Two years ago, Jeremy Corbyn seemed like the most unlikely of political leaders and certainly the most unlikely of Prime Ministers. His previous close relationship with the IRA along with some of his previous comments on defence and terrorism raised questions in an instant relating to his suitability to be Prime Minister. Despite all of that, two leadership elections and one general election campaign later and the leader that many thought was entirely unelectable is carrying all the momentum in the world into next week’s general election. Jeremy Corbyn – the man who was once an outsider for the Labour leadership is now in a two horse race to become the next Prime Minister. His supporters on social media are no small part of this surge. Indeed, when one peruses Twitter and sees comments written by “Corbynistas”, it becomes apparent that they seem to almost be more than just supporters. Amongst those that follow him, Corbyn appears to hold an almost cult like status. He can do no wrong. Any slip up, any mistake isn’t his fault. The interviewer asked the wrong question and according to these folks, more often than not, the journalist is biased or part of a mainstream media conspiracy against him (remember where else we have heard those lines?).
It is one thing to support a politician and I don’t take issue in this at all. Indeed, I think it is a great thing that parties are utilising social media effectively so as to engage younger demographics in the democratic process. My problem is when support transitions to nasty and/or unnecessarily personal attacks on those who do not support or dare question their leader. Indeed it speaks volumes that after his Woman’s Hour interview and the subsequent harassment on social media of the presenter interviewing him, Emma Barnett that Corbyn felt the need to condemn those messages and warn his supporters not to engage in such actions. Another prominent journalist to incur the wrath of the Corbynista keyboard warriors is the BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg. After pretty much anything she tweets these days, there is a Corbynista on her back, criticising her or accusing her of bias. Indeed, some of these tweets are quite incredible even going as far as to accuse of her being biased in favour of the Conservatives because she wore a blue dress… I really wish I was joking. Those on the left aren’t the only ones guilty of this – some Conservative supporters do this as well but not in the same patronising tones or with such veracity as is seen by those following Corbyn. As a side note if both sides are complaining of bias, surely this suggests a balance in coverage?
ITV News (@itvnews) May 30, 2017
Then we get to the memes… I’ve written a piece on respect in the campaign previously (you can find it here), and yet I can’t help but laugh (if not slightly in disbelief) at the hypocrisy of those who assimilate to liberal values and understandings of tolerance and respect in one breath and yet in the other are prepared to mock and meme Theresa May over something such as the now famous ‘corn field’ answer given in an interview. It is well known that the PM had a different upbringing from most – she was the daughter of a vicar and has acknowledged that as a child she had a different life than that of a ‘typical’ child. Why is it acceptable then for those on the left, if they truly do practice understanding, diversity, tolerance and respect to make fun of an answer that reflects her upbringing. Such jokes would not be made if her her upbringing was that of a different country’s culture or of a protected characteristic. Why then is it justifiable to make fun of this? My answer. It isn’t. This is in many ways the ‘in a nutshell’ summary of my problem with the Corbynista movement on social media. They are more than happy to mock others and to jab (if not down right sucker punch) Theresa May and the Conservatives at any opportunity. The minute someone suggests that something could be wrong with their leader or his policies, it’s bias, it’s unfair, it’s the establishment against the people.
Only time will tell whether the meme making and vicious tweeting will have any impact on the outcome of the election. Part of my problem with all of this is that to me, these nasty tweets give the Labour Party the worst possible image. I know people in real life who support Labour. Indeed, I myself used to. The people I know, on the whole, don’t go around sending offensive posts on social media or endlessly support personal attacks on other candidates (in meme form or otherwise). They are good people who have a different way of making Britain the best country it can be. The sad fact is, this very vocal section of supporters completely tarnish a party with good people working hard for it. As the Theresa May has said all along, the only poll that matters is the one that happens is the one on election day. It has been a bruising campaign and not only for the candidates. Journalists have been booed at press conferences and harassed on Twitter for doing their jobs. Ultimately, the British people tomorrow will make their decision. One thing can be sure though – among his supporters, if Labour lose, it will be anyone but Jeremy’s fault.