Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

Labour’s disturbing attitude to press freedom

Once in every generation the Labour party gets tired of losing elections and prepares for power by neutralising potential sources of opposition.  

Today’s Labour’s offensive is advancing on all fronts. Rachel Reeves nurses glasses of warm white wine through dozens of receptions for finance and business leaders. Keir Starmer withdraws the whip from Jeremy Corbyn and makes certain that no one can claim now that Labour is an anti-Semitic and anti-patriotic movement. The CBI reacts to Boris Johnson’s cry of ‘F—k business’ and of Liz Truss turning his words into deeds, by saying that it welcomes ‘Labour’s pledge to establish a modern industrial strategy’.  

Starmer is lining up all the ducks – except one.  

In the 1990s Tony Blair and Gordon Brown wooed the Conservative press. They did not necessarily expect Tory newspapers to support Labour, although the Sun came out for Blair. Rather they wanted to blunt the ferocity of the right’s attacks.  

I suspect the Tory press would give Starmer a hearing today. He’s the next prime minister in all but name and all but the most prejudiced journalists should want to meet him. In any case, you only need to read the Tory opinion pages to feel the anger at their leaders’ failure after 12 years in power. Taxes at the highest level since the end of the second world war. Wages stagnating for 20-years. Brexit, their great project, amounting to less than nothing. The woke culture they deplore marching on regardless of what their ministers say or do. In Britain’s fin de regime atmosphere the factions on the right hate each other far more than they hate the Labour party.  

The left will never give him credit for it, but not only is Starmer not following Blair by becoming chummy with his party’s enemies, he is also proposing a deeply dangerous restriction on press freedom by reviving the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking.

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