INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Guardian AUGUST 6, 2015 - by Brian Eno
JEREMY CORBYN FOR PRIME MINISTER? WHY NOT?
When my daughter saw the Labour leadership hopeful speak this week, she was electrified by his passion and conviction. He will draw out a new generation of voters who didn't bother last time.
The "realists" in the Labour party are frightened because they think Jeremy Corbyn is "unelectable". They think that the right will be able to make hay with his "1980s" views, his "old-fashioned socialism", and his sandals. And they certainly will: they've already started. But is that a reason for ruling him out?
It seems to me that by focusing so forcefully on electability at any cost, these "realists" have turned Labour into a lightweight, vague entity whose only appeal is that it's not the Conservative party. When I watched Labour politicians before the election, I saw them tongue-tied, terrified to say anything that could be bashed and recycled repeatedly by the Daily Mail or the Sun. I can't really blame them given the power and prejudices of the press. But are we at the point now where we decide our agenda for the future on the basis of what the Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch find acceptable? Unfortunately, for the past few years it has tended to look that way, with progressive politicians terrified to risk saying anything that sounds even faintly like socialism.
It's probably true that if there were an election tomorrow Corbyn wouldn't be elected. But we have five years until the next election, so isn't this exactly the best time to be thinking about what Labour wants to do and be, and what is the best response to Conservative policies and the changing nature of the modern world? If we are going to get out of the junkyard of boilerplate that passes for political discussion and build any kind of new consciousness, now is the time to start doing it, not 2019. By that time, we want a strong, deeply rooted movement for change, not a set of apologetic tweaks on Tory policy.
My twenty-five-year-old daughter heard Corbyn speaking in Birmingham on Sunday evening. She was electrified both by him and by the atmosphere in the hall. It occurred to me that this is probably the first time that many of her generation have witnessed a British politician speaking without a carefully pored over PR briefing sheet, speaking with passion and confidence and courage from a set of deeply rooted beliefs and a great deal of personal experience. It's significant that it was her generation and younger that didn't show up at the ballot boxes in May. It seems obvious to me why. They felt what I felt too: what can I honestly vote for? When all your voting options are negative ("I'll vote X to prevent Y from getting in") there's something wrong. Corbyn has a story that people want to hear. It's positive - idealistic even - but it isn't outlandish, although the neoliberals would like you to think it is.
So, as for electability, it could be that there are many people who just didn't bother voting in the last election who would be ready to come out for Corbyn. I think he could draw support from a demographic that hasn't yet fully formed - people who just haven't figured in the game before because nobody interested them or was interested in them.
Corbyn has for many years been pursuing clear and coherent social, economic and political goals - read his Wikipedia page to see for how long and how consistently. He's been doing this with courage and integrity and with very little publicity. This already distinguishes him from at least half the people in Westminster, whose strongest motivation seems to have been to get elected, whatever it takes. If that's the main thing you're thinking about, you'll tailor your political ideals to fit, editing out the awkward bits. It's the wrong way round. Surely you want to be creating a political position that is powerful and compelling because of its originality and scope, not meekly obedient in its determination not to upset anyone, to fit into a readymade slot?
By gathering this level of support Jeremy Corbyn has already shown that there is a strong nascent progressive movement in this country. He's shown the others in his party that there's a well of commitment for them to tap, if they have the will and the courage to do it. If nothing further happens with his campaign, that would be an undeniable and valuable contribution. I admit it: PM Corbyn is a long shot right now - but only four weeks ago bookies were giving 100-1 against him even becoming the candidate. Now it's 7-4 on. Things can change, and quickly. I think we should have some faith and give it a try.