Opinion

Jeremy Corbyn rocks Glastonbury – How did it come to this?

When the general election was called, Jeremy Corbyn's approval rating was -30 per cent. But now he's galvanising a new generation of voters and going down a storm at Glastonbury. How did this happen?

Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury

Last week an estimated 100,000 people gathered at the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury to see Katy Perry’s warm-up act. It was one of the biggest crowds of the event. There were claims – unsubstantiated – that it was the biggest Glastonbury crowd ever. It was for Jeremy Corbyn.

To the tune of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, Corbyn’s name was chanted. T-shirts emblazoned with his name were doing brisk business across the Somerset site. Within hours, a YouGov poll put Corbyn ahead of Theresa May for the first time as the nation’s favoured PM.

How did it come to this?

A YouGov poll put Corbyn ahead of Theresa May for the first time as the nation’s favoured PM

Eight weeks ago, when May called a snap general election, Jeremy Corbyn was a busted flush. The Labour Party languished 20 points behind the dominant Tories in the polls, while Corbyn’s approval rating was around -30 per cent compared to May’s +20 per cent. In April, 55 per cent of voters polled felt May was a strong (