Earlier today Momentum, the left-wing campaign group which acts as Jermey Corbyn’s Praetorian Guard, posted a video which portrayed opponents of Labour policies as ignorant poshos. The video features five upper middle-class diners, complete in several cases with comedy accents, trying and failing to understand Corbyn’s popularity. Having benefited from privileged upbringings they apparently can’t understand why Corbyn’s policies are proving popular with the young. One had been given a job by his dad (who in turn started a business with his father’s money), one has benefitted from massively increasing house prices and another had received a free university education.
I think it’s fair to say the reaction to this class-baiting video wasn’t quite what Momentum was expecting. Firstly lots of Twitter user’s spotted the astonishing hypocrisy. The Labour leadership is, to put it bluntly, in absolutely no position to complain about nepotism. In 2015 Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell employed Corbyn’s son, Cambridge educated Seb Corbyn, as his publically funded Chief of Staff. Not to be left out Corbyn has in turn employed 27 year old Laura Murray, daughter of his key election advisor (and supporter of the North Korean regime) Andrew Murray, to his Common’s team on a £40k salary.
Even if it wasn’t for the blatant nepotism the Labour leadership would be in a poor position to make political capital out of class privilege. Corbyn himself grew up in a seven-bedroom manor house before being educated at both private and grammar schools. Both his Director of Communications Seumas Milne and Director of Strategic Communications James Schneider attended the ultra-privileged Winchester College private school; whilst Diane Abbott and Shami Chakrabarti (Shadow Home Secretary and Labour Peer respectively) both send their own children to private schools.
The most ‘liked’ Tweet under Momentum’s video was a little unsupportive
Now of course none of this would matter – we shouldn’t care about background (and I say that as someone who was entirely educated at state comprehensives) – were it not for the monumental hypocrisy. More importantly however the video gives a totally misleading impression of Corbyn’s social support. It is, quite simply, utter bollocks. The video perpetuates the stereotype of Corbyn’s opponents being wealthy and posh. To the contrary we know that, compared to previous Labour leaders, this is a label which can more accurately be pinned to his supporters.
Figures released in January 2016 showed that a disproportionate number of Labour’s new members under Corbyn were ‘high status city dwellers’. By comparison the Conservatives made big gains amongst the less affluent, and correspondingly big losses amongst the wealthy, during the 2017 General Election. Tory support amongst the ‘skilled’ and ‘unskilled’ working-class increased by 13 and 12 points respectively. Its results like these which led to Labour winning Kensington, one of the wealthiest constituencies in the country.
So a quick tip for any Labour video producers. Steer clear from the subject of nepotism, class privilege and working-class support. Or you risk looking pretty damn silly.
Twitter users respond to the Momentum video – please note The Backbencher couldn’t find any evidence that Corbyn employs John McDonnell’s son. The rest, alas, is true.