Stephen Pollard: My Jeremy Corbyn dilemma

Should the JC have reported his membership of a secret Facebook group on its front page?

March 08, 2018 13:55

I’d like to share a dilemma with you.

Earlier this week, the Stakhanovite researcher David Collier published his findings revealing a secret Facebook group, Palestine Live, which among its members contains hardcore antisemites and conspiracy theorists.

Mr Collier shows that a group set up by and for Palestinian activists hosts a slew of the most vile antisemitic propaganda, added to the Facebook page by some of the so-called anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinians who are members of the group.

The telling point is not that the page has such antisemitic memes published on it; it is that so few of the group’s members even comment on its presence on the page, let alone call for the members who post it to be removed from the group. It is simply part of that milieu.

That’s all very well, and we are in Mr Collier’s debt for uncovering this one group’s workings.

But what should lift this story beyond being merely interesting – it should, after all, come as no surprise to anyone that such a group exists – is that one of the group’s members – and an active member, rather than what is known on social media as merely a ‘lurker’ – was the man who went on to become Leader of the Labour Party. Indeed it was only when Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader that he left.

Yes, there has been some coverage of this. But, essentially, very little.

As the writer Dan Hodges has pointed out, think what the reaction would be if it emerged that “Theresa May had been a member of secret Facebook group that promoted neo-Nazi propaganda, had actively participated in that group, and arranged meetings for its members” – all of which Jeremy Corbyn did for Palestine Live.

That’s the background to my dilemma.

If you look at this week’s JC, you’ll see the story covered. But it’s on page 2. It’s not on the front page, and it’s not done hugely. We’ve pointed people in the direction of Mr Collier’s reports and, basically, that’s it.

My dilemma was yesterday, as we decided what should be on the front page. Should we splash on a story that deserves to be not just on our front page but on every paper’s? And how can I now suggest it’s a big story that the Labour Party leader was a member of a secret group that hosted neo-Nazi and antisemitic propanda – when the paper I edit didn’t put it on the front page?


No paper in Britain has done more than the JC to expose Mr Corbyn’s foul associations. Even before he was elected leader, we asked him seven questions about those associations on our front page (which, incidentally, have still not been properly answered).  And over the past couple of years, we have exposed numerous Corbynite antisemites.

The truth is that we could have such a story almost weekly. But I am acutely conscious that there is a perverse side to this – that the more it’s reported, and the more we go big on it, the more it is then discounted as just par for the course. It’s as if the market has priced in all this sort of thing into his share price, so when more emerges the response is a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘tell us something we don’t know’.

So despite the view of some Corbynites that the JC never stops banging on about their hero, the reality is the opposite. We run far, far less about him and Labour’s antisemitism issue than the story probably deserves, precisely to avoid it dominating the paper.

Which brings us back to this week. I’ll end with a question. Did we get it wrong? Should we have splashed on the story (newspaper jargon for making it the front page lead)? Honestly – I don’t know.


March 08, 2018 13:55

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