Over 350 people crammed into a hot lecture theatre at Goldsmiths on October 1 to discuss the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s relationship with the press.
Guardian columnist Owen Jones, The Huffington Post’s Louise Ridley, and former Labour press officer and Independent columnist Andy McSmith debated how Corbyn should deal with the media with staff, students and members of the public.
Chaired by Professor Des Freedman, the lively debate, made up of a mostly partisan, Corbyn-supporting audience saw scores of people keen to put their points across.
Ridley took a largely analytical approach to Corbyn’s relationship with the press, citing some of the headlines that surfaced days after his election as Labour Leader.
The Huffington Post journalist noted his characterisation as a “lefty dinosaur” and a “bearded vegetarian socialist,” which prompted a roar of laughter from the audience.
Jones said the recent “Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon” was symbolic of wider changes in the West, with “political discontent manifesting itself in one of two ways; either a progressive, hopeful way or a reactionary, often very xenophobic way” referring to UKIP and SNP as examples.
There were several heated exchanges throughout the evening between the audience and between panellists, including a heated debate about Corbyn’s media strategy so far.
Defending Corbyn’s “chaotic” media storm, Jones said he was “catapulted by a huge grassroots movement” without the usual experience or preparation such as “a network of sympathetic journalists”.
But McSmith criticized the “sheer amateurism of the Corbyn operation”, claiming negative media attention could have been avoided with an efficient strategy in place.
Remaining cynical he said Corbyn’s supporters “have gifted the next election to the Conservative party”.
The event was part of Goldsmiths’ Media Forum, which takes places at the university every Thursday between 5 and 7pm.
Video Credit: Antoni Devlin and Toby Roddham