Bill Carmichael: Labour’s bid to blame the media over election won’t wash

Jeremy Corbyn unveiling Labour's manifesto in Bradford.
Jeremy Corbyn unveiling Labour's manifesto in Bradford.
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HERE’S a tip that might just prevent senior Labour figures looking quite so daft on the campaign trail – do your homework.

When politicians announce shiny new policy proposals that have the potential to derail the economy, they will invariably be asked two questions by journalists.

First – how much will this cost? And second – how are you going to pay for it?

You may think this is a statement of the blindingly obvious – and you would be right – but members of Jeremy Corbyn’s team are completely floored by those simple questions on a regular basis.

This is the party – let us never forget – that led the economy to the edge of the abyss the last time they were in government, before merrily skipping away leaving a jaunty note in the Treasury that said there was no money left.

Hilarious! Although the taxpayers who ended up paying for this incompetence could be forgiven for not appreciating the joke.

So it is perfectly reasonable for journalists to ask where the money will come from if Labour wins this time around.

But these simple – and entirely predictable – questions seem to result in major brain fade among senior Labour figures who are left gasping in panic whenever the subject of numbers comes up.

They came into politics to be the vanguard of the proletarian revolution, not to talk about boring old hard sums!

Diane Abbott set the tone for Labour’s campaign with a performance so inept it will go down in the annals as one of the worse political interviews of all time.

She had gone on air to explain Labour’s plans to recruit 10,000 new police officers. Or was it 25,000, or maybe even 250,000? The Shadow Home Secretary wasn’t quite sure – but hey, what are a few zeroes between comrades?

When asked about the cost, she ummed and ahhed and then started to pluck random figures from the air in the vain hope that one of them might sound vaguely plausible.

You would think Labour would have learned a lesson from that embarrassing disaster, but no. Next up was shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner who was asked how many children would be affected by Labour’s plans to limit class sizes to 30 children.

It was a straightforward and predictable question. But she hadn’t a clue. Well, was it 50 children or five million children, asked the presenter? “I haven’t got the numbers to hand,” she said airily.

Next in the media spotlight was Leeds MP and shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon, a man who makes Diane Abbott look like Albert Einstein.

He simply refused to discuss the figures in Labour’s manifesto on the grounds that it would be “tedious” to do so, while accusing the BBC interviewer of putting the Labour party “on trial”.

Then came shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry who appeared to have a spreadsheet open on the desk in front of her during a Channel 4 interview. It didn’t help.

She was asked to clear up the confusion over whether Labour would end the freeze on working age benefits – a policy announced off-the-cuff by Jeremy Corbyn that had not been costed and was not in the party’s manifesto.

Unexpected item in the bagging area. Thornberry blinked and blustered. Corbyn’s proposal was “a little bit different” to what is in the manifesto, she admitted, and “I’m trying to clarify”. As clear as mud.

Asked how Labour was going to find the £66bn to renationalise the water industry, Thornberry ducked the question: “You say £66bn, other people have said all sorts of other sums.” Oh, that’s OK then. It could be £66bn, or maybe not. We’ll just have to wait and see.

When Labour’s leaders come under pressure they tend to blame the messenger. It is all the Press’s fault!

And so we begin to discern the left wing narrative already being constructed in case of catastrophic defeat on June 8.

Labour’s unpopularity with the voters isn’t because the leader is clueless and the policies unworkable. It is all because of a conspiracy to discredit the party by the right wing media – such as, erm, the BBC, the Guardian, Channel 4 and the Independent.

It won’t work. Corbyn is the left’s candidate and the Labour manifesto is the left’s policies.

If Labour do go down in flames, the left has to own its defeat.