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What appeals to young people about Jeremy Corbyn?

26th August 2015

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In the last two months 66 year-old ardent socialist, Jeremy Corbyn, has gone from underdog to front-runner in the race to become Labour’s next leader, in definace of almost everyone's expectations.

Jeremy CorbynMany believe his surge in popularity is largely due to his attraction to young people, which, in some ways, is surprising.

One might have expected us young folk to ignore the old, bearded geezer who has been gathering dust as a Labour backbencher since before we were born. But many haven’t – and here’s why.

People of our age have grown up with the incessant PR talk of Tony Blair & Co. and, as a result, they are sick and tired of what George Orwell described in his essay on Politics and the English Language as:

“[That] curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy… The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself.”

This is what many probably felt while watching and listening to the other three Labour leadership candidates at the various hustings that have been held.

Vote for me, I’ll get Labour out of the Westminster bubble! Burnham declares.

Vote for me, I want to lift children out of poverty! Cooper declares.

It’s been a meaningless trail of vague, boring and bland statements that are completely inoffensive to anybody; saying what they think people want them to say, rather than saying what they think and taking the effort to win people over. They have a PR problem - in that they have too much PR.

And whatever people on the right or the evermore trembling Blairite-left have to say about Jeremy Corbyn and his "far-left" policies, he comes across as a straight-talking human being who has clear values, clear positions on certain issues and a sense of what is just.

He also has an advantage over his rivals in that, having been an MP for the best part of 32 years, he has had decades to think about what he stands for.

As a result, he possesses a refreshing sense of clarity and a clear vision for the country, both of which Burnham, Cooper and Kendall have been clearly lacking in. Whilst Corbyn appears in striking red, the others deal in various shades of grey. Starved of such a figure for so long, it’s little wonder a significant proportion of young people are enthusiastically voicing their support for such a candidate.

More important, however , is that unlike many of those who are old enough to remember what Labour was like in the wilderness years, with Michael Foot, the SDP-split and ‘the longest suicide note in history’, they do not see Corbyn as a dinosaur, but as the latest addition to a changing political landscape, both at home and in Europe.

Formerly marginal parties in Britain, such as Ukip, the SNP and, to a lesser extent, the Green Party are gaining support because their leaders are not afraid to be divisive and make little attempt to compromise their principles by driving towards the political centre when election time comes round.

Young, idealistic folk see this progression in politics and think; would it be so bad if the main party of opposition also took this route?  

Then they see the current anti-austerity rumblings across Europe, and the rise of more polarising parties in general, with the hard-left Syriza government in Greece having been elected in January and trying (but failing) to take on the Troika in an attempt to reverse the crippling austerity that has been inflicted on the Greek people for the last several years.

Yes, Greece has a very different history and political culture to that of Britain’s, but at least in Britain’s case there would be no overriding central bank blocking the path of the anti-austerity policies Corbyn would try to enact as PM as there was for Alexis Tsipras, if only he could win over enough of the electorate.

In short, the younger members of the Labour party, and many other millennials, sense a shift in the political wind, and which (whether they are right or not)  may well push Corbyn over the finish line; not so much because he is left-wing but because he’s not afraid to invite contention and say precisely what he thinks.  

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