Unelectable, unrealistic, unpatriotic, oh yes and a loony. The British press have found a ready beast to beat this election it seems. In a survey of negative news this week, Loughborough University have worked out that the Labour party are getting it in the neck, way more than the other political parties. And Jeremy Corbyn, as the figurehead, in particular.
The study shows that the national newspapers with the largest circulations have been the most critical of the leader of the Opposition, his polices, and his party. Loughborough researchers found a small difference in the levels of positive and negative press coverage for the Conservatives, but for Labour the coverage is overwhelming skewed to the negative;
Whilst we’ve always had traditionally right- and left-leaning newspapers the difference this time, it appears, is that they are taking an anti-stance rather than a supportive one. So the biggest bullies, attacking Labour more than anyone else, are the Sun and the Express. The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph have published similar levels of hostility to Labour, but they have been more positive in their reporting of the Conservatives than the others. Only The Times has written with more positive coverage of the Conservative Party compared to its negativity to Labour.
So why are the sharp pens out for the MP for Islington North? (And they have been since his party leadership win in 2015 – this bad press news is not new). Jeremy, the old-fashioned, unassuming, low-key Leftie. Probably best known for being a figure of perpetual protest, opposing military interventions and the nasty bits of capitalism. A committed socialist. With a beard. And a bike.
A vegan who prefers not to drink. With hobbies that include; vegetable-growing, jam-making, train-spotting, and an interest in the history and design of manhole covers.
An easy target then.
But Brits love an outsider, and don’t mind a throwback. But as a leader who won’t play the political game he’s looks like he’s lost his footing.
And herein maybe lies his problem. He’s getting love (almost an icon to certain members of his party) but he’s not giving love; many Labour voters feel neglected. He could be much more groovy; turn his old-school style into retro-cool to win the youth vote (Mrs May’s schoolmarm approach is way too scary for most twenty-somethings) but he doesn’t seem to be too bothered. He’s got the hang of social media – a regular Tweeter – but the kids are all on Instagram. He hates his privacy being invaded. So instead of turning media and public encounters into useful soundbites, he looks grumpy and offended. As Mrs May stomps around the country banging on about stability, he could be much more contrasting – show he cares, instead he just looks… weak. Mrs May isn’t a player, winning over the Press with smooze and smoke. She’s on a mission, delivering her message of “My Way” at every opportunity. But Corbyn won’t hobnob, he won’t shout, and he’s won’t put himself fully forward either.
Time is ticking on, and maybe Corbyn has missed his opportunity. Britain wants a leader who cares and shares and, with the balls, to get us out of Europe, unbloodied. A principled doer, he could be that man…but he needs a turbo boost.
‘Have you no courage?
At any time revive your soul with Borage…
Sirrup of Borage will make sad men glad
And the same sirrup doth restore the mad.’
‘The art of longevity’ Edmund Gayton (1608-1666)
Borage, the pretty purple starflower, said to derive from the Celtic word borrach, meaning “man of courage” could just be the fortification he needs.
Indigenous to Syria, borage grows wild all along the Mediterranean and is cultivated for its healing and culinary properties. Sautéed or steamed or raw and added to salads, the leaves are lightly cucumber-flavored. The flowers are edible too and can be candied for cake decorations or made into honey. In Italy borage is served as a side dish, like a serving of vegetables. Jeremy might well grow the flower as a companion plant to tomatoes and strawberries on his allotment.
Borage was first used during Roman times, with naturalists reporting it could be used to “dispel melancholy and induce euphoria.” Pliny the Elder, in his works Historia Naturalis, said that borage worked well as an antidepressant, and said it had the ability to “maketh a man merry and joyfull”.
The Romans would also mix borage leaves with tea and wine before battle, to fortify themselves for combat with the saying, “Ego Borago, Gaudia semper ago” (I, Borage, bring always courage). This tradition continued through the time of the Crusaders campaigns, and into medieval times when men had borage flowers embroidered on their battle dress.
Later borage was known as a crucial ingredient in a sweet alcoholic punch made with brandy, sherry, cider, lemon juice and sugar. Charles Dickens is often said to have enjoyed this drink very much.
But for virtual tee-totaller Corbyn these uses are unlikely to have much sway. Instead Labour supporters should gift him a bunch or few, like the Victorians did, to encourage bluntness, directness, and speaking up.
So Jeremy don’t read all that negative press, have some Borage instead. It may just well bring “lightness and ebullience to the soul, filling it with optimism and enthusiasm.” Surely that’s a tonic, worth a go.
Jeremy Corbyn, The Outsider. Vice documentary https://news.vice.com/video/jeremy-corbyn-the-outsider