The Lowdown on… Jeremy Corbyn
After the 2015 General Election (in which the Conservatives gained a majority government, giving us another five years of David Cameron) the leaders of the losing political parties were resigning left, right and centre (if you get my awful joke). And so began the search for new leaders, which to a majority of people seemed like it would be a fairly boring affair.
But somehow the Labour leadership contest became one of the most reported on events of the summer.
This wasn’t because it was a slow news for three months, but because of a man called Jeremy Corbyn. But who is this man who resembles that Geography teacher you had in Year Eight?
Jeremy Corbyn is a 66 year old, former backbench MP for the Labour party. He has been the MP for Islington North since 1983 and only entered the Labour leadership contest essentially to make it more interesting. Only managing to scrape the minimum nominations necessary to be entered mere minutes before the deadline, Corbyn was the underdog, the socialist back bencher nobody outside of the Labour party and Islington North had even heard of.
When he came into the contest the bets of him winning were at 500-1, as most people assumed the leadership contest would be between Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper – both more prominent members of the Labour party having both served in the Shadow Cabinet on more than one occasion. However, it wasn’t long before Jeremy Corbyn and his beige jacket, scruffy beard, and penchant for riding his bicycle everywhere stormed the Labour leadership contest, sparking a mini-revolution under the name of Corbynmania, with the slogan ‘Jez we can’. His campaign was backed by an incredible online following, and indeed, it seemed that social media was one of the only outputs that had anything positive to say about Corbyn.
Social media has played a huge part in politics in recent years, particularly in getting young people (the so called ‘apolitical’ generation) interested in how our country is being run. The Labour leadership contest has shown just how much of an impact social media can have on politics. When the time came for the ballots to be counted, Corbynmania had gained such traction that Corbyn won by the biggest mandate in political history, with 59 % of the vote. And with that the socialist, pacifist vegan who enjoys writing poetry and wears jumpers knitted by his mother, became Labour leader and in turn, candidate for Prime Minster in the next general election. Who said politics was boring?
But what does he actually stand for? The Conservative government, Blairites, and right-wing tabloid newspapers will tell you that Jeremy Corbyn will ruin the economy, bring in a load of communists to Parliament and basically destroy the country… all the while wearing cargo shorts. In fact, you can read a dystopian story a Daily Mail journalist created about what would happen should Corbyn become Prime Minister here. But, be warned, it’s so far-fetched they could have included Aslan as Minister for Animal Rights and no one would have batted an eyelid. In fact, it would have made more sense.
But really, on closer inspection? His policies aren’t so bad. Yes, he is a socialist. They will be more left-wing than a lot of Labour’s recent policies, but The Independent found that the public agree with Corbyn on some of the important topics dominating society today – topics such as nuclear weapons, taxation and railways (you can read this for yourself here). Jez also wants equal representation for women in Parliament, and just over half of his Shadow Cabinet is made up of female members.
It should also be noted that he has appointed a Minister for Mental Health, of which the Conservative party have no counterpart. He was also strongly against the Iraq war, and has protested against Apartheid, as well as attending the refugee rally almost immediately after he won the Labour leadership contest. He is against privatisation of the NHS, wants to implicate rent caps for landlords and wants to scrap Trident, the UKs nuclear weapons programme. You can read a full list of organisations Jeremy Corbyn is involved in here.
Overall, Corbyn’s policies are what you would expect from an anti-war, anti-austerity politician. And it seems that people like that.
It is only fair that I mention a few of the things people have said about Jeremy Corbyn that are negative. I don’t mean the fact that he doesn’t wear a tie, or can never seem to keep his hair neat, but the actual accusations that have been made against him. He has been accused of having links with extremists such as Hamas, and excusing Russian activity in Ukraine. Many of the accusations are reported here, along with his defence of these claims. Jeremy Corbyn is outspoken on a lot of issues, but people also agree with him on a lot of issues.
Jeremy Corbyn has awful fashion sense. It only takes a quick Google image search to prove that. He loves beige, wears trainers, has a scruffy beard and is very rarely seen wearing a tie. He never raises his voice, never resorted to attacking other candidates during the Labour contest and never made speeches made for sound bites.
And it seems, after years and years of designer suits, harsh words and recited speeches from our most prominent politicians, voters have turned to someone who is the complete opposite. In this time of austerity, with cuts being made in pretty much every public service, it is understandable why people are turning to an alternative. And it turns out that that alternative is Jeremy Corbyn.
So that’s it really, that’s the lowdown on Jezza. It’s safe to say that the political landscape has changed completely since May, and whether or not you agree with Corbyn and his policies, you can’t deny the next five years are going to be very interesting.