Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory in the Labour Party leadership contest is sure to be remembered as one of the most significant moments in political history. Love him or loath him, there is certainly no denying the media hysteria that surrounded JC’s campaign which, towards the end, was reminiscent of One Direction-esque proportions. But what does Jezza’s meteoric rise from the oblivion as media-snubbed-back-bencher to official Leader of Her Majesty’s opposition actually mean for British and World politics? It got me thinking about my own torturous journey from political Right to Left…
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One rainy afternoon in 2003 I popped in to see my dad. As I entered the lounge, there he was, cheering and shouting and whooping at the television like a jubilant Arsenal fan celebrating another FA Cup Wembley win. But to my surprise, Dad’s buoyant clapping and eager rubbing of his hands was not due to any sporting achievement; instead, rather worryingly, it was inspired by live pictures aired by the BBC of British aircraft bombing Baghdad, Iraq. Now let me be clear when I say that I didn’t blame my father for revelling in the mass murder being carried out before his very eyes; for he was a product of a world fuelled by violence. But as the TV buzzed and fizzed and crackled, lighting up the corner of the room like an Olympic Opening Ceremony, while Dad smiled with thanks towards Tony Blair’s fighter-pilots carrying out their mission with astonishing accuracy and unrelenting determination, I, on the other hand, was experiencing a life-changing moment that, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, kick-started my political journey of intrigue. And it was a journey full of danger, with suspicion around every corner.
Prior to that day in 2003 I was unconcerned with the world and its worries. My life was filled with only the thought of money and personal gain. But as I sat on the comfy sofa opposite Dad, drinking hot tea, with a cushiony carpet beneath my feet and the cozy central heating warming the family home, for the first time in my life I started to feel affected by the nature in which British society, fueled by the British media, seemed to glorify the Saving-Private-Ryan-we’re-good-they’re-bad-we-will-be-triumphant Hollywoodized notion of war. The live reports of a nation being destroyed, and thousands of people being killed, or forced out of their homes at the hands of Western Civilisation, made my stomach turn, and I didn’t like it. I felt sad. I felt guilt. I felt ashamed. And just like you or I, during the midst of a hangover from hell, would vow to never go near an alcoholic boozy drink ever again, I vowed to never watch the BBC ever again; of course, the next day I allowed myself some “get-out clauses”.
For most of us, the best way to get an accurate representation of British society is to look at our parents. We’ve all got mums, dads, or guardians who live no differently from the rest of us: we go to work, we pay the bills, etc. These are things we all share and struggle to deal with daily; so, why do we allow the Old Boys — by which I mean the sharp-suited, Bullingdon Club bullies at the peak of our political hierarchical summit — to dictate divide-and-rule measures which cause honest, hard-working communities up and down the country to fight each other over menial, low-paid jobs that pay below the living wage? Clearly, someone has to do the menial jobs, but just because something is menial does not mean it’s worthless. Many of the most menial jobs in society are some of the most important too: refuse collection, road-sweeping, and supermarket checkout assistant, to name a few, have an enormous importance to the way we live our lives, and each and every one of those positions deserves an equal amount of respect. Surely there is a fairer, more equal way of living, isn’t there? It’s fair to say that I didn’t have the answers I was looking for, and, to be perfectly honest, it took me quite a while to formulate the question; but I decided to open myself up and challenge prior notions of right and wrong anyway.
People were dying unnecessarily, and not only the people in Iraq, but British people too. There had to be another way, and I was determined to find it. Are the Syrian refugees not people? Do they not want a home, a job, a loving family environment? Whether right-wing or left-wing, politics is no easy topic. It is a topic which unites the many, in the interests of the many, for the infinite good of the many, but only when it is given the chance to breathe in an honest, open environment where controlled debate allows views from both sides of the political spectrum to be aired. And this game of political tug-o-war was going on inside of me.
After winning the overwhelming support of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, that friendly, straight-talking, bearded, left-wing socialist, who refuses to kneel at the feet of the Queen, champions free speech, and actually wants peace, now has to win the support of the nation. Can he do it without the help of the mainstream media? — for only the Morning Star, Britain’s only socialist daily newspaper, which is owned by its members instead of a multinational corporation, was Jezza’s only backer — I believe he can; but only if we, the public, choose to question and challenge everything that the likes of Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the money-spinning newspapers put in front of us. And that includes JC, along with Cameron, Bennett, Sturgeon, Farage, Fallon and the rest of them. Whether an old loyalist Tory, a union-supporting Labour lefty, a disheartened Liberal, an angry UKIP-er, a Green activist, or a brave-hearted Scottish Nationalist, it is our duty as tax-paying members of the public to question and challenge everything they throw at us — if not for ourselves, then for the good of our future loved ones.
So, whether you were filled with profound adulation and a rapturous heart for most of that sunny afternoon on Saturday 12th September 2015, or merely sitting at home waiting for the X-Factor to begin, it is important to remember that Corbyn’s victory has done something that, deep down in the darkest depths of our subconscious, many of us considered impossible in our lifetime — he’s put real debate back on the British political map. Therefore, in that sense, Jeremy Corbyn’s already won… sort of.
To be continued…
NEXT TIME: Issue #2 of David Doyle’s political journey from Right to Left will discuss Fear…