When Jeremy Corbyn was announced Labour Leader, the reaction was stereotypically binary on my Facebook feed. On one hand you have the disillusioned and hardened dissenters, whose argument was a bit like “He’s not left enough. He’ll just fail anyway.” On the other hand, the Corbynites – overjoyed and zealous expressions of hope, converting the victory as the birth of a Messiah.
Caught somewhere in-between, I wasn’t fully sure how to express what I think this means for the future of British politics, other than “a jolly good show”. There are external and infernal factors to address: the influence of international politics (including the EU), the pressure from the financial services sector, the Labour rebels… the list is endless…
But what I didn’t consider was the upheaval in approach to British politics. Corbyn’s rise is a rise towards a less established and more grassroots way of doing politics. He catches a bus, he goes to rallies rather than press interviews, he uses social media over mainstream media to make announcements. And more than anything, he sticks to his principles – no ‘God save the Queen’ for him.
This may not sound shocking for politicians based outside of the UK, but in Westminster – it’s radical. Because British politics is tainted by a fervour of required elitism. Respectability is integral, as is a need to show that you’re a cut about the rest, to climb higher up in parliamentary rankings.
And Corbyn’s approach has been exactly not that. It hasn’t been a show of power; it, with its mistakes, has been a show of humanity. It’s been imperfect, slandered by the Tories who are using every dirty trick in the books to trip him up. And it has been utterly destroyed by the old Labour cronies whose fall from power has led to leaks and self-destruction.
Yet, Corbyn stands strong. His followers respect him more for every attack he faces. And he doesn’t slip into typical Westminster attitudes. He doesn’t have a lackey of spin doctors defining his every move. Instead he acts to principle.
He’s not perfect, certainly. He’s had to compromise and back away from many of his initial policies. But he has integrity. And in this day and age, that’s saying something.