Jeremy Corbyn is energising politics

by Brian Back

After hearing so much about it, I finally witnessed the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon for myself, at a meeting in Cardiff. And, believe me; phenomenon is the right word.

I have previously attended meetings in Cardiff with both Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham, which had audiences of up to around 300 people.

Corbyn’s meeting had over a thousand, with all seats taken and almost as many squeezed in, standing at the back, as were sitting down.

The audiences for the other candidates were polite, respectful and interested.

Corbyn’s audience was passionate and enthusiastic, at times bordering on fanatical. When Corbyn walked onto the stage, the whole crowd rose to its feet; whooping, cheering, clapping and shouting- giving him the kind of welcome normally reserved for rock stars. His speech was interrupted after every sentence, by the crowd cheering and applauding his statements, in the same way that they would cheer for their favourite song played by their favourite band at a concert or festival.

It was fascinating and amazing to watch.

I had arrived really early; partly to ensure that I got a seat, but also to give me time to observe the make-up of the crowd and talk to as many other people there as I could.

In almost equal numbers, the people I spoke to, fitted into the following groups:

  • Long-time Labour members, who felt that they were finally going to get a leader they could support wholeheartedly
  • Labour voters, who said they would now become members, because of Corbyn
  • Ex-members, who felt that (like Mhairi Black of the SNP) they hadn’t left Labour, but Labour had left them. Corbyn has drawn them back
  • Supporters of other parties, who said they would vote Labour, if Corbyn won
  • Non-voters, who had decided that they would now vote- for Labour, if Corbyn won

The main reasons given for their support of Corbyn were as follows:

  • All other politicians are all the same and are only in it for themselves; he is different- genuine, authentic and deeply passionate about creating a fairer society
  • He communicates really clearly and effectively, giving straight answers to all questions- not ducking or avoiding them, like most other politicians
  • You can trust him- he is honest and he has always shown himself to be a man of principle
  • Other politicians seem to want us to believe that there is no alternative to austerity and gross inequality; Corbyn rubbishes that idea, offering a real and compelling alternative vision, of a much fairer, more equal, and happier society
  • The Labour party is now just another part of the establishment; with middle-class, ‘career’ politicians, who don’t represent or serve the people who the Labour party was created for. Corbyn is a ‘real’ Labour politician, who can turn the party back into the true ‘party of the people’ it was originally created to be

These are all compelling reasons for his support, but they don’t, on their own, explain the almost religious fervour I saw at the meeting. The only way to explain it; is to compare it to the only other modern politician who has had the same effect- Barack Obama.

Corbyn doesn’t have the same charisma or oratory ability, but he is creating the same effect- why?

It’s because he is offering the same thing Obama offered; the same thing that people join the Labour party for; the same thing people are always longing for, from politics:

Hope, and change.

That’s what has gained him a fanatical following and that’s why all the dire warnings and intellectual arguments are useless. His followers now have a deep emotional connection to his campaign, because of their longing and yearning for hope and change; for the fairer, and altogether better society they have always dreamed of, but never thought they could have, until now.

Hope and change:

This is the most powerful force in politics, against which, intellectual and economic arguments have no impact, because in the same way that intellectual arguments cannot dent religious faith; they also can’t dent the passionate need and desire for hope and change.

Hope, and change.

That’s why Corbyn is so popular and that’s why he will win the leadership contest. Whilst many of us may support other candidates, who are all very talented politicians, we now just have to accept that they are not going to win, as they are all seen as just offering ‘more of the same’, which stands no chance against Corbyn’s irresistible offer of hope and change.

That’s why the critics and doom-mongers are all wrong, because what Corbyn offers, is much more attractive to voters than any carefully costed and credible economic policy.

That’s why we should back him wholeheartedly, when he becomes the leader of the Labour party, because what he offers is so powerful; because hope, and change, is what we all need and yearn for, regardless of our colour, creed, or political leanings.

That’s why he is so appealing, to such a wide range of people.

That’s why he has drawn in so many new members and supporters, many of whom had abandoned the Labour Party, were previously supporters of other parties, or did not usually vote.

