“Corbynmania” is surging in Britain. It appears that, despite the exhortation of the more moderate wing of the Labour party, who urged members that the party only has a chance of succeeding when in the centre of the political spectrum, Jeremy Corbyn has defied the odds. His presence has precipitated the rise in support for left-wing policies.
Of course, his victory in the Labour leadership contest was no fluke either, winning an overwhelming landslide of 59.5% of the vote.
How do we explain his soaring popularity though? What makes him so different from the rest?
It’s quite simple. Just look at the man. A political leader wearing an old-fashioned coat, or a knitted jumper, who rides a bicycle as transport, is a vegetarian, and has a beard. He definitely catches the eye. He stands out, and personifies the term ‘unorthodox’. The other three candidates; Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, were bland in comparison.
Not only does he catch people’s attention well, but he latches onto it, and keeps hold of it, with another important factor of his – his ability to relate to ordinary members of the public.
One other man had this highly useful trait. A man who many Corbynites will most likely not be particularly fond of, but a significant example none the less – Nigel Farage. Like him or not, one can’t argue that he had an uncanny ability to connect with the working class.
Farage worked as a City tradesman in London. Despite coming from a relatively well-off background, and attending a high-status Grammar school, Farage spent much of his life interacting with ordinary people on a day to day basis. He knew exactly how to connect with others.
The working class vastly make up the majority of the potential electorate. It’s essentially these votes that win elections – so any sharp politician knows that it’s these that must be sealed. Hence why Farage spent a great deal down the pub with a pint in his hand, or even personally canvassing on people’s doorsteps. He was actively seeking opportunities to build rapport with people – to win votes.
While Jeremy Corbyn isn’t exactly what you’d call a pub bloke, it is arguably true that he has that charismatic edge that Nigel Farage does – and knows the importance of connecting with the electorate. Watching his recent live conference speech, he displayed a profound ability to engage with the audience personally. It was far from a scripted and monotonous speech many would expect a mainstream politician to deliver.
His first ever Prime Minister’s Questions proved this too. He had with him a list of questions from members of the public, which he presented to David Cameron on the opposite side of the table. Arguably a good method to bring ordinary people back into politics. This would have given him the air of a “man of democracy”.
Many politicians in our modern day often come across as alien and mechanical, and simply can’t form a robust connection with ordinary people in the manner that Corbyn can. The sharp rise in popularity for “Corbynmania”, as well as “Faragemania”, evidently shows that this pays off. Hey, many of Farage’s working class fans didn’t even pay attention to his ultra-Conservative policies; such as transforming the NHS into an insurance-based healthcare system, and liberal tax laws on the rich, as they were too captivated by seeing a politician with a pint and a cigarette in his hands!
Corbyn has cultivated, as the Daily Mirror put it, a reputation for being a “rebel”. According to voting record website The Public Whip, he’s defied his party more than 500 times since 2001. This includes opposing the Iraq war and the increase of tuition fees – two policies which arguably alienated many Labour voters from the party in the first place. Clearly he doesn’t want to conform to the general political consensus that is present.
One more important factor I must add about Corbyn’s rise to prominence is that he quite frankly came out of nowhere. From being an underdog who no one thought would even receive enough peer nominations to contest for leadership of the Labour party – who eventually became one of the four running candidates, and going on to actually win the election by a landslide, to become leader of the opposition to the Prime Minister. You couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s no doubt a heroic victory – a David and Goliath scenario, with left-wing Corbyn standing alone against the gigantic entity of Blairism that had dominated the Labour Party for nearly two decades. His story is more than just a shock victory, but an inspiration.