I normally prefer to shy away from overtly discussing politics on the blog as it is too often such a hot potato it’s not worth rubbing people up the wrong way. However, I wrote this piece for my weekly column in the Chronicle (my local newspaper in the North East) on Wednesday and was kindly encouraged to share it online by someone who read it in the paper. It’s really more of a rant about The Sun than anything else, so hopefully the majority of you will agree with me there. I’ve tended to find that the tabloids are one particular hot potato everyone wants a bite of.
I’ve written about The Sun newspaper in less than complimentary tones before, and wouldn’t you know, they’ve managed to get my back up yet again. I certainly don’t claim to be a political expert, but I know a vicious personal attack when I see one, and of course they’re basing this one on the flimsiest of evidence. Maybe you have already judged for yourself, but this is how I see it.
The country’s party leaders attended the traditional Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph to lay their poppy wreaths in commemoration of those lost in conflict. We see it every year, and it usually passes without incident. However, according to The Sun (and various Tory types on social media), Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn committed the gravest act of disrespect the world had ever seen by not bowing deeply enough as he laid his wreath.
The frankly ludicrous front page story stated that Corbyn ‘refused’ to bow, and labelled him a pacifist as if it is a bad thing he doesn’t want to start a nuclear holocaust. What an awful man to shame our war dead in this way. And how dare he leave a message on his wreath honouring those lost ‘in all wars’? Remembrance Day is about our brave British soldiers; who cares about anyone else? It’s an absolute disgrace!
Of course the only disgrace here is the lowest form of journalism used to spin this so-called story out of nothing to attempt to score the Tories some political points at the expense of an easy target again. Corbyn behaved with appropriate decorum, paused for a thoughtful moment after laying his wreath, and clearly felt it unnecessary to affect a theatrical bow just to please his critics. It’s not as if he was posting on Facebook at the time (‘Just at the Cenotaph – LOL’). And the paper obviously didn’t think it newsworthy that Corbyn stayed behind to chat with veterans while Cameron and co had a pressing VIP reception to attend.
I find the inappropriate focus on Corbyn to be far more disrespectful to the occasion than anything he may (or may not) have done. Sgt Rick Clement lost both his legs when he stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan in 2010, and walked on his prosthetic limbs for the first time in public at a remembrance service in Blackpool on Sunday. Would this not have been an infinitely more fitting story for the front page? Oh, but they had to leave room for a mostly-naked Abbey Clancy in ski boots though, so they obviously understand the meaning of respect already.
Since I wrote this, a rather brilliant audience member on this week’s Question Time programme grilled The Sun’s managing editor Stig Abell over the choice of content on the very front page I was talking about, querying the decision to picture a ‘scantily dressed’ woman next to the story about Corbyn. I doubt there is any reason good enough.