Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to campaign against the arrival of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK television channel as he launched his Peace and Justice Project at an online rally.
A more “just, free and accountable” media is one of four causes Corbyn is encouraging his supporters to back. He also urged them to help with organising direct support in communities, such as food banks; campaign for a green new deal; and press the government to speed up the delivery of Covid vaccines in developing countries.
“So many of the ideas we need to make the 2020s better than the 2010s were developed in and around the Labour party in recent years, by outstanding thinkers, but more importantly by demands of our movements, and the skills, knowledge and needs of the communities affected,” Corbyn said.
“We will build on these policies, taking them further, adapting them to the post-pandemic world, so that our movement can turn the dial towards peace and justice.”
Corbyn was readmitted to the Labour party in November, after being suspended over remarks he made when the Equality and Human Rights Commission published its critical report on the party’s handling of antisemitism. But his successor as leader, Keir Starmer, declined to restore the Labour whip to Corbyn, who now sits as an independent MP.
The broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, gave the go-ahead last month to Murdoch’s right-leaning news channel, which is expected to be on air for four to five hours a night. It is expected to compete with Andrew Neil’s GB News, with the pair racing to be the first on air.
Corbyn repeatedly criticised the role of the media in public life during his time as leader of the opposition. He was ridiculed in some of Murdoch’s newspapers, with the Sun’s front page on election day in 2017 urging its readers: “Don’t chuck Britain in the Cor-bin.”
Corbyn gave a lecture at the Edinburgh television festival in 2018 calling for a taxpayer-owned British Digital Corporation to offset the power of multinational corporations in the media, though the policy never found its way into Labour’s manifesto.
His digital rally also featured Greece’s former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and the Labour MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana.
The new initiative will not be signing up members but Corbyn hopes to play a convening role in bringing together activists, trade unions and other leftwing groups.
Setting out the aims of his new political venture, he appeared to take a sideswipe at his successor, saying: “If you refuse to argue for your side, our opponents win by default.” Some of Corbyn’s allies believe Starmer has not been sufficiently robust in attacking Boris Johnson’s government – and fear backsliding from some of the radical policies set out in the 2019 general election manifesto.
Starmer has adopted the slogan “a new leadership” to differentiate his tenure from Corbyn’s four-and-a-half-year period at the top of the party.