How we Learned to Love Corbyn (and stop worrying about the press)
In August of last year, Jeremy Corbyn was lambasted by journalists, TV presenters and quite possibly religious leaders for falling short in yet another area. This time it wasn’t for drawing attention to overcrowding on trains, nor outlining Tory plans to dismantle the NHS, or for highlighting the widening gap between CEO pay and worker wages — his heresy was not recognising TV’s ubiquitous Ant & Dec. Though, tellingly, they did know of him, and were quite sympathetic to his cause. And that’s the thing, many people do support Jeremy Corbyn, not with reluctance but unequivocally. Though you might not realise that if you own a TV or read the papers.
A Times Writer Janice Turner, in 2016, criticised Labour under Corbyn for not attracting “cool comics or edgy musicians”, and instead achieving just “a fraction of UB40” as their only endorsement. Probably pining for Tony Blair and cool Britannia, Turner couldn’t have been more wrong.
As hundreds and thousands have flocked to the Labour Party under Corbyn — making it in terms of members, the biggest political party in Western Europe, bigger than all the other UK parties put together — many from the arts and culture are gravitating to his leadership in their droves. Paul McGann, a former Doctor Who and most famously the star of Withnail and I, has joined Momentum. Highly-regarded writer China Miéville, interviewed by Channel 4 News recently, spoke of Corbyn being instrumental in bringing about “fundamental social change” and a dignified space for people to ‘actually live a life that is worth living”. Rappers and Grime artists such as Akala, Stormzy and JME have been instructing their innumerable fans on social media to register and then vote for Corbyn’s Labour. Ken Loach, our greatest filmmaker — who made ‘Kes’, ‘Cathy Come Home’ and the heart-wrenching ‘I, Daniel Blake’ — pounds the streets and knocks on doors specifically for Corbyn, who he sees as our only chance for wealth redistribution and saving the NHS. Actor Patrick Stewart is doing much the same.
Many from the worlds of Academia have also hitched their wagons to Corbyn. Notably, in a letter to the Guardian from July of 2016, 100 intellectuals (including Noam Chomsky, and other eminent Professors) underlined how “the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has been subject to the most savage campaign of falsehood and misrepresentation in some of our most popular media outlets” and condemned the constant distortion of his views. Other intellectuals, industry insiders and academics have heralded his many Economic policies — against free market dogma and privatisation — as sound, workable and long overdue.
Corbyn, away from the controlled, misinforming glare of the mainstream media, is a man who many see as a convincing, pragmatic politician who — unbeholden to rich donors and corporate interests — could realistically achieve the kind of progressive social change that has eluded us for decades. A little different from the terrorist-sympathising, bird-brained persona that the tabloids and some of the Broadsheets like to peddle.
In 2016, Ben Okri, the Booker-prize winning author and poet — and a vocal Corbyn admirer — interviewed him at the Royal Festival Hall to a crowd of over two thousand, to discuss Corbyn’s political insights, his integrity and his thoughts on literature and culture. In what universe could you imagine the esteemed Okri wanting to interview, say, Tim Farron or God forbid Theresa May? In 2013, Corbyn was the recipient of the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award. Just a few days ago, he received a standing ovation from a congregation of Head Teachers in Shropshire.
The impression that some have of him — of being ineffectual, obsolete, weak-minded — couldn’t be further from the truth (30 Tory U-turns under his tenure are surely testimony to his ability as leader). Of course, there are flaws and problems: lack of message discipline can give way to occasional waffling and sometimes speeches aren’t as punchy as you’d like. Though, gradually, we are seeing his coherent political vision coming to the fore, unfiltered, and in context. In March of this year, after watching Andrew Neil grill Corbyn on Brexit, TV Presenter Richard Madeley described the Labour Leader’s performance as “competent, calm, measured” and noted that he “did unusually well”. LBC’s Iain Dale said: “”I saw a different side to Jeremy Corbyn in that interview. I saw somebody who was eloquent, informed, knew his subject, was well briefed, and articulate.”
Except, Corbyn, more often than not, is ‘calm, eloquent, informed’ and all those other qualities when TV and newspaper editors and interviewers decide to act with a small degree of fairness and decorum. At the time of the Chilcot Inquiry, when his media detractors and internal critics cooled off a little, he was widely seen to be diplomatic, Prime Ministerial and extremely dignified.
In the weeks to come, mostly through social media and on the doorsteps — as a right-wing media full of tax-evading billionaires cannot be relied upon to be neutral — Corbyn will win more support and more people will come to see what many of us already know about him.
To those unimpressed by the automated, broken-record rhetoric of an incompetent woman who seems intent on pushing us off a cliff’s edge, pressing the Nuclear button pre-emptively and turning this country into China (complete with human rights and working rights abuses) — I implore you to see beyond the media caricatures, and support the only man who will protect the NHS and give people as Mr Miéville said: “a life worth living”.
A LIST OF JUST A FEW CURRENT CORBYN SUPPORTERS
Stormzy (grime artist)
Jo Brand (comedian/ actress)
Noam Chomsky (professor/ political activist/ linguist)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (snooker legend)
Sleaford Mods (musicians, sweary types)
Kevin Rowland (Dexys)
John Pilger (documentary filmmaker)
Daniel Radcliffe (actor, Harry Potter)
Ben Okri (Booker prize-winning author)
Johnny Vegas (comedian)
Mark Steel (writer/ comedian)
Francesca Martinez (comedian)
Beki Bondage (musician, Vice Squad)
Ken Loach (director of ‘I Daniel Blake’ & ‘Kes’)
Paul Weller (musician)
Danny De Vito (actor/ director)
Shia LaBoeuf (actor, Transformers)
Patrick Stewart (actor, Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek; X-Men)
Novelist (grime MC)
Jonathan Pie (comedian)
Michael Rosen (author)
Gruff Rhys (musician, Super Furry Animals)
Maxine Peake (actress, Cramps fan)
Brian Eno (musician)
Professor Green (rapper)
Lily Allen (singer)
Grayson Perry (artist)
Alan Bennett (playwright)
Josie Long (comedian)
Jennie Matthias (musician, Belle Stars)
Oliver James (psychologist)
Robbie Coltrane (actor)
Suggs (musician, Madness)
Ewan McGregor (actor)
The Farm (musicians)
Paul McGann (actor, Withnail & I, Doctor Who)
Robert Wyatt (musician, ex-Soft Machine)
Roger Waters (musician, Pink Floyd)
Temples (indie musicians)
Giles Fraser (priest/ journalist)
China Miéville (author, Perdido Street Station)
Mark Rylance (Oscar-winning actor/ Wolf Hall, etc)
Lois Wilson (journalist, Mojo etc)
Keith Richards (musician, Rolling Stones, 80% sure of this)
George Monbiot (author/ environmental activist)
Alan Moore (author, Watchmen, V for Vendetta)
Harry Leslie Smith (WWII veteran)
Charlotte Church (singer)
Eddie Izzard (comedian/ actor, marathon runner)