Corbyn knows what he’s doing. Yesterday he deliberately chose the day of the BAFTA nominations to launch his own drama, this one he called “Corbyn 2.0: The Re-launch”. I’m not sure, but I think the strapline was “this time, it’s principled”. It had a fitting location, Peterborough, and he was in and out of the TV and radio studios all day on his own one-man press junket.
His style is a little bit like American TV dramas. The ‘will he, won’t he?’ plot twists around every corner, good guys, bad guys, and some lingering questions at the end to keep you wanting more.
So we decided, like all good dramas, to give it a review.
The day started with anticipation. Corbyn brushed into the Today studios ready to launch a rollercoaster ride for which no one, not even his closest aides, were ready. Presenters were getting ready to ask him about his new tough line on EU immigration, but Corbyn was one step ahead of them. I couldn’t see into the radio studio, but with what I’m sure must have been a wry smile and a quick slight of hand, he blindsided them.
A mandatory income cap. Boom.
The headlines were written.
With the press reeling from this unforeseen development, they scrambled to their desks to write about this twist in the story. The tour continued. What did this all mean? Corbyn kept tight lipped, not revealing any more, building the anticipation for the big speech. Public affairs consultants, trade associations, regulators and economists panicked, and all dived in to pan the idea as unworkable.
But he teased “I can’t put a figure on it [the cap] and I don’t want to at the moment.” Would he be affected on his £138,000 a year salary? “No”, he replied. He did say that maybe footballers earning £50m a year would be included, and that Arsene Wenger, his team’s manager, would probably support that.
Corbyn spent the day talking about immigration, the EU and pay. He dominated the headlines. On Good Morning Britain he said his immigration plans would not be a “sea change” but that he wanted to protect British workers’ rights with managed migration. Everyone then wanted to know the big idea on pay.
By 3.45pm the press were on tenterhooks.
What was the big finale?
Well, nothing as it happens. He didn’t mention a maximum wage and later said he ‘misspoke’ on the Today programme. On the other big announcement he was much more clear. Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement. Unless we want to remain in the single market. In which case maybe it’s OK.
However there were other ideas in there, which would be quite radical. Government could do these things, he said, noncommittally.
Corbyn must have closed his day satisfied with the reams of viewers he had attracted to his relaunch. “A success!” he must have cooed. If his aim was, as suggested, that all publicity is good publicity, then he certainly succeeded.
The problem with this movie was it promised so much more than it delivered. It was all hype and no substance. But we did all watch. And maybe that’s the point.
Cicero score: three stars
Main photo by Garry Knight – https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/