The scandalous traducing of Jeremy Corbyn by almost the whole of the British press – including even the Guardian – is widely acknowledged. To an extent it may have been counter-productive, with Corbyn’s principled refusal to respond in kind impressing many waverers.
Yesterday I attended a memorial service for an old college friend who went on to become a financial journalist, in the ‘journalist’s church’, St Bride’s Fleet Street: one of Wren’s finest. I looked there for any signs of Christian contrition, for its worshippers’ persecution of Jeremy. Nothing, of course; until we came to the second hymn, ‘He who would valiant be’: whose second verse, I thought, could easily be taken to refer to followers of our new ‘JC’.
Who so beset him round With dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound – His strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might, Though he with giants fight:
He will make good his right To be a pilgrim.
‘Who so beset him round with dismal stories.’ The modern press, surely? I glanced around, but no-one else seemed to be catching on. I held back my instinct to start chanting ‘Hey, Je-re-my Cor-byn!’ It wouldn’t have gone with my Cambridge college tie; or, of course,with the dignity of the occasion.
Afterwards we adjourned to ‘the journalist’s pub’, the Humble Grape – better attended normally, I imagine, than the nearby church. I met dozens of City journalists there, affable and friendly – I wouldn’t have expected any less of dear Chris’s old friends – but seemingly oblivious of the upheaval that is threatening to pull their whole late-capitalist world down. (?!)
Which is symbolised, of course, by the tall blackened remains of Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, which I saw on my way in from nearby Shepherd’s Bush. We’ve all seen the pictures, but believe me it looks even more terrible and moving in real life. Of course the residents’ wishes should be paramount here; but I’m still rather wedded to my original idea: that a Corbyn government preserve it as it is, as a fitting monument to neo-liberalism.