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About media framing • (written by Brian Dean)

Top 3 nonsensical frames of the Corbyn debate

corbyn-framesAug 14, 2015As if we need more comment about the Labour leadership. The following views haven’t been expressed anywhere else, however (at least not with this emphasis on framing) – so, for what it’s worth…

1. “Only a Labour party of ‘the centre’ will have popular support”

The political “centre” is a myth – it presumes a midpoint on a metaphorical linear scale between right and left. There’s no midpoint between conservative and progressive frames. What “centre” really means in practice is that you’ve adopted conservative frames/policies on around 50% of the issues – probably because of the view that this will gain votes. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you reinforce those conservative frames by adopting them, it’s not surprising that they become regarded as “normal” or “common sense” over time.

2. “Corbyn is a ‘throwback’ to some previous dark age”

Political “common sense” – a perception of what’s “normal” or “popular” – contains, in 2015, more conservative frames, and fewer progressive frames, than in, say, 1970. Reintroducing progressive framing into political debate will be difficult, but it seems crucial in order to avoid increasing domination of “public” political debate by conservative framing.

3. “Labour faces ‘annihilation’ if Corbyn becomes leader”

The next UK general election is not until 2020. A lot can happen before then. With a “centrist” Labour party which adopts conservative framing on more and more issues – in the belief that it must do so to stay “centre” and popular – progressive framing will atrophy further, conservative views will seem more like the “popular norm”, “common sense”, etc. How to combat this tendency? By introducing progressive framing as a matter of urgency. What, exactly, is at risk of annihilation? The Labour party as an institution, or the progressive ideals/frames that it originally stood for?

Written by NewsFrames

August 14, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Corbyn, Labour, linear scale

5 Responses

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  1. Good stuff.


    August 14, 2015 at 2:12 pm

  2. I agree especially with the third point. Each time someone says what will happen at the next general election they project an illusion of certainty. I’m not sure who believes they have such foresight and who knows at some level they are actually uncertain themselves. I find the Corbyn craze has intoxicated language and framing from all political perspectives. I also find the left/right framing jarring. It has even less relevance in culture of multiple prominent political parties.

    Dom Aversano

    August 14, 2015 at 3:54 pm

  3. Yes, well said. A lot of desperation on show from the “watch out! reds under the bed” brigade. Like the world’s under threat suddenly if Labour gets a leader who’s really popular with the kind of voters and previously non-voters that Labour might actually need at the next election. Completely agree about the framing. It’s getting bad when Labour politicians talk about welfare in exactly the same way that Tories have always done. One feels that if there’s not a shift back to more progressive thinking happening soon then the shift to the right might stick permanently in the way people think “normally”.

    Liz Gosley

    August 14, 2015 at 4:32 pm

  4. Steve Coogan has just written a piece for the Guardian claiming that Andy Burnham has “radical leftwing” credentials, and that people should vote for him. In the terminology of framing, Coogan’s view seems to be that Burnham espouses the “progressive frames” which you (rightly) say we urgently need, combined with the wider “mainstream” credibility to win an election in 2020: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/14/andy-burnham-jeremy-corbyn-steve-coogan-labour

    What do people think about this? Burnham has never been on my radar as very “leftwing” – I’ve always assumed he was part of the bland, “establishment”-safe political debate (I can’t recall him ever saying anything interesting or radical when I’ve seen him on TV).

    Interestingly, Coogan describes Corbyn as someone who is “viewed by the public and the press as a laughable oddity”. He even refers to Corbyn’s beard, “zip-up jackets and vests”, etc. When Guardian journalists such as Michael White write such things, they’re attacked as being part of the Guardian’s “anti-Corbyn smear campaign” (by Guardian obsessives such as Medialens). But Coogan presumably isn’t part of some orchestrated media “campaign” – he’s just someone (albeit a celebrity) with an opinion which seems no less sincere than Corbyn’s. I see that your tweet makes reference to this: https://twitter.com/NewsFrames/status/632491366032015360

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