Jen on Jezza: perfect political reporting

It’s very convenient that Jeremy Corbyn shares his initials with the son of God.

It allows we journalists to talk about religious-style fervour, worship, acolytes and disciples.

And with some justification.

I have wasted many a happy hour in recent weeks reading stories, columns, analytical pieces and profiles sparked by the Labour leadership race.

Many have highlighted the personality cult which has developed around Corbyn. And as Andrew Rawnsley pointed out in his peerless column in the Observer yesterday, there is nothing the Labour leader loves more than ‘communing with devotees who already agree with him, rather than trying to engage with swing voters.’

But it wasn’t until this weekend that I really got it.

And for that, I have to thank Jennifer Williams, political and social affairs editor for the Manchester Evening News.

men jen

Her piece on the launch of Corbyn’s leadership campaign in her home city was – admittedly in the limited echo chamber of my Twitter political geek community – one of the talking points of the weekend.

 

National political writers and academics were tweeting links to it, and dyed-in-the-wool Corbynistas were reluctantly conceding she’d nailed some of the uncomfortable truths about their hero.

Like this one: “Lovely things, combined with angry things about people who doubted the practical possibility of achieving the lovely things without a plan, was what the crowd wanted.”

 

 

It was well-written, it was entertaining, and it was confident.

But it was also knowledgeable.

I wish I could find it now, but I saw a great tweet yesterday that said something like ‘Jeremy Corbyn has a real talent for engaging people who haven’t got a clue about politics.’

Which ought to be a wonderful thing. Which is a wonderful thing.

God knows, we need more people to think they can make their world a better place.

But here’s the rub. And here’s the test for the Labour leadership.

If you’re playing with the emotions of people drinking at the well of politics for the first time, you have a responsibility to be honest.

And that, Mr C, doesn’t mean passing off victory in a Ramsgate Town Council by-election as some symbolic beacon of hope, signalling the dawning of a new age of Aquarius.

And Jen from the MEN spots that.

As someone who teaches politics to would-be journalists, I like to think she spots that because she knows the system inside out.

She knows the difference between the different tiers of local government – Ramsgate Town Council, bless its sand-stained cotton socks, being at the foot of that particular political pyramid.

Since her piece, there have been more marvellous demolition jobs on Corbyn’s claims of a media blackout over this stunning Labour victory, with this one on PoliticsHome and this radio blast by Stig Abell particular favourites of mine.

But I keep going to back to Jen – I hope I can call her that.

This was a comprehensive effort: she was live-tweeting, posting video, writing a brilliant piece of analysis, and then responding to critics on Twitter.

She works for Trinity Mirror – which also employs many of my closest journalism friends, and which employed me until Easter.

The company was criticised by one of its most experienced Welsh journalists, Martin Shipton, when its Daily Post title axed the post of Welsh Assembly reporter.

Since then, the editor in charge of TM’s South Wales operations, Paul Rowland, has insisted his newsrooms are fully committed to covering politics, and to holding power to account.

For the sake of journalists within Trinity Mirror and without, and for the sake of communities up and down the land, that must be the case.

And Jen shows what can be done.

 

 

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