Which NZ politician said this about Jeremy Corbyn in 2015?
As of my writing this, approximately 15,000 people have joined the British Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader yesterday – about a dozen a minute. That’s on top of the roughly 350,000 people who joined in the lead-up to the leadership election. To say that Corbyn is a political phenomenon would be understating the facts.
He has been in Parliament since I was ten (1983), but the bearded, slightly dishevelled, 66 year old seems the antithesis of a professional politician. And that is the point. An extremely large portion of the British people, particularly the young, are utterly disenchanted by the sclerotic and self-perpetuating political class that governs them. They’re fed up with a First-Past-The-Post electoral system that delivers grossly unfair results such as the Scottish National Party winning 56 seats on 4.7% of the vote while UKIP won merely one seat on almost three times as many votes; the same seat count as the Greens’ who won only marginally fewer votes than the SNP.
The British and New Zealand political situations are very different right now, so I’m hesitant to draw too many parallels. But if there’s one that I do see, it would be this: Jeremy Corbyn won the UK Labour leadership because people have a real desire for politics that mean something. They are looking for vision instead of slick political managerialism. It shows that people are looking for politicians who actually believe in something – and who want to use government to meet the great challenges of our time, like climate change and inequality. They’re rejecting those politicians who want to be in government for its own sake, and whose approach to the great challenges of our time is to do the absolute minimum possible to be seen to be doing something, rather than doing what’s necessary.
I am unconvinced that the generally accepted wisdom – that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is unelectable – will hold out in reality. The Obama ’08 campaign, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and others, show that many people are desperate for hope and change in the face of growing inequality and a sense that their own and their children’s futures are being sold down the river. At the same time, I think the odds are certainly stacked against a Corbyn Labour victory. He will have to appeal to a much broader coalition of voters than those Labour members and supporters who elected him to the leadership. And he will have to do so in the face of the most brutal and unrelenting media campaign the British Establishment can throw at him.
Corbyn’s win and the General Election that preceded it show that British politics are in the greatest state of flux in at least a generation. It will take years, I think, to find a new equilibrium; and it will only do so if there is meaningful reform – a rare thing in Britain (there’s a joke that runs, “What do we want?! Gradual Change! When do we want it?! In good time!”). Whether Corbyn leads that reform or someone else does remains to be seen. But people – in Britain, in New Zealand, and everywhere else – want and deserve authentic, visionary political leadership that stands for hope and change and they will keep looking until they get it.
Don’t cheat and if you already know please don’t spoil it for others.