That’s why he could win the next election.

Hope, and change:

That’s what gave Obama his historic victory

That’s what could do the same for Corbyn.

Hope, and change: isn’t that why you’re here?

Brian Back is a sociology lecturer and Labour campaigner who blogs at brianbackblog

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14 Responses to “Jeremy Corbyn is energising politics”

  1. JimmyRushmore says:

    Have you taken leave of your senses?

  2. Chris says:

    Spot on!

    From someone who has never voted Labour, but will definitely vote Corbyn in the next election. Might even join the party with him leading!

  3. Well from my point of view it’s nice to see Brian having a bit of a Damascene conversion. We could all see it coming in his last post, and I’m sure we will see more New Labourites having the same change in the run up to the vote. In fact it seems Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are in that process right now.

    What I think Brian fails to see is the major reason this guy who was hardly known before he drew the short straw to stand for Labour left, has become such a force. I would argue it’s hard to find the sort of Blair-like charisma that Brian is looking for in the man. What he has going for him is that he does not represent all that the public despises in our political class, especially our New Labour MPs.

    It’s all be said too many times. Getting the “you are all the same” when door knocking. The expense scandal thrown in your face or the lies told by spin doctors in the run up to the Iraq war. The well of public disgust is so full I could keep at this for many paragraphs, but why say the obvious. Corbyn, rightly or wrongly, is considered not part of this political class.

    Of course some of you will blame the new voting system, but it didn’t really matter. It may have made the Corbyn support greater, but he has a lead among the members and activists. Under the old system he would probably get the leadership with votes from the members and the unions. Only the PLP would stay true to New Labour. I have said it a few times, the New Labour experiment is over. The real danger isn’t in Labour not winning in 2020, it’s a New Labour led party falling into insignificance by then. The Pasokification that even Tristram warns against.

  4. Historyintime says:

    All very good reasons, unfortunately his policies are mad.

  5. Madasafish says:

    Hope, and change.

    That’s why Corbyn is so popular and that’s why he will win the leadership contest. ………

    That’s why the critics and doom-mongers are all wrong, because what Corbyn offers, is much more attractive to voters than any carefully costed and credible economic policy.

    I agree that Corbyn offers hope and change.. But the key questions are:
    Is it feasible?
    Can what he offers be delivered?
    Will it work?

    The answer based on previous Governments of various hues in many countries is hardly encouraging .See Syriza in Greece who had the same agenda- and basically achieved the reverse of what they promised – AND crashed the Greek economy as well. See Venezuela where the same has been achieved (over years rather than Syriza’s months). Anyone fancy queuing to buy goods? Thought not.

    Brian is proposing a course of action where there is no known lengthy example of success from following the policies Corbyn proposes. The reverse is true.

    He might as well suggest Corbynism is a new religion so suspend belief and become a believer.

    It’s going to end in tears with this sort of rubbish being seriously pedalled.. you might as well offer holy water and relics of the saints.

  6. swatantra says:

    Excellent article. Its a phenomena all right! Just like the wind of change that swept Obama, the first black President to the White House. And I’ve a feeling that the tide is still to come in for JC as more ordinary people see old Corbyn as just one of them , challenging the Establishment, heading to No 10. We saw that in France after the corrupt Gaullist Parties of Chirac and Sarkozy fell to Mr Ordinaire Hollande despite his leftist leanings and the ferocious onslaught of the Facists and the Reactionaries.

  7. Michael Worcester says:

    It’s genuinely frightening how so many people are willing to believe magic tree economics

  8. gdw says:

    Ya sure….. Tell people they can have everything they want and don’t worry there is plenty of money to pay for it. Wow, clever thinking….

  9. Richard says:

    As a Corbyn supporter naturally enough I agree wholeheartedly with your piece and the notion of uniting behind him as a party. Have you given any thought as to how to make this happen in the PLP, where most of the discontent appears to reside, and what should happen to the MP’s who don’t rally behind the notions of ‘hope and change’?
    Clearly, Corbyn has spent many years defying the whip on principle and the New Labour MP’S will feel that they will have carte blanche to do the same as they defend their notion of ‘good’ economic policy and politics. I fear less the damage the tory press can do than the ‘enemy within’ (which is what they effect become with briefing and voicing objection to leadership policies.)
    Perhaps it will be a fight that Corbyn needs to give early doors to the CLP’s and allow then to be sure they have the type of MP they want.

  10. John P Reid says:

    In America they have even smaller turnouts that we do, the way in two party politic elections is you get your own side out,hope those who vote for the other lot stay at home, even with falling turnouts in the UK,we’ve never had that, Obama also win, because Bush had made the republicans damaged goods, will Dave have made the Tories as unpopular as Bush by 2020,

    Also corbyn has got a few thousand people who wither vote green don’t vote,or have stuck with us, but didn’t really like the current Labour Party ,too go to halls. What of the millions of other people he’s putting off

    Still it’s nice to have. Change to all the ‘it’ll be the end of the world’ ,I haven’t attended a thousand branch meetings over 30 years to make labour electable,only for corbyn to lose us the next five general elections, for this’ style comments on here,

  11. David Walker says:

    Before he became president, I found Obama’s rhetoric pretty empty and nothing he has said or done since has made me change my mind.

    I doubt his campaign would have got off the ground if he, like Corbyn, was a middle-class, middle-aged white guy. Belonging to that demographic condemns a person to being a figure of contempt at best and often much worse, in this day and age.

    Honesty and conviction are powerful weapons though. What a pity that we see so few politicians bring them to the fight. If Chuka hadn’t quite the game, while the brass band was still playing on the pitch, we could have been given the opportunity to elect Labour’s first black leader or first female leader.

    Both would have been rejected and rightly so. If a gay career-politician had been thrown into the mix, nobody would have shown any interest either. Corbyn has changed the game.

    I don’t even think Labour needs to worry about funding, with JC at the helm. He could just announce that the party was no longer accepting donations from businesses, send armies of activists out onto the street with banners and buckets and the cash would just flood in from ordinary members of the public.

    People keep trying to compare him to Michael Foot, but there was no similar groundswell of support when Foot became leader. Corbyn could pack-out a hall in Witney, or any other rock-solid Tory seat, because there are disenfranchised and desperate people right across the country who want somebody to speak for them.

    As I have said before, he probably won’t win in 2020, but he just might. We are in unchartered territory. A different Blairite appears in the media, pretty much every day, to attack Corbyn yet none will go as far as suggesting that any of the other candidates will win a General Election.

    I’m interested to see which Labour MPs will be the first to quit and trigger by-elections, when Corbyn is confirmed as leader. I think people will be shocked how well the replacement (openly left-wing) candidates do, when JC comes to town to support their campaigns.


  12. Tafia says:

    The other three candidates have failed because they couldn’t do one simple thing – communicate with ordinary everyday people – the sort of people that Labour is supposed to represent. Shop workers, labourers, semi-skilled workers, security guards, fast food staff, cleaners, people on minimum wage, people who will never ever be able to buy a house because they simply do not and never will earn enough. If you can’t communicate with them you aren’t actually very good and certainly do not speak for the workers.

  13. ad says:

    A charismatic Leader, whose supporters have no interest in whether his hopes and claims are practical?

    This will end badly for Labour, the United Kingdom, or both.

    Probably just Labour.

  14. tim says:

    You correctly state:
    “Is it feasible?
    Can what he offers be delivered?
    Will it work?”

    Other parties (I won’t name names) are attacked for being populist demagogues and are guilty of much of the same. Corbyn seems to be immune to this as he is doing it for the ‘right reasons.s

    As for the hope and change thing-wow, are we really going down the dumbed down vague generalising of US elections. Give me strength-the reason why ‘hope and change’ is bandied around so often is because it’s a blatant psychological ploy worthy of Edward Bernays’ freedom sticks.’
    Don’t like Corbyn-then you#’re against hope and change! Great way to head off an argument, and one that the left (as have all parties but it does mainly seem to be the Left) for years.
    We had a classic one go up on a billboard in Brixton recently. “Dont Vote. Love racism.”
    Words fail me…

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