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Jeremy Corbyn and the “slap-up lunch” meme

Propaganda for the guy you like is still propaganda

For an event that’s supposed to be about dignified respect, yesterday’s Remembrance Sunday, or, more accurately, the social and traditional media reactions to yesterday’s events, very quickly descended into farce.

First, we had absurd debate over whether Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn bowed at the correct angle at the after laying his wreath at the Cenotaph.

Of course, I should admit that I, like many others was watching half-expecting Corbyn to mess something up. The left has been on the back foot on these occasions ever since Labour leader Michael Foot’s “donkey jacket” moment in 1981, when Foot was mocked for not wearing the long statesmanlike black overcoat favoured on these occasions. Foot was of course not wearing a donkey jacket, but a rather nice short coat he’d bought from Harrod’s (it’s currently on display at the People’s History Museum in Manchester).

No matter: we wanted the left-wing firebrand “gaffe”. Corbyn avoided a coat entirely and opted for a three-button black suit and blue tie instead. He stepped forward, laid his wreath, paused, lowered his head (forensic Monday Night Football analysis shows there was definite movement from the waist, which, to me qualifies as a bow) and went back to his place in the line.

This appears not to have been enough for some (as rounded up by the Huffington Post here).

So far, so silly.

After the Cenotaph ceremony finished, more pictures started spreading, particularly one on Facebook, showing Corbyn with some beret-wearing veterans.

Good for him, you might say. But this is not an age where we can let such things lie.

The Facebook post in which the picture appeared was accompanied by the text “Whilst the rest of the politicians went off for a slap up VIP lunch, Jeremy Corbyn went up to Horseguards to meet and talk with veterans. Such disrespect” (that last bit is what we in the words game call “sarcasm”).

So far, this individual post has had over 5,000 shares, and variations on it have been reported as near fact by Huffington Post and the Independent.

The problem is that no one seems to have evidence of this “slap up lunch”. For starters, no one outside Beanotown has “slap up meals”, with bangers and mash with the sausages sticking out of the mash and enormous trifles: Lord Snooty he may be, but I don’t think this is how David Cameron entertains guests.

Secondly, the phrase “VIP lunch” sounds like Cameron, Tim Farron, Nigel Dodds et al were dining with their good friends Des O’Connor and Dame Shirley Bassey, which seems unlikely.

The more prosaic truth appears to be this. After the ceremony, David Cameron hosted some veterans at no10. Corbyn had a little bit of time to kill before his constituency memorial at 1.30, and so stood around and chatted. But this is far too boring to become a meme.

Bear in mind though, that while Corbyn may appear guileless, “man of the people” is just as much of a schtick as “great statesman”. Spreading this stuff on social media is still propaganda, even if it’s propaganda for the guy you prefer because he’s more “authentic”.

I attended that constituency memorial service in a small community garden off Holloway Road, by the way. For the record, Corbyn turned up exactly on time. He wore a blue Harrington-style jacket (definitely not from Harrod’s) over his suit, and had changed his tie from a blue one to a red one. He read a nice Wilfred Owen poem and praised the people responsible for the upkeep of the local memorial monument. There were at least as many journalists there as there were veterans, and we all watched intently to see whether he bowed sufficiently low after laying his wreath. He did (though the BBC failed to get the shot. Conspiracy???!!!???).

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms. He is Director of Editorial at 89up and has written and ghostwritten for The Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Observer, The Irish Times, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The Sun, and The Irish Post.