LABOUR MP Yvette Cooper says that she is sick to death of the vitriol directed at Laura Kuenssberg from within her party. And as if to prove her point, bucket loads of internet bile are then poured on her own head.
If you flick through the Man On Ledge archives – and that filing cabinet is in danger of toppling over the edge – you will find that I stuck up for the BBC’s political editor as long ago as June 2016.
No surprise, then, that I think Cooper is right. In a speech to the Fabian Society, Cooper said of Kuenssberg: “It is her job to ask difficult questions. It is her job to be sceptical about everything we say. Nothing justifies the personal vitriol, or the misogyny.”
My theory is that this is partly down to timing: the Beeb’s indefatigable political editor got the job around the same time that Jeremy Corbyn got his, and her tough questions were misinterpreted as bias.
Now it is true that if you Google “Kuenssberg bias” you will uncover plenty of alleged evidence of her being unkind to Jeremy – alongside blasts from Tory supporters who complain of her lack of fairness towards Theresa May (“Kuenssberg needs sacking with her lefty bias” – according to one of many anti-Beeb tweets highlighted by the Daily Express on May 3).
Should you wish to read up on the opposite case, just pop over to the left-wing Canary website, where your thirst for evidence of Kuenssberg’s anti-Labour bias will be slaked in an instant.
To recap for the haters on either side of the divide, Kuenssberg’s job is not to make friends in politics, but to report on politics. In doing so, she must find a narrative – a way to tell the story of the day. This will involve some degree of interpretation. And it is this that lands her in trouble.
Grumblers of all political persuasion say that she should “just stick to the facts” – yet the line between fact and opinion is thin and ever-moving in such a non-stop job.
And surely it is disgraceful that supporters of the Labour Party, which is rooted in equality, should spill such hatred on a woman doing that job. Kuenssberg is exposed to far more hostility than any man in that role ever has been.
Cooper also spoke against Labour supporters who carried placards of Theresa May’s severed head – “Maybe it was meant as a joke. It isn’t funny.”
Mrs Maybe did not escape unlashed, however. Cooper criticised the prime minister for failing to speak out against Donald Trump at the G20 summit, saying that Trump’s Twitter outbursts were not “harmless rants from a sad man in his bedroom” but represented the “bully pulpit of the most powerful man on the planet, broadcast direct to millions of people, echoed and amplified by the Brietbarts, the cheerleaders, the echo chambers”.
Bang on cue, the ‘bully pulpit’ from her own side put out a picture on Twitter of Cooper in a first-class carriage on a train – as if this was meant to somehow portray her as a class traitor. This sort of nastiness and cynicism threatens to rot the heart out of politics.
When Labour launched its manifesto in Bradford, Kuenssberg and other political editors were booed by party supporters. Corbyn pointed out that they were only doing their job, adding: “Journalists and journalism, and free journalism and a free press, are intrinsic to a democracy and a free society.”
Good words – and Jeremy Corbyn should remind his most ardent supporters that pouring bile on a political editor for doing her job is not how a decent party should behave.