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?