Mainstream media coverage of the labour movement is, as we all know, awful. But just how awful it is became clear following the TUC demonstrations on Saturday, 20 October.
The BBC, to its credit, led the news at nine o’clock with coverage of the march and rally. But it chose not show any of the trade union speakers — not even a soundbite — and instead showed a few seconds of Labour Party leader Ed Miliband saying something stupid and being booed. That was so predictable that it could almost have been written before the event even took place with the film clip of Miliband added later. That was the story the BBC was going to run with all along.
Sky News, unsurprisingly, ran the exact same clip. Miliband getting heckled and booed by the crowd. It looked like he was the only speaker, and the only message anyone heard was his commitment to a “realistic” policy of painful cuts and more austerity.
One almost wonders why people were in the streets demonstrating if all we wanted was more cuts, except under a Labour government. The TUC’s message was completely ignored.
Sky of course went looking for trouble, and found a clip of some police wrestling with anti-tax-avoidance demonstrators on Oxford Street. This actually had nothing whatsoever to do with the TUC demonstration, which was quite peaceful. But it made for exciting television, I guess.
The BBC and Sky, it must be said, at least acknowledged that something like 150,000 people had taken to the streets, though neither gave a very clear picture of why this happened.
But the Guardian’s sister newspaper, the Observer, completely ignored the march and rally. It wasn’t buried — it wasn’t deep inside the paper somewhere — it was as if never happened.
I admit that I didn’t buy the Sun, Mail, Express, Independent, or Telegraph, but from what I can tell, none of them put the march on their front pages either.
The front page stories in the Observer focussed on Tory disenchantment with David Cameron’s leadership and an article on racism in football.
One would have thought that a colourful photo of the demonstration might grace the Observer’s front page, but that didn’t happen.
Now here’s the odd thing about the Observer (and Guardian): they appear to be newspapers for those people who see themselves as caring about injustice and wanting a better world. They are full of articles bashing the Tories and ads for charities promoting social justice.
People who read these newspapers will in many cases even think of themselves as progressives, as people of the left. But the newspapers themselves have no interest whatsoever in the one social force that is actually challenging the Tories in the streets — the trade union movement.
Unions, it seems, are just not newsworthy. Not even for newspapers read by people who think of themselves as progressives.
Britain’s unions desperately need a daily newspaper of their own — and that newspaper is not the Morning Star.