, it is a gift that can be put to better use. Jones and Sarka are great on social media and at Momentum rallies, why waste them on people like Peston. Young people don’t watch TV and whilst a short video shared by Novara media might be great for Labour party members and socialist fanboys. It’s just another clip on the Internet of a lefty putting down a Tory. It is porn for the echo chamber. It puts people off.

Not that these people should just be locked in a room with access to Twitter and a power bank. Sarka and Bastani have had some great moments on TV and they have compiled a greatest hits list for the Novara You tube channel. They should go on TV but in smaller doses and at more calculated times, before they become a caricature of themselves. There is plenty of room for everyone.

We have limited options to reach a huge audience. Television is still the most effective, and it has been since JFK beat Nixon in a presidential debate. Whilst the audiences are dying because of Facebook et al., it is still the media of choice for the big players. We should take advantage of the television screen to reach middle-aged audiences that still watch Question time and Good Morning Britain. Not using it to get 30 second clips of millennials ripping boomers a new one, but to engage and intrigue people that have previously, or never, voted Labour. These people aren’t impressed by funny rebuts or quotes from Marxist literature. Which is why we need older, calmer and experienced left-wing pundits on TV that your average centrist-dad might agree with. Because they are the voters we need to win over, not just the young (we have Instagram for that)

We need to get rid of the woke, educated, London-look and make sure people’s concerns are heard. Because if we don’t help them get their voices heard, then who will?  

There is a reason Francesca Martinez went viral: it connected with people and they listened.  More of this and fewer memes please.

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