Laura Kuenssberg, threats and the cult of Corbyn
Some years ago now, I had a fascinating dinner party conversation with a man from BBC news. He was not a ‘front-liner’ donning flak jackets and heading for the danger zone. Instead he was the man in the office who did all the planning and decision making to keep television journalists safe.
He explained the different security levels. Obviously at the top was banning the journalist from entering the region. Just below was sending the journalist in with security cover. Not surprising when we think of the dangers of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and South Sudan. But earlier this week the BBC – maybe that very same man – made the decision to send security to protect Laura Kuenssberg at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, UK. Why? Because she is a feisty, bright, determined woman who asks the tough questions and has the guts to report – no matter what the left or right thinking of her interviewees. There is no evidence that she requested assistance – so the BBC must have risk assessed and identified, within the high octane socialism of the conference, a nasty and threatening undercurrent. Outside of the conference, The Canary (not known for a balance or fact) has been accused of running a hate campaign against her with false allegations of Tory allegiance.
The conference has been ratcheting up the Corbyn-fever all week and his speech yesterday had people drunk (or high!) on belief that they will rule the country sooner rather than later. Journalists were given fervent shout after fervent shout from labour party members young and old about how they were driving towards a new future. The fact that the Labour Party is running their own war games to plan for a catastrophic run on the pound if they are elected was dismissed as ‘normal planning’. No! It’s not normal for a shadow cabinet to planfor economic melt-down.
Now as the daughter of a woman brought up in 1930’s Rhondda Valley (then known as Little Russia) and the grand-daughter of a Trade Union organiser, I should be whooping along with the Corbynistas and planning a future under the red flag. But the psychologist in me looks at the jumping and hears the chanting with some alarm.
Journalists such as Robert Peston have described the conference as cult-like. The cartoonist Matt has his characters join the Moonies as they were less extreme. But these light words and jokes point to real behaviours. Psychology in the USA has long studied cults – maybe because they have so many - and have established core characteristics of cult which include:
A charismatic leader – well hearing the chants and adoration at conference and Glastonbury this could certainly be said of Jeremy Corbyn.
Lack of criticism towards the leadership – another tick. Jeremey Corbyn’s support of Hamas and the IRA including fund raising are now dubbed as ‘false news’. It’s not false – it is just very inconvenient for the image-makers.
Aggression to alternative viewpoints – the grassroots Momentum movement has been accused of various worrying activities including data protection breaches, driving deselection of Labour MPs who are not Corbynistas, encouraging aggression towards Conservative MPs ranging from car damage to social media threats and a worrying shift to religious intolerance. The hatred towards their opposite party – the Conservatives – has led to threat, allegation and intimidation. That said, they are not faced by innocence on the right. The vitriol levelled at Diane Abbott has reached levels which would turn the stomach of any right-minded person.
Absolutist belief beyond reason. Well any party who believes they can fully nationalise, eradicate capitalism, and also fund their massive promises while also dealing with a run on the pound is more delusional than absolutist. The refrain is borrow, borrow – from whom? Other capitalist countries? Not a very pure philosophy after all.
So, I can safely say that my grandparents would be turning in their graves. They fought for a Labour Party of moral sense which strived for and delivered free health at the point of need, a pension fund to stop geriatric poverty, a welfare system to ensure no child goes hungry, education beyond the age of twelve, a society where every person who was genuinely unable to support themselves would be cared for, fair wages and workers’ protection. Theirs was a vision of moral right – not a society in which the leaders are hailed as a second coming and disbelievers or questioners are quashed and bullied as are the animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, when Napoleon the Pig recruits his attack dogs.
But when my grandparents have stopped turning they will send a smile to Ms Laura Kuenssberg who, subconsciously or not, made her point. Look at her BBC interview with Jeremy Corbyn. Maybe it was the only window she could use for lighting. But sitting on his right shoulder is the sad, empty skeleton of Brighton West Pier – once the darling of the middle and working classes as it gave them escapism for a short time – and which was burned down and destroyed by thugs in 2003. A prophesy?
P.S. For those you wondering how the Spin cycling is going – it hurts, I sweat in an unseemly manner and I still have cellulite! I think they say onwards and upwards in such situations. Hmmm.