Jeremy Corbyn looks set to have a difficult relationship with the media. We’re barely a week in and he’s snubbed the BBC’s Andrew Marr show (surely an opportunity rather than an annoyance?) among other news outlets. He deliberately blanked BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg on the day he was elected, seemingly sending a message that he would be doing things his way or no way at all.
The fact is, Corbyn doesn’t like the press. That’s all well and good as a backbencher but as the leader of the opposition, he must change his stance if he wants to get anything done.
Sky’s Darren McCaffrey tweeted a video on Monday of Corbyn refusing to answer questions and saying the reporter was “bothering” him.
A number of people tweeted their support for the Labour leader but it is comments accusing him of “not playing the game,” “arrogant unaccountability”and not being able to “handle it” that point to what could become a big problem for the new leader. A problem that really doesn’t need to develop.
The fact is, it is a game. A game of mutual respect (genuine or not), a game of careful manipulation. And it’s a game that must be played by all those in the political sphere.
The media is now reporting on the fact that Corbyn won’t cooperate rather than his actions as the leader of the opposition. The tabloids have gone into attack mode.
Setting aside how Corbyn’s behaviour will affect his relationship with the press, it is his relationship with the public that will suffer. They’re the ones reading the newspapers and watching the news. Corbyn may think his behaviour looks like he is in control. To the audience he looks out of his depth and unable to think of anything to say.
The “no comment” approach just doesn’t wash. We always tell our clients that “no comment” is a no-no. Refusing to acknowledge or address the questions being put to you implies that you are hiding something or have little to say and that you don’t respect the public’s desire for (and right to) information. Simply put, it makes the person being questioned look arrogant.
Pick and Choose
Corbyn doesn’t like the tabloids. He’s made that clear (although I would challenge you to find any political leader who does). But he’s extending the same discourtesy to other media outlets. A political leader cannot pick and choose. They must work to get the media on side. It’s the reason press officers have jobs. It’s the reason there are huge media teams constantly monitoring the press and working to keep coverage positive. If others do it, why not Corbyn? I would venture that he is being actively encouraged to change his tune.
Corbyn is a man of principle but the impression he gives is that if people don’t agree with his principles, they deserve only contempt. And that’s just not how the game works. We’re set for some interesting times.