You’ve got to hand it to the British press. Their cool-headed ability to keep a sense of proportion is second to none. With the conflict in Syria all done and dusted, the newspapers bravely pushed aside insignificant stories of 1.6m households in ‘extreme debt’ to get to the proper business of yesterday – whether or not Jeremy Corbyn walked past some empty seats on a train.
After Corbyn and his team filmed a video clip from the floor of a Virgin train, arguing that expensive ticket prices and overcrowding made the case for the renationalisation of the railways, Richard Branson and Virgin fired back with a ‘clarification’. CCTV footage appeared to show Corbyn walking past empty seats. Then it was shown that those seats were reserved. Virgin replied that there were some unreserved seats that he had walked past. And eventually, passengers came forward to back up Corbyn’s version of events.
Now, in a conflict over honesty between Jeremy Corbyn and members of the public on the one side, and a private company which stands to lose from renationalisation, we should not have to ask ourselves which side we are on. But the better question is – who cares? Trains being rammed and overpriced is such common knowledge that to bring it up is to regurgitate a platitude. Whether or not Corbyn’s way of pointing this out was a spontaneous response to a genuinely packed train or a stunt makes no difference whatsoever to this banal fact.
None of this prevented it from being discussion of the hour. The Independent broke the news, and quickly the story was everywhere. It was The Guardian’s lead article all day, and today they’ve chosen to run a liveblog retracing Corbyn’s journey. The liveblog is a rival story to Corbyn’s policy announcement of full renationalisation in the NHS. The piece even refers with surprise to John McDonnell and Dianne Abbott’s decision to preferentially comment on the NHS policy story.
The Guardian’s Train Gate story rocketed to 13,000 shares in 24 hours, dwarfing Owen Smith’s support for peace talks with ISIS (925 shares) and the murder of Turkish trans-rights activist Hande Kader, who was raped and burned to death in Istanbul on August 12 (989 shares).
The absurd promotion of this story above others much more deserving is indicative of only one thing – the pressing need for character assassination, by any means necessary, of Jeremy Corbyn. He is set to win with a landslide in the Labour leadership election. The Labour right, who have shown much more interest and performative outrage over the train story than they did over Chilcott, have no strategy to beat him. The wider establishment have managed to see Labour tanked in the polls (though with some recent signs of recovery) only through the Labour Party being plunged into bitter civil war. Once Jeremy wins again, particularly if it is with an increased majority, it will be difficult for the Labour right to resume hostilities in the same way, and this makes the revival of a Corbyn-led party a dangerous possibility. The Train Gate story is a product of desperation – the sound of the barrel being scraped.
(picture above from flickr.com)