High profile attacks on Jeremy Corbyn from the right-wing press are leading to large numbers of voters joining Labour campaign group Momentum, according to new research from the organisation.
The report, seen by Press Gazette but which Momentum is not sharing publicly, claims 250 new members joined the group on 21 January following a Sunday Times splash, headlined: “Corbyn allies plot to oust 50 Labour MPs.”
In the four days following its publication, Momentum adds that 554 members joined – the highest in any four-day period since September 2017.
The organisation often uses negative press attention as a promotional tool. Job adverts that use negative headlines from the Daily Mail on Facebook reach up to ten times as many people as ordinary posts, it claims.
Momentum national co-ordinator Laura Parker said: “Labour’s extraordinary result in the last election showed that tabloids run by tax-dodging press barons do not decide elections.
“But the fact that attacks by the right wing press have actually increased support for Momentum shows how low they have sunk in the eyes of the public.
“Being hated by the Daily Mail has become a seal of approval and, for most people, their criticism is actually an endorsement.
“This is obviously a dire state of affairs, only made worse when the Sun and others engage in botched smear attempts such as the bogus Czech spy story this past week.
“We have a right to a free press which holds the powerful to account. This will never happen if so many papers are controlled by billionaire tax exiles, a problem Theresa May clearly has no desire to tackle.”
Meanwhile, the Society of Editors has called on Corbyn to clarify his stance on press freedom following a personal video in which he warned press owners that “change is coming”.
The Labour leader had been responding to claims in national newspapers, first reported by The Sun, that he met a communist spy during the cold war.
Executive director, Ian Murray, said: “The Society of Editors does not align itself with any political party nor stance, however we do stand for a free press, a self-regulated press, and we are concerned that in his statement Mr Corbyn appears to be suggesting Labour have plans to change the media landscape in the UK.
“If that is the case then we would ask him to clarify what those proposed changes are and to urge him to resist any temptation to attempt to silence voices that may be opposed to his point of view through press restrictions.
“The media in the UK is rightly held up as a beacon of freedom throughout the world, particularly in those countries where politicians and rulers close down any voices of opposition to their power.
“While we are pleased to note that Mr Corbyn recognises the role of a free press in a free society, he has also announced that Labour does have plans to change the media landscape in some way.
“The Society calls on Mr Corbyn to explain what changes his party has in mind so that these can be openly debated.”