As Jeremy Corbyn appears at Glastonbury, why his campaigning style works

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2017 by kmflett

As Jeremy Corbyn appears at Glastonbury, why his campaigning style worked

What is sometimes known as the Mainstream Media (MSM) had long written off Jeremy Corbyn’s chances of doing anything but leading Labour to an electoral disaster. Yet as the results on June 8th underlined he did the opposite, increasing Labour’s share of the vote by 10%, the only leader to do this since, not Blair, but Attlee.

The tabloid press vilified Corbyn right up to Election day particularly the Sun and the Mail whose front pages before June 8th labelled Corbyn a terrorist (or possibly a pacifist who would not defend the UK depending on the day). The Guardian took a more ‘highbrow’ approach simply producing feature after feature labelling Corbyn as a ‘loser’. A couple of weeks before June 8th the paper u-turned and backed Corbyn, which was welcome, though many might say the damage had been done in the previous 2 years.

The reality is that the media simply could not understand Corbyn’s campaigning strategy, even if, as became clear on election day, many voters certainly did.

Someone on twitter (appropriately) summed up what the strategy was. Namely a combination of nineteenth century stump campaigning and twenty-first century social media. They contrasted this with a Tory campaign stuck in the late 1990s (before social media) and hence focused on the old print media. That of course explains those Sun and Mail front page splashes ranting about Corbyn.

I’ve spent a lifetime writing for and to the ‘old fashioned’ print media so I can take no satisfaction its decline but that is what happening. For example The Guardian’s print circulation is currently around 160,000 and a good deal of that is within the M25 area.

The strategy of addressing crowds in Victorian times- known as the mass platform- was disliked by the authorities and by the predecessors of New Labour alike who disliked the idea of mass mobilisation and its democratic potential.

Two strategies were employed to try and limit mass campaigning. Firstly public open spaces were fenced and controlled- Kennington Common where the Chartists had met on 10th April 1848 being an example. Secondly meetings were moved indoors and ticketed. This reduced and controlled the numbers who could attend.

Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in 2017 returned by contrast to the mass platform. In the Victorian period the only people who would have known about this would have been those who actually attended in person or perhaps had read it in a local paper. There was no radio or TV.

In modern times it is possible that broadcast media might cover, for example, a large election rally addressed by Jeremy Corbyn- for example the 20,000 or so music fans he spoke to at Tranmere football club in late May- but as Star readers will know, mostly it will not.

The broadcast media still follows the same rules of the political game defined by those who attempted to control the mass platform after 1848. They will report what a politician says to an invited audience in a controlled space. Reporting crowds remains rare.

The genius of the Corbyn campaign, ignored by the Tories, was to understand that social media offers a way out of this.

So many will have seen pictures and short video clips of the Labour leader addressing crowds around the country during the Election campaign.

They will not have seen it of course on TV but on Twitter and Facebook.


It was the ability to combine old and new style campaigning that allowed Labour’s message to have the huge impact it did have on June 8th. The Tories werent even on the pitch.






2 Responses to “As Jeremy Corbyn appears at Glastonbury, why his campaigning style works”

  1. Good piece, Keith.

    And for those who might want to argue that social media just reinforces people in their own bubble – tain’t necessarily so: the first clip (in full) of Corbyn’s speech at Glasto this afternoon arrived in my timeline via a retweet from Geordie northern soulsters Smoove and Turrell, who I follow for the music (though the politics is a welcome bonus). As you didn’t quite argue, social media does, er, help refresh the parts that the mainstream media doesn’t reach…

  2. good point

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: