How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jeremy Corbyn
For a few months after the general election of 2015, I was a member of the Labour party. The Conservative victory had come as such a shock, particularly as everyone on social media had stated they were voting for Ed Miliband, and now it was time to get involved.
I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership contest that followed, and decided to leave when Seumas Milne was brought on board, mainly because joining things has never worked out for me, but also because if I was going to join something, I’d rather it wasn’t about to turn into an IRA-romanticising, Putin-tolerating cult.
So when the general election was called, I was one of those who expected a Tory landslide, which would at least have the small consolation of demonstrating that I was right about Jeremy Corbyn.
He would be exposed as an unelectable leader with extremist policies and a dangerous tolerance for bad people. Corbyn had spent too much times at meeting held in rooms above pubs, addressing his points about the failings of US foreign policy “through the chair”, to be now considered a viable leader.
Theresa May was terrible, but would be handed this stunning victory by default. The alternatives were Corbyn or Tim Farron, a man who looks like a junior pharmacist trying to come down from an all-night rave in time for work on Monday morning, which also makes him unelectable.
But none of this matters anymore. In words Jeremy the revolutionary leader would recognise - there’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.
One woman I know who has retained an admirable and resolute opposition to the IRA in all its forms has taken to alerting me when she spots anti-Jeremy bias in the media. Last week. she texted to say she was appalled that Sky News were “banging on about the IRA again”.
A Jewish friend of mine who was disgusted by the anti-Semitism that Corbyn seemed to be failing to deal with in the Labour party told me last week that he had reached a stage where he was hoping nobody would mention it anymore, in case it damaged Jeremy’s chances.
The terrible prospect of a Theresa May landslide appears to have affected people so fundamentally that things which were once so important, now seem simply distracting.
Of course, I refer to him as ‘Jeremy’ now, along with all his devoted followers who have the advantage or disadvantage of never having doubted him. I laugh at his feeble attempts at humour, and I spot media bias in any attempt to back him into one of the many corners he can be backed into thanks to his long career sharing platforms with bad people.
Corbyn’s ability to come across as a normal human being who is capable of talking to other human beings in a normal way has become a revolutionary concept when contrasted with Theresa May and the Tory campaign.
— JOE (@JOE_co_uk) May 30, 2017
Their tonelessness reached a peak when May lectured an NHS nurse who hadn’t had a pay rise in eight years about “the magic money tree”, using the tone somebody might try with a particularly recalcitrant toddler who wanted the biggest toy in the shop.
Something always beats nothing is an old political adage and, as the campaign has gone on, it has turned out the something is not what many people thought it would be.
The Conservative playbook was based on repeating stock phrases and hoping the general public, who are too smart to waste their time following every step of an election campaign, would take away one key message about the superior leadership qualities of Theresa May.
But then during the long campaign, it transpired that not only was nothing trying to beat something, but the nothing was fearful and rigid.
Samuel Johnson said of Edmund Burke that if you spent a few minutes sheltering with him in a doorway as a herd of oxen went by, you would part with one thought, “This is an extraordinary man.”
It turned out that no matter how little voters got to see Theresa May, it was enough to come away with the view that this was an extraordinarily limited politician.
She avoided debates with Corbyn and her eyes darted nervously around the room whenever she was asked a tough question, or even an easy one. May went through the election campaign as if terrified that the focus group which had tested every statement would suddenly appear like the inquisitors in Monty Python’s ‘Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition’ sketch and shout her down.
Against the grinding cynicism of this campaign it wasn’t hard for Corbyn to seem different and charming. Crucially he was also promising free stuff which offered a glorious counterpoint to the endless misery of the Tory manifesto.
Traditionally, the way to deal with promises of free stuff is to talk solemnly about costings and ask where the money is going to come from.
But one of the consequences of the rise of populism may be that people have had enough of costings. After all, people have been listening to other people costing things all their lives and when all the costings were done, it turned out that the same people got stuff and the same people didn’t.
Corbyn, on the other hand, was promising something radical. By doing that he understood the changed world, even if he happened to understand the changed world by promising the same things he’d been promising for thirty years.
In this world, Corbyn’s IRA links could be considered alarming but irrelevant. He was riding a populist wave and just as people overlooked Donald Trump’s sexist and misogynistic comments because they were tired of the old order and the political class, Corbyn’s shared platforms and the words of John McDonnell would have to be seen as a minor consideration.
The media traps which he occasionally walked into also belong to a different time, they were simply other aspects of the game played by the political class, who know no other tricks and are baffled when these issues turn out not to matter to people.
In the new world, it can seem less important that Corbyn can't remember the precise details - or indeed any details - of how much his childcare plan will cost because someone will surely know it.
Jeremy, like Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap, provides the creative broad strokes while other people, whose job it is not to be as confused as Nigel/Jeremy, fill in the blanks.
In the aftermath of the London attacks, Corbyn also struck the right tone, stressing the need to use whatever force is necessary with the terrorists, while highlighting the impact of Theresa May's cuts that have undermined the police force.
Things will probably turn out as depressingly on Thursday and we will be ruined again by hope. I may not feel as strongly about Corbyn as I did about Gordon Brown, another football man who, despite holding the position for three years, was in my view the best prime minister Britain never had.
— Dion Fanning (@dionfanning) April 26, 2015
Some of the polls have, of course, shown that the Conservative campaign has had a dismal impact. Labour, meanwhile, might have energised those people who have belatedly realised that if they don't vote, somebody else will.
Maybe the young who didn't vote in the Brexit referendum will respond this time and the majority of polls will be proved wrong. Maybe another Labour leader would be on the brink of victory, but now I watch the interviews where Jeremy compares Labour's campaign to the 84th minute of a football match and for some reason, I'm not cringing, I find myself believing in this crazy dreamer.
There's something happening here.