“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” – Buffalo Springfield
Jeremy Corbyn may well be onto something.
Jeremy Corbyn has just bought himself a lot of time. A hell of a lot of time. His Labour Conference speech was a success. It was a speech packed full of compassion, sincerity, authenticity and ideas. It was extremely well received by Labour Party members. It was a refreshing antidote to that machine politics displayed by our political elite over the past 20 years. The neoliberal Thatcherite and Blairite triangulation settlement of a “put up and shut up” mentality of ‘there is no alternative’ finally has a mainstream forum for scrutinisation. What Corbyn did throughout his leadership campaign and then beautifully reinforced in his speech was to show quite clearly that there is alternative, and the best opportunity (in England and Wales) to receive that alternative is to vote for the Labour Party. New Labour is dead. Long live Real Labour.
So while the right wing media and Blairites get increasingly threatened by Corbyn and howl at the moon that Corbyn’s speech was a rambling incoherent shambles, they are only doing so because of their desperate need to frame a narrative against Corbyn to protect their own interests. In the case of the Blairites, they are increasingly looking like yesterday’s men and women. They are now the political dinosaurs, not Jeremy Corbyn.
In politics, like so much else in life, fortune depends on mastering the dark arts of communication. This skill manifests itself in three critical areas – 1. Delivery 2. Ideas 3. Resonate. It is now entirely possible that Jeremy Corbyn, from being the right person in the right place to capture the Labour Party may well be about to capture the mood of the country. Millions of people have been disenfranchised with endless political sleaze, banalities and spin. Millions of people have been disenfranchised by austerity. Millions of people have been disenfranchised by a feeling that their voice and their vote doesn’t really matter.
The political mood is shifting at a ferocious pace right across the world. We are seeing the rise of new politics based on grassroots and popular movements demanding an end to the old and antiquated models of the status quo. Refreshingly, more and more people are seeing through the sanitised, focus group based, corporatist, political platitudes and are wanting something more real, more normal…and something that resonates within their lives – right now and right within what is happening to them in this day and age. People want hope rather than fear and loathing.
The speeches from Jeremy Corbyn and indeed the excellent speech from John McDonnell have showed us that a different model of how to conduct politics is possible. Both were obviously pitched at the rank and file of the Labour Party, but their selected themes also reached out to the wider public. Their speeches were not, as certain lazy and threatened opposition commentators have suggested, left-wing extremism on steroids, but instead, normal and authentic ideas that millions of people in Britain can relate to: 100,000 children homeless in Britain today is a disgrace, 1 million visitors to foodbanks is a disgrace, our housing shortage is a disgrace, the wealth accumulating extremists within the 1% should not be allowed to capture as much wealth as they want at the expense of other 99 per cent is a disgrace. Corbyn highlighted all of these fault lines of Tory ideology within his speech.
The media have been complicit in giving the Tories a free ride on the economy, with lazy misplaced assumptions that “Labour spent all the money” and the Tories were “cleaning up Labour’s mess”. Corbyn and McDonnell have challenged this falsely framed perceived media wisdom. They opened up an attack media smearing and with a sense of clarity that has been missing within the Labour Party since 2010, also pointed out that austerity is a myth that hasn’t lowered our national debt, but instead doubled the debt to £1.5 trillion since the Tories came into power in 2010. Austerity has set about destroying our public services and welfare that hammer the daily requirements for the poor and vulnerable who are punished for the mistakes of the banks – who got us all into the economic mess in the first place.
Political commentators (fuelled by their own narrow self interests) are now peddling the narrative that Corbyn is either an “extremist” a “Luddite throwback” or stuck between a rock and a hard place of having to either betray his supporters or alienate the parliamentary Labour party. Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps. But, the political scribes are forgetting an inconvenient truth – Corbyn is capturing something outside of parliamentary politics. Rather than conforming to the Westminster bubble, Corbyn cares about being on the side of the most important group of them all – the British public.
Obviously, to become elected as Labour Leader he had to initially reach out and embrace the echo chamber of the members of the Labour Party. But, with his refresningly unspun style, he outlined a number of policy ideas such as rail nationalisation, council houses programme, national bank, fairer taxation, support for small businesses, a national education service, an end to free schools, and a quantitative easing programme for infrastructure projects rather than for bank hoarding. In effect, he has reached out to way beyond the warm bosom of his own party members.
This is a compassionate programme of reform, but without descending into student idealism. These are ideas that will benefit millions of people whilst wrapped up in a form of grown up politics that embraces debate rather than tribal division.
The political establishment would like Britain to think that Corbyn will present a threat to your economic security. This is bullshit hoodwinking. Corbyn has clearly set out a need to provide support to the poor and vulnerable and rebuild our public services and programme of welfare. I am sure that most taxpayers who pay their taxes only to see their money spent on public services being dismantled and sold off to venture capitalists – therefore seeing their own social contract being torn up in front of their eyes would concur.
The political establishment also want you to believe that Corbyn wants his form of socialism to smash capitalism. Again, this is bullshit. Corbyn has now made it very clear that his brand of socialism can also be pro business, but only if the business deservedly needs state support. He reached out to the one in seven workers in this country who are now self employed. But, quite rightly, he wants to take away from the corporates who are failing to pay their fair share of taxes.
The most intriguing aspect to Corbyn’s speech was a deep and compelling campaign message to reclaim real British values as the natural preserve of the Labour Party – to create an outward looking country that focuses on helping the poor and vulnerable, supporting those who want to achieve but at the same time hammering the underserving rich. He wants to connect with the voters through the message of the British values of fair play, compassion and kindness and try and outflank the Tory theft of British values as greed masquerading as “hard working families” or “big society”.
Anyone who cares about getting real progressive and compassionate change; anyone who care about fairness and equality; anyone who wants to reboot our country towards a kinder, better place needs to get behind Jeremy Corbyn. He represents our best (and perhaps only) chance to end years of neoliberal politics that has divided and ruled our country. We need to support, campaign and get involved. This speech was only a starting point. But, as we have seen in many other countries, this starting point can only become a reality if we all actually get off our backsides to rally round Corbyn, the Labour Party and bloody well get involved.
Jeremy Corbyn may well be onto something. He may well be about to capture the public mood. A Corbyn-led Labour that connects with the public would frighten the Tories. As such, we shouldn’t be frightened to support him.
The outcome to Corbyn’s leadership is uncertain and fraught with difficulties, but I welcome his willingness to try and offer the country a different model of politics.
Labour previously failed to offer a tangible and biting opposition to Tory neoliberalism. At least we now have a political leader who will offer a significant ideological point of difference to the government.