One question often posed by our critics here at Evolve, and those of other independent news websites, is “what’s our purpose?” After all, many people continue with the rather dated view that mainstream media and newspapers report events impartially, and that any other interpretation is skewed and highly partisan. Sadly, what many don’t understand or fully appreciate, is the news they take for granted as being ‘impartial’ has already been through that exact process before it reaches them (to varying degrees, dependent on the publication).

Very few news organisations intent on the vaguest shred of credibility ‘invent’ facts (though The Sun/Express/Daily Mail blur that line considerably on a regular basis). But HOW those facts are reported – the language, the way phrases are structured, the details omitted, the reliability of sources, the timing with other events, and of course, which stories even see the light of day in the first place – all these factors affect the recipient’s conception of ‘truth’.

This is a typical example of why we exist.

Words matter

Many in this country would greet news that Jeremy Corbyn is finally flushing out the ranks of his party and shadow cabinet as a positive thing. Had Corbyn received the full backing and support of the Parliamentary Labour Party from day one, and not been hamstrung by continual revolts and leadership challenges, we might not now be looking at a dictatorial minority far-right government clinging to religious extremists for power. Hence it is more critical than ever that Labour now provides an effective opposition. And now Corbyn has the authority to do it. He’s earned that right.  

And yet The Guardian, the supposedly most left-leaning newspaper in Britain, skewed this arguably positive step as “Jeremy Corbyn appoints clutch of unknowns to shadow frontbench”:

The mere terminology of the headline itself is highly partisan – inferring incompetence, riskiness, an unclear and untested vision of where Labour is now heading – even the word ‘clutch’ implies ‘clutching’, as in ‘clutching at straws in desperation’. So The Guardian, while seemingly just reporting ‘the facts’, have already planted a seed of how Corbyn’s shadow cabinet reshuffle should be interpreted by its traditionally ‘Blairite’ readership (to coin a phrase).

Well I put it to you that my headline is no more partisan than The Guardian’s. I have simply taken the same information, and reflected on their reporting of it whilst taking into account the publication’s recent history and position. 

Their ‘meta’ headline then reads: “Labour leader ignores prominent MPs who signalled they were willing to return, including Angela Eagle and Dan Jarvis”. So instead of talking about the new candidates and what they might have to offer, or introducing a sense of ‘re-invigoration’, The Guardian chose to decry the supposedly snubbed members of the former Labour establishment, whose ‘prominence’ is somehow equated as competency and/or deserving.

Never mind the fact that Angela Eagle was one of the most prominent adversaries of Jeremy Corbyn within the party, at the vanguard of numerous attempts to force a coupe. That she possibly exaggerated and twisted details regarding her office allegedly being ‘attacked’, blaming Corbyn supporters – or that she made numerous implications of how Corbyn’s regime and/or support were responsible for a wave of misogyny and antisemitism within the party. Or that Dan Jarvis too has aimed implied snipes at Corbyn’s leadership, and his position on key issues is fundamentally different.

Fortunately, The Independent (as usual) had the guts to go with a kinder headline too, that read: “Corbyn’s shadow cabinet reshuffle merely marks the beginning of rebuilding the Labour Party.” A very different spin. Whereas tabloids like The Express went with “Desperate Corbyn brings rebels and Blairites back to cabinet in bid to heal rift”. They chose not to focus on Corbyn’s snubbing of prominent Labour politicians, but instead the fact he didn’t snub all of them. It’s all subjective.

The new faces

Corbyn’s actual new shadow cabinet include two former Members of the European Parliament (so hardly as inexperienced as The Guardian headline suggests), Anneliese Dodds for shadow Treasury, and Afzal Khan for shadow Home Office. The new shadow Justice minister is Gloria De Piero: a former shadow minister for Women and Equalities – so again, hardly ill-qualified.

And shock horror… a new Labour MP in Scotland, Paul Sweeney, has unbelievably been appointed shadow minister for Scotland. How unthinkable. God forbid a minister should actually know what he’s talking about, or be somehow invested in the community he represents.

Other new appointments include Tracy Brabin as shadow education minister, Rachael Maskell for Transport, Tony Lloyd as shadow Housing, and Chris Williamson for Fire Services. Ian Lavery, the Labour party chair, said of Williamson’s induction into the shadow cabinet, it signalled “the death knell of Thatcherism”. If this is true, one can only assume he refers also to its successor in the form of ‘Blairism’ and New Labour too. Lavery continued: “He (Williamson) has a reputation as being no fan of neoliberalism and his appointment is a sign that the days of free-market Thatcherism are coming to an end.”

Last but not least

And of course, lest we forget Owen Smith. The former (and arguably hapless) Labour leadership challenger. If Corbyn really was all about ‘disciplining’ prominent politicians who challenged him, one can only imagine Owen Smith would have been put out to pasture along with mini-disc players and shell-suits. Whereas instead, the Welshman was recently made shadow Northern Ireland secretary. Quite a critical role one could argue, considering the delicacy and turmoil of the current situation across the Irish Sea.

At the very least, Smith’s new job shows there are more dimensions to Corbyn’s appointments than mere ‘sour grapes’, or ‘bad blood’. Perhaps he feels some Labour politicians can be trusted, and some cannot. Perhaps he thinks some Labour politicians are competent, and others are not.

Perhaps… just perhaps, Corbyn knows what he’s doing.

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