Saturday, January 09, 2016
The Way It Is
It's an old cliche that you shouldn't wrestle a pig, because you'll both get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.
It's an old cliche because it's correct.
It applies in spades to Labour's pissy squabble with the BBC. There was never, ever any possibility that this could end without Jeremy Corbyn's arse in the mud and a chorus of piggy oinks and grunts ringing in his ears.
The second that complaint went in, the outcome was inevitable - the entirety of British political punditry pointing and laughing and the MP in question shoving his big, jowly ballsack face into cameras to squeal that he was sacked because by God, he just opposes terrorism so very fucking much. Which is a mildly humorous stance to take, if you're intentionally suicide-bombing your own party headquarters.
Still, there are a few lessons to be drawn here, and it's absolutely true that The press generally just don't like the current Labour leadership and are, for now, instinctively sympathetic to MPs on the party's right is one of them.
By far the most important lesson, however, is this - Choose your battles more wisely. Whatever your take on mud-wrestling with the BBC is, I think we can all agree that this one hasn't ended well.
Because it's worth asking here what would've changed, if the Beeb had issued a statement apologising to Labour, rather than jabbing a two-fingered salute at Jez and telling him stick his objections. The only answer that rings true to me is "nothing at all would be different".
Almost all political journalism in every first world country amounts to breathless repetition of press releases and briefings, conveyed as if they were events of tremendous import. While it's true that some media organisations have overt political agendas, they all share in common a gargantuan appetite for endless content with precious little discernment over quality.
The major pressure on the hacks is the need to fill space with something that will attract attention. If the only available material is a series of anonymous briefings from some jumped-up little tit pulling the old Scrappy-Doo routine, then they'll report that, no matter how vacuous or trivial it is.
This might seem odd to the public, but it doesn't strike the hacks as strange in the slightest. Their job is to report what's happening in the world of politics. If the easiest stories to report are pish and drivel, then they will report pish and drivel and sleep soundly in their beds at night. If their stories result in controversy, they'll take that as a sign that they're doing their jobs well.
In this sense, politics is no different to celebrity tittle-tattle. Until the public stops taking an interest in photos of a party leader showing off his cellulite at the beach or which MP said that this minister had a chubby arse, it will continue in this vein.
This is a terrible situation and the most horrible irony of it is that any attempt to complain about it will immediately rebound on the plaintiff. Complaining only gives the hacks an excuse to keep the story going for another day, because he-said-she-said is their meat and potatoes.
Conmen and shysters thrive and proliferate in such an atmosphere, and it's absolutely true that the demand for 24-hour news is making political journalism - a medium that has always been crass, stupid and deeply unfair, like most other forms of journalism - even worse and more offensive.
Nonetheless! This is the situation and it is not going to change any time soon.
That being the case, here is the full list of options available to anyone in politics who ends up on the wrong side of the political press:
1) Fight on the most important points and otherwise, just rise above it.
And that's it. Bleating about how unfair it all is keeps the story going indefinitely, and keeping the story going indefinitely is exactly what your foes want to happen.
That will strike you as unfair and it is, it is unfair, but it is the way it is. The other option is to get down into the mud with the swine, and the Labour/BBC rammy has demonstrated neatly how well that works.
Rising above it may be unsatisfactory, but you will at least retain a shred of dignity. You may even bank a little bit of credibility to expend on future battles that you can fight on terrain that's more favourable to your strengths.