I am very pleased by today’s result of the Labour leadership elections: not only because I agree with nearly everything Corbyn says, but because I see it as a victory for the real, the genuine; the authentic. The way I read his success is this: not only are there millions of people out there who are sick of austerity; tired of people at the top getting more while those at the bottom get less; fed up with being hounded by the job centre or ATOS (or whatever it is they’re called this week) and suffering huge and disproportionate economic hardship. I was talking to someone today who has mental health problems and who was doing pretty well: not only taking regular exercise but doing voluntary work; really trying to help herself – and whose self-esteem has plummeted after a series of interviews with benefits agencies, so much so that her doctor has now signed her off for three months. They are hounding people who are trying their best, just because they’re not earning enough. It makes me mad.
But it’s not only that: with Corbyn, as with Farage, you know what you’re getting. I don’t like Farage at all, but at least I know what he really thinks because he tells us. He tells us often, and he tells us too much, but he tells us. Not so Cameron; not so Blair – and not so any of the other candidates for the Labour leadership. They are leaves in the wind, blown hither and thither by public opinion, and will say anything so long as it gets them votes. Farage and Corbyn are popular, not only because of what they stand for, but also because you know what that is. If they support a football team they know which one it is; if they don’t, they say so.
I think people are also hungry for real encounters. Corbyn has travelled up and down the country talking face-to-face with people. He is not concerned with his TV image; he doesn’t dress to impress, he doesn’t have image consultants or people keeping him on-message. He doesn’t need them. He knows who he is and what he stands for, and he goes out there and tells the world about it. And people respect that.
We not only respect it, we need it. There’s a real hunger out there for people who say what they mean and mean what they say. Which is why Corbyn terrifies his opponents.
There’s no doubt he does terrify people. They have done their level best to demonise him, in often ridiculous ways, but he has come through. In spite of thousands being disqualified from voting, in spite of some members not getting their ballot papers in time, he made it. And I’m glad. I’m glad he won that way, because no-one can possibly say now that the election was rigged in his favour.
It’s going to be an interesting time. He won’t have an easy ride, especially if he becomes Prime Minister. But for the first time in nearly twenty years, we have a party leader who actually does what it says on the tin.