So, it appears as though Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing outsider who barely scraped a place on the ballot paper with some of those nominating him on record as saying they don’t actually support him, might win the Labour leadership election. And, as you would expect, all those Tories who registered to vote for him “for a laugh” are now panicking though doing their best to make it look like everything is just dandy.
One criticism that even some who actually do support him give is that “Corbyn isn’t very electable”. In 2020, the year of the next general election, Jeremy Corbyn will be 71 years old. Many think that a 71 year old Prime Ministerial candidate just wouldn’t be an attractive option to the voting public. Many think that a 71 year old wouldn’t be interested in the job anyway. Others – again, some of whom are his supporters – claim that it’s his beliefs that are not very electable. Apparently being “left-wing” within the Labour party is now something to feel iffy about, rather than it being the norm, as it should be.
The trouble is the public, individually, are clever but as a group are fairly stupid. No, not stupid – that’s not fair: malleable. It’s easy to just follow the crowd, to not have to worry about what you think about something, when so many other people are doing something already. If those around you are saying “Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity talk is not something the public can get behind, not something that’ll work in action” then it’s easier than you think to start believing it. It’s easy to not question what we’re told.
Unfortunately society as a whole has been taught that there’s a way of doing things. We’re told – regardless of “expert opinion” to the contrary – that austerity is needed, it works and it must be followed through. Most of us believe this now, like we believe “illegal immigrants get all the benefits” (I don’t think someone in the country illegally will be too eager to fill in loads of DWP forms, somehow) and that “wealth trickles down” (obviously bollocks spun by those at the top). What frightens Jeremy Corbyn’s critics is the fact that he’s doing a fair job at convincing people to think differently, to question the narrative we’re fed daily by the right wing press.
What we have to be careful of, however, is getting lost in the echo-chamber of social media; the self-affirming hall of mirrors that sees us surround ourselves (virtually) with people we know agree with us. We Tweet something, everyone agrees, we feel that it must be right. We forget there are more people who disagree with us, hiding in their own little bubble with their own nodding dog followers. We hear them sometimes, nagging and moaning on the sidelines, but we ignore them or, worse, shut them down with the help of our own disciples.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is this: I’m so glad people are turning out to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak. I’m really pleased he’s getting a platform to share a message that’s rarely allowed in political parlance these days. I think he’ll win the leadership and, electable or not, will at least be a voice of humility, decency and solidarity in a House partly made up of braying toffs in expensive three-pieces. Do I think he could be Prime Minister? Sure! Why not? He’ll have the best part of five years, if he wins, to convince the rest of the country that he’s the one to listen to. Do I think he’ll hang about that long? Yes. How much longer after 2020 he’ll stay, however, is anyone’s guess.
BUT. It’s important to remember that this wave of hype, this tide of hope we’re all riding on, hoping for a Corbyn win, is sloshing about inside a glass room; it’s powered by our own breath. We drop a pebble of hope into the water and bask in the ripples returning from the walls. It’s all us. Only us. Sure, there may be many of us, but the hype is ours not everyone’s. We must never forget that, no matter how confident we are now, not everyone shares this feeling. The media are either lapping it up or slamming it, depending on their leaning, because it’s a great story: The underdog is ahead by a nose! But there’s every chance we’ll see the windows break and the real world flood in. Maybe – just maybe – Jeremy won’t win. Maybe we’re hoping for a little too much. Maybe we’re putting more faith in everyone else than they deserve. Maybe.
But I hope not.