It’s difficult to know anything certain about modern politics. As Adam Curtis points out in his “Oh-Dearism” documentary, there is an emerging “strategy of power that keeps any opposition constantly confused, a ceaseless shapeshifting that is unstoppable because it’s indefinable”. It’s diaphanous, a dark attic full of spider webs, and the intention of the political elite is to make sure you don’t understand.
Every now and again, though, a little light breaks through the murk, and lets us see what the machinating cluster of arachnids are up to.
It seems rather telling that the mainstream establishment is getting all shrill and scurrilous about Jeremy Corbyn. After the poll that said Corbyn would win the Labour leadership 6 points ahead of Andy Burnham, centrists, Blairites and Blairs fell over each other to slander the man himself, as unelectable, and then to scoff at his supporters. St. Tony of Baghdad, lobbyist to the shadows, left many reeling with indignation when he spoke to the think tank Progress on Wednesday. Let us not forget that there is a wide consensus that this man should be tried for war crimes, and yet he has the gall to tell others to get “a heart transplant”?! He appeared from his coffin, looking like a wax puppet from an American remake of a Japanese horror film, and condescended to the nation with talk of winning “from the centre” and the dangers of comfort blankets. The sheep-dog yapped and the flock bolted. Margaret Beckett described herself as a “moron” for supporting Corbyn’s candidacy. Yvette Cooper said she would never serve in a shadow cabinet lead by Corbyn. John McTernan suggested that two candidates should drop out of the race to create an “anyone-but-Corbyn” campaign. The barks and bleats have become deafening.
In a leadership election that should be defined by new rules that make it more democratic, it seems ironically undemocratic that this tactic of sabotage should be used from within the party. The momentum is with Corbyn. Doesn’t it show a huge arrogance, for the other leading Labour politicians, to flagrantly disregard what the most significant faction of Labour supporters are saying? Rather than denigrating the man’s personality and dragging their heels in New Labour mud, shouldn’t they recognise that what many people want is a party of real opposition to sit next to the SNP in the house of commons? And if the left-wing are so “unelectable”, please tell me how the SNP won all those seats?
I’m not sure that this hullabaloo is at all damaging to Corbyn’s campaign though. That conversation we were all having for the previous god-knows-how-long (you know, the one about the Westminster bubble and the London elite being out of touch; the one that resulted in massive election turn outs for the SNP and UKIP), it didn’t just go away because we had a general election. Right now, the more Jeremy Corbyn is held cheap by the establishment, the more he begins to look like an intriguing outsider, relatable, and unfazed with the squabbling in the political playground.
The inverse of Nigel Farage, he appears to be a cool-headed, honest, considerate man, one of the few modern politicians who doesn’t seem to have been trained in neuro-linguistic programming, unconflicted in his political views, and abstemious in his daily life. He is one of the only politicians of note that seems to truly recognise the dire inequality that exists in this country today and actually have a problem with it. There is something inherently virtuous about him, and that is a quality that can rally the support of a lot of people, and most importantly, a lot of young people. With the big three zero on the horizon for me, I don’t know if I still count as a “young person”. What I can say is that for the first time in my adult life there is a politician from a mainstream party who shares my views and those of most people I know, and also has a chance of actually doing something to create a shift in the paradigm, from corporate puppetry to conscientious societal representation.
The hysteria that has rendered certain members of the Labour party catatonic, and has the right wing press rubbing its hands together in glee, is ultimately based on nonsense. The fact is that this election is not for the position of king of kings but for the leader of a party of equals. No matter how far left Jeremy Corbyn is, if he is voted leader he will have to represent a party that is jam packed with shy Tories and Blairites. He would be dragged towards the centre ground anyway. But he would have galvanised the support of many disparate factions of society, who didn’t vote in the general election, or who voted UKIP, or maybe even some of those who voted Tory.
In the USA, Senator Bernie Sanders is currently running his presidential campaign for 2016. He is a firebrand, a self proclaimed democratic socialist, and support for him is snow-balling. He’s a straight talking realist who is committed to outing the perversions of the system and seems to be unafraid of standing up for the rights of individuals against those of corporations. At the official opening of his campaign in Vermont in May, he had one clear message to anyone who doubted his ability to win: “Don’t underestimate me.” It seems that it wasn’t until Jeremy Corbyn took the lead in the polls that the rest of the Labour party worked out not to underestimate him. It just might be that he is the right person to clean out the cobwebs and fix those attic lights.