Brighton: Chasing Corbyn

SOCIAL media is the death of politics, warned a worried man in a workshop tent at The World Transformed, the festival organised by left-wing group Momentum to run alongside the Labour Party conference

“The put-down has taken over, the quip has become most important,” he told the session, which was discussing solidarity between different campaigns within their movement.

That’s not a bad assessment of the press pack in general, who often seem more seduced by the instant adulation from a funny one-liner on Twitter than the need for serious investigation.

The worrier went on to say that the online obsession was hurting participation; people were supportive but not involved, they were liking tweets but not out on the streets.

At another session, a member had the contrasting view that Labour need not bother with the national print press because they could outflank titles who appeared biased by trumping diminishing readership figures “with the excellent videos we’ve been doing”.

Work with it, or not work with it, like most things in the Labour Party, there is a split in opinion about what would be best.

Nothing highlights the mistrust in these media relations than the annual conference, where a thin-skinned cohort of look-the-same reporters chase around a party leader who will not play by any of the normal access rules.

This leads to pursuits down the seafront and through the conference centre where reporters bark increasingly banal questions at him, looking to get a snappy reaction for their feeds.

Occasionally, Corbyn responds, this week shouting at the scrum like a headmaster about their pushing and shoving.

He’s flipped, was the cheap press response, look at him rant and rave.

His refusal to do more interviews leaves him open to such a circus, as does his thespy exasperation when policies and positions are questioned.

But in obsessing over the hunt for angry Corbyn expressions, which can be exchanged for synthetic love on Twitter, our heroic press rarely looks under the bonnet of conference.

Some of the policies announced this week were received with shock and surprise – where on earth did that come from? – and yet most of them were debated at conference meetings journalists didn’t go to in Liverpool last year.

A CROWD pulled hay bales across the road leading down to Brighton Pier on Sunday, parked a “ship” on tarmac and, in call and response, declared that they were seizing the Old Steine for seven hours. No polluting cars would pass and it was time to talk about climate change. Among those wearing Extinction Rebellion stickers – the group which also blockaded traffic in Camden High Street earlier this summer and parts of the West End – was Camden cabinet councillor Abdul Hai, more commonly seen in a corporate suit and tie. Alongside him in this act of resolute civil disobedience was lawyer Robert Latham, a former councillor still involved in Holborn and St Pancras.

ANDREW Adonis is often criticised for having a major role in big projects like the development of academy schools and the HS2 railway without ever having been elected. He instead has a seat in the House of Lords as the Baron of Camden Town, an irony not lost on those who have opposed the high-speed line and the damage it has done and may do to the local area. Lord Adonis is, however, now ready to give up that role after putting his name forward to be the Labour parliamentary candidate in Vauxhall following Kate Hoey’s decision to step down. The HS2 line doesn’t go that far south.

THE tradition of a team shot at Labour conference for the CNJ becomes more and more stressful. Amid good and bad internal relations, some people got an invite to attend, others didn’t and wondered why. The rain didn’t help and we ended up with a squeezed shot of people briefly surrounding Keir Starmer in the main conference centre entrance. Sagal Abdi-Wali, the chair of the constituency Labour Party in Holborn and St Pancras running for selection in the Barnet and Camden constituency at next year’s City Hall election, was pushed into a prime position near the front. 

LOYAL backbench councillor Samata Khatoon may have had no luck in her attempts to win a place on the Town Hall cabinet over the years but, undeterred, has put her name forward for parliamentary selection outside of Camden.

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