This was a contribution by Will Barber Taylor
Justice has been at the forefront of left wing politics for decades. Whether justice for those who suffered police brutality at Hillsborough or miscarriages of justice in the Bridgewater Four, the Labour Party has sought to prevent or remedy social and criminal injustice. Yet social justice has also been at the heart of investigation journalism for decades.
Investigative journalists expose the hypocrisies of the powerful, fighting for openness, accountability and justice. Yet, the interests of investigative journalists and political organisations seem reluctant to work together – the disdain that the current leadership of the Labour party have for such work means that any cooperation is unlikely to happen. However, Labour’s founding message of justice for working people and representation chimes exactly with the intention of some of our best investigative journalists.
Indeed, journalism has chimed well with Labour throughout its long history; many of the early advocates of the labour movement such as H.G Wells and the Webbs were heavily involved in journalism and used it as a method of persuading other middle class individuals that Labour could aid them.
Eventually Labour developed its own official newspaper the Daily Citizen. However, because of its control by the party it was never seen as independent enough. The Daily Herald, founded to support Labour but independent from both it and the trade unions was far more successful and helped spread Labour’s message to a wider audience – the Herald still lives on today, though under a different name: The Sun.
Even when not officially affiliated, journalism aided Labour’s socially progressive message by exposing miscarriages of justice – the press exposure of the investigations into the wrongful execution of Timothy Evans was one of the main reasons behind Harold Wilson’s government abolishing the death penalty in 1965. Here the press was working in sync with Labour to ensure society was better for all – a message that the current leadership of the Labour party would be wise to take to heart and use for their own purposes.
As Stephen Lambert mentioned in his excellent piece on Labour Vision, it was because of Michael Crick that the true nature of Militant was exposed. Crick’s book contributed to the eventual proscription of Militant and the expulsion of its members from the Labour party.
It was a defining moment in the history of the Party which helped Neil Kinnock assert his authority in the wake of the 1987 general election defeat and ensure Labour remained on the path to electability.
Investigative journalism can not only endeavour to aid the Labour party’s mission of bettering the lives of ordinary people – it can help keep the party in check when it needs to be.
Labour’s involvement with investigative journalism in the past proved that it is a necessary force that will help Labour achieve its message of social justice and increase Labour’s chances of returning to power.
Investigative journalism, like Labour, is designed to hold the powerful and the decadent to account. When both Labour and investigative journalism have sway they can do good that can benefit us all; together they make a devastating force that can ensure that truth and justice prevail.