“Who even is this Jeremy Corbyn? Where has he come from?” As usual, it was on a very drunken night out in Sheffield that I found myself discussing politics with an eclectic mix of people after another unnecessary round of ‘shit bombs’. It can go either way as to whether I will devote my whole evening to pontificating or be incapable of holding a conversation at all. This night was the former and it really got me thinking about why people are so apprehensive to accept Corbyn in to the Labour ranks. I am basing this post around the conversations I’ve had with people who have asked the very questions above; I am by no means an expert on Corbyn but felt I did an OK job at the time despite my inebriation and will attempt to do the same for you now. Maybe with a little less drink-sloshing.
Jeremy Corbyn made his first political appearance about 40 years ago, so let’s set the scene. It was 1970’s Britain: a time of economic downfall and increasing political awareness. Harold Wilson was in his second term as prime minister of a minority Labour government, breaking the Conservative winning spell at that time. Wilson wanted more opportunity for the working class and for the first time in British history, more money was allocated to education than defence. Wilson was said to be part of the “soft left” in that he was not exactly revolutionary in terms of left-wing politics – very much like the Labour leaders to follow him.
Corbyn was first elected as Labour MP for Islington North in 1983. Soon after he became a part of the Socialist Campaign Group as well as writing for socialist newspaper The Morning Star (click here to find out more about the newspaper) for which Corbyn is still contributing today (click here to read his latest column). Now obviously I wasn’t around at the beginning of Corbyn’s political career, but people that were remember him as someone relatively obscure in terms of media attention, if at all. He was never the type to try and ‘fight his way to the top’ and seemed content with the support of his constituency and the positive work he was doing in spreading the socialist message.
Fast-forward to June of this year, a month after Ed Miliband had resigned as Labour leader after suffering huge losses to the Scottish National Party (click here to read more about the SNP) in the 2015 general election. The opinion polls had greatly underestimated the conservative vote and David Cameron came out with a victory (as I hate to remind you) of 36.9% of the vote. I voted for the Green Party (click here to read more about the Greens) as they were the only party that really seemed to represent my own beliefs. A lot of the Labour voters seemed disenchanted with Miliband and his on-the-fence policies. Coming from a proud left-wing family it was surprising to me when I began researching the party manifestos in the run-up to the election and felt I couldn’t even consider voting for and supporting Labour policies at all. Did anyone else decide not to to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’ in order to keep the tories out and instead backed someone they truly supported? Let me know in the comments.
So, things looked a little bleak for Labour after the election. Everyone was disappointed and angry. The position of the next Labour leader was something you wouldn’t want to touch with a bargepole. Who was going to stand as the opposition to David Cameron? Enter: Jeremy Corbyn for the ritual slaughter, because “someone had to do it”. Corbyn had absolutely zero support from the media and even the MPs who were backing him . He was practically a joke, with the odds on at the bookies at 100-1. After scraping up enough nominees to get him on the ballot, with some MPs claiming it was a ‘gesture of goodwill’, Corbyn gathered a small campaign team and began his fight. Nobody expected his landslide victory of over 50% of the vote in the 1st round, knocking out favourite-to-win Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
I know that Corbyn is a controversial character, but I think he’s a real cool guy. Before going in to what I have to say, I’ll leave a few things here for you to start forming your own opinion about what made him so popular with the 60,000 new members, registered supporters, and affiliated trade unionists:
“Where Jeremy stands” (http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/why_i_m_standing)
An economy which works for all, rejects austerity and places wealth and opportunity in the hands of the millions and not simply the millionaires.
Democratic collective action is needed to secure a better country. Government should not be the property of a closed elite circle.
Our world is under threat as never before. This means we must act in the long term interest of the planet rather than the short-term interests of corporate profits.
Britain needs to redefine its place in the world. We stand up against injustice wherever we find it, looking to build a more peaceful world through dialogue, cooperation and democracy.
- The Labour movement
Our party must become a rejuvenated, democratic mass social movement again dedicated to bringing about real change.
As you can see with the images below, the media don’t tend to favour Corbyn (even with me purposefully overlooking every Daily Mail article) and have contributed towards all the doubts surrounding his mission. Whether we like it or not, we get a lot of our opinions from what we see on the news or read in the papers. And why wouldn’t we? Unless you go digging for yourself, that’s all you know. I could go in to a huge rant about the evil of the mass-media, but that’s a whole other blog post. My point is that he’s quite the likeable ol’ chap if you see past the headlines and stop to think about the actual important stuff, like, um… I don’t know… what he’s planning to do as a leader to create change?
A popular argument now that the initial buzz has died down after his success is that Corbyn is going to ‘destroy’ Labour and their chances of ever gaining enough votes to surpass the Conservatives. And I suppose your stance on that will depend on what Labour means to you. If Labour to you means New Labour (something similar to Ed Miliband’s fence-sitting policies and represented by a man who could not at all connect with what he’d had written for him beyond all the speech choreography he had to remember) then yes, I can understand why you may think Corbyn will ‘destroy’ Labour. The ‘Labour’ that is Miliband and Kendall and Blair. For those of us that truly believe in the fundamental ideology of left-wing politics, social equality, we should await the extinction of New Labour with breath that is baited.
Corbyn is not at all like the churned out Oxbridge, suit-and-tie wearing politicians with millionaire families and obvious personal agendas. Why are people scared of a real man standing up to represent real people? For me, Jeremy Corbyn wants to do the right thing for not just this country, but all the people of the world. He has returned as a true representation of Labour. I support the MP who is the country’s lowest expenses claimer, who wears knitted jumpers made by his mum, who answers the questions he is given and who has not once strayed from his core beliefs for the sake of his own popularity.
If the brief overview I have given you has sparked some interest then please go and do some research on what more he has to say. Hopefully this post has at least cleared up a few questions people tend to have around him. I could have gone on for hours writing about everything he stands for, but I don’t know enough to do him justice. I’d like to finish with something that Jeremy Corbyn himself once said, which links very much with my previous blog post: “when is it ever a waste of time to put forward a view you believe in?”
I had a go.