Part of the Scottish Morning Star Readers & Supporters Conference. Held at the Scottish Trades Union Congress
Recorded August 2016 at the Scottish Trades Union Congress
Denise opened by expressing her pride in representing the FBU – a union that had long supported the Morning Star and whose former General Secretary Ken Cameron was for many years chair of the Management Committee of the People’s Press Printing Society which managed the paper. The FBU was a pioneer in supporting the Morning Star. Today there were ten trade unions represented on the management committee - reflecting the growing understanding of the need for a paper that defended working people and spoke for all those facing discrimination in our class-ridden society. In the Fire Service in Scotland over 800 had been cut since 2013. However, these cuts had fallen disproportionately on women in control rooms, support staff including computing and clerical work even though they made up only 5 per cent of the workforce.
The Morning Star was a paper that was owned by its readers and could speak out for them – and it was essential that we organise to ensure its survival by building readership and support. This was the focus of the conference.
Head of Unite Scotland’s Politics, Research and Campaigns Unit
Jackson began by considering the press reportage of the Labour leadership contest. All sectors of the media felt free to slander Corbyn even though he was the candidate backed by the great bulk of the trade union movement and had overwhelming support among Labour Party members.
He gave two examples of press distortion that had gained mass currency. There was the ‘no seats’ outcry about Virgin trains – a media frenzy fed by Blairite MPs who had no shame about the real lies they had told concerning ‘weapons of mass destruction’, lies that had brought death to hundreds of thousands in the Middle East. And there was the headline in the Sunday Mail comparing Owen Smith to Keir Hardie in his commitment to party unity. In fact Hardie had always put political principle before blind loyalty: in his support for the Suffragettes or his opposition to the First World War.
It was quite clear why the mass media did this. It was because our Establishment was frightened of Corbyn and the radical, socialist policies he endorsed. It was also clear how they were able to get away with it. It was because our Establishment exercised monopoly control over the mass media. Murdoch controlled the biggest mass circulation newspapers and also owned 40 per cent of satellite TV. The Mail newspapers were owned by the Rothermere family – which had backed the fascists before the last war. The Express and Daily Star were controlled by a billionaire who had made his money from soft porn. Even Guardian had reason to fear a radical Labour leader with its trust funds allegedly held through a Cayman Island company.
The Morning Star was the one paper owned and controlled by the Labour Movement through a cooperative that was responsible to its readers. It was unique in this respect. It was also unique in its provision of honest and full reporting on the democracy of the trade union movement. No other paper now bothered to report on trade union conferences – although they represented the views of the biggest democratic movement in our country. The Morning Star did so and in doing so built the confidence of all those attending. Jackson spoke of the pride of young delegates speaking for the first time and finding themselves reported in the paper the following day.
In a world torn by conflict and war Jackson posed the question of how we could get peace: ‘you cannot get peace unless you understand the causes of war’. The Morning Star’s international reporting from Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East provided an essential understanding that alone allowed TU and the Labour movement to intervene effectively in debate. The Morning Star was open to all viewpoints but not to bullying and misrepresentation by the establishment. Unite actively used the Morning Star in all its education work. Its practice was to give the comment of three papers on the same news item and ask those participating to identify the papers and then to explain why there were such diverging stories.
Concluding Jackson returned to his opening theme. The mass media press could only get away with its distortion and lies because it still possessed a virtual monopoly. ‘Our job is to break this monopoly and the Morning Star is the way to do it, an absolutely crucial weapon in the battle for socialism.