Politicians have been vexed about the influence of the press on public life since those that followed Johannes Gutenberg started to circulate news on foreign affairs to make a bit of extra cash (domestic affairs was seen as likely to attract the ire of the authorities, and thus avoided).
Originally it was conservatives that were most sceptical about the “obscure scribblers” in the parliamentary gallery in Westminster, but more lately it has been the Left which has been more concerned about the power of Fleet Street, as evinced by complaints over how the press treat Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Despite the ubiquity of the BBC it is still the case that the mostly rightwing Fleet Street sets the agenda, which means that negative coverage of Corbyn has dominated the last few months as his ascension to the head of Labour became inevitable.
During this time it also became clear that the Islington North MP was unhappy to play along to the media’s tune, ignoring questions over the lack of women in his cabinet as a Sky News reporter followed him down the street.
The idea that the Islington North MP is changing how the media reports news was even suggested by the Beeb’s political correspondent Norman Smith, who made the point that Corbyn actually answers questions in interviews instead of delivering soundbites, at least when he chooses to respond at all.
How long this will last is debatable, and on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday it became clear the Labour leader is having to tighten up how he manages the media, and indeed the Labour Party itself.
All this should not be any surprise to observers given how Corbyn has shifted his position after being elected, backtracking on his euroscepticism, cancelling a debate on scrapping the nuclear weapons system Trident, and even ditching plans to leave Nato due to lack of public appetite.
So far this seems not to have tainted his “authentic” brand, but it does show a pragmatic streak that purists on the hard left will surely deplore, or at least excuse as a necessary means for obtaining power.
Image Credit – Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill by Barnard & Westwood