Has Jeremy Corbyn jumped the shark already, or have we witnessed the first Fleet Street ‘smear’ against him? Today’s i newspaper has splashed with ‘Corbyn backs women-only train carriages’, which at first glance sounds like a divisive policy. The story has come from Corbyn’s new End street harassment document, which includes a ‘Consultation on public transport’:
‘Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women only carriages. My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to on the mode of transport itself. However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome - and also if piloting this at times and modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.’
Interpret that as you will — he wants to have a consultation with women on the idea of carriages segregated by gender, but Corbyn is also suggesting he would back the idea if they wanted it. And let's remember that Claire Perry, the Tory transport minister, also said a few months ago that she's considering the idea - a comment that didn't reach Fleet St's inside pages, let alone its cover.
The Corbynites have turned out in force on social media to point out that (like Claire Perry) he didn’t explicitly call for them to be introduced:
While others have reminded us that the rail minister Claire Perry raised the idea of women-only carriages last year:
There is a good chance that Corbyn will take to Twitter/radio/television at some point today to clarify that he wasn’t explicitly calling for women-only carriages to be introduced, merely raising the idea for discussion. But this little row is a hint of the war of words that will commence between Corbyn and the press if he is elected Labour leader.
Owen Jones, one of Corbyn’s few cheerleaders on Fleet Street, has warned his supporters about the smears: ‘you need to be prepared as it’s going very intense if he wins’. This may be a case of getting his excuses in early, but there is definitely a sense that the Corbynites are gunning for a battle. If Corbyn wins on September 12 and the great British press goes hunting, you can expect plenty of his supporters will fight back with everything they have.