British newspapers choose 'Hillsborough' as an achievement

When you're trying to convince people to like you, it's a bad idea to remind them of your worst failures.

We all know the British journalism is under threat, from government regulation and the digital revolution. However, as is aptly demonstrated by this campaign co-signed by all of the major papers, the British press is under threat from its own hubris:

Clearly this campaign - from newsworks.org.uk, "the marketing body for national newspapers, helping agencies and advertisers get the most out of newsbrands" - is meant to show off the fact that, quite regularly, British journalists have done some great work uncovering corruption and exposing truths that needed to be known. But as far as lists go, it's not particularly well-chosen.

Firstly, it's an imbalanced list. The Mail gets Stephen Lawrence, the Telegraph gets MPs' expenses, the Sun gets Help For Heroes (which is probably cancelled out by Hillsborough, even though the Mirror probably put that in), the Times has its cycle safety program, but the Guardian gets to claim phone hacking, the NSA revelations and Wikileaks. 

Secondly - and this can't be stressed enough - the word 'Hillsborough' in this context means only one thing. There is a reason that, to this day, many newsagents in Liverpool will not stock the Sun.

It is also myopic to think that the media came out looking like the good guys in the (still ongoing) phone hacking scandal. Similarly, too, it's bizarre to see the NSA and Wikileaks stories included when so many papers have criticised the Guardian for leaking classified information.

Although, since they're having so much trouble trying to convince us that the NSA leaks are important, maybe they'll take any publicity they can get.

I'm a mole, innit.

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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.