A man of the people but not of parliament, Alexander Karensky explores the confusing popularity of the Labour leader
Jeremy Corbyn has been recently re-elected as Labour leader, much to no-one’s surprise. On the surface, it is easy to understand his popularity among some of the Labour electorate; a pariah of left wing politics, he has attracted wide-spread support among those on the brighter side of 30 – so-called Corbynistas. His popularity among his parliamentary colleagues, however, is pretty low, signalling an opening rift between those who voted him to party leadership and those who form that party in the Commons.
A seemingly genuine and principled character, politicians like Corbyn are hard to come by in Westminster. Living in a small terraced house in North London, collecting manhole covers and neglecting overgrown vegetation obstructing his doorway, he certainly appears to be a character (even if a little odd) more in tune with the majority of working Britain, than other big names in government. Corbyn’s history is a constructed image of a British Che Guevara, with it being easy to find pictures of him protesting similar ideas in his younger years, as he does now. This all stands in good stead in appealing to working-class voters both young and old.
His stubbornness may be the undoing of the party. He refuses to step down, despite, as many people would agree, it being the best course of action for the party. He won’t resign under popular opposition because he feels it would be betraying his voters. In an increasingly right-wing world he is a flagship for socialism, attempting to return Labour to the left. By not uniting his party he is fundamentally failing the British political system by not providing a strong opposition to the ruling party. This arguably, in a period of so-called “valence politics” (meaning parties finding most support in their pragmatic appeal) makes for his dire professional support. A party ruling unopposed can potentially be very dangerous, wherever they reside on the political spectrum.
Corbyn embodies a figure of resistance by characterising himself as the voice of ordinary working people. He therefore may owe as much to a largely youthful dislike of the current centre-right climate, as he does to his own agency. This can explain this popularity enigma. He is undoubtedly a controversial figure, many believe in the changes he intends to bring to the political order, while many are passionately opposed. Fundamentally however, many may acknowledge his policies and support them, but do not believe in his ability to implement them – this leads to lack of parliamentary support which is crucial in doing anything in government. Whatever you argue, an idea means really very little if it cannot translate into a de facto change.
Leaving me only to say he’s probably just come at the wrong time. He’s got his diary dates mixed up or something. He seems like the kind of guy to still have one.
Image: Garry Knight