IF you spend any time on social media, and heaven knows I do, you will have come across people sticking up for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Often they will talk about the “Westminster bubble” and cite examples of media bias against Mr Corbyn, from the newspapers and in particular from the BBC.
The danger with this is that the very people who dismiss the “Westminster bubble” then risk creating their own sealed-off environment, what might be termed the “Corbyn bubble”.
Now it is true that a bubble exists over Westminster. The place is a sealed-off hot-bed of political squabbles watched by members of the media who sit in the same over-heated tent. And, as is often stated by Corbyn supporters, what happens in that hot house doesn’t always relate to life as it is lived away from Westminster.
Yet the concerted efforts of the fans of Jeremy to portray their leader as a man much sinned against have now created their own bubble. Like its Westminster counterpart, this shelter is hermetically sealed off from the world and allows those who gather there to become a little dizzy from breathing the stale air.
Mr Corbyn’s new puritans believe that almost anything and everything is a plot against their man, and plenty of left-leaning political websites now exist to reinforce their theories and concerns. This, by the way, is a good thing in that nowadays it is easier to seek out different opinions than it used to be; but such sites should be treated with the same caution a left-wing person might feel picking up the Daily Telegraph. Bias can be painted in many colours.
Plenty of people believe that Mr Corbyn has been treated shamefully – by the media and by MPs in his own party. And maybe he has. But media biased against Labour is an old game, especially from the newspapers – ever since Neil Kinnock was caricatured as a light-bulb on the front page of the Sun newspaper, next to the headline: “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.”
Labour has had to bear those bruises for years. They are not unique to Mr Corbyn.
The Labour leader’s greatest achievement has been the building of grassroots support, winning more new supporters than all the other parties put together. This indisputable good has, with heavy-handed irony, also been his undoing.
This is because grassroots support alone cannot sustain him. He leads a party that has to operate in the bubble of Westminster politics; he leads a party whose MPs have to be willing to follow him. If too many of those MPs lose confidence in their leader, they cannot ask voters to put faith in his as a potential prime minister. And if they can’t do that, everything turns into the rancid mess we now see.
Surely everyone in Labour should be pushing in the same direction and wanting the same ends: namely a fairer and more equal society. But instead they are breaking off into factions and fighting each other.
And this is a disaster for anyone who feels that the country deserves a proper opposition. They could hardly have chosen a worse time to have a leadership contest, and whether the two contenders, Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, would be any better than Jeremy Corbyn is anyone’s guess. Sadly, too many people will just shrug at that question.
And how telling that this should happen at a moment when, with typical swift ruthlessness, the Conservative Party should be putting itself in order after all the Brexit chaos it helped to cause. As David Cameron withdraws to his pal’s £17 million house while telling himself what a good job he has done, Theresa May, that brisk leader of the quietest coup, is making sure she looks to be completely in charge. Meanwhile the Labour Party is busy punching itself. And ain’t that smart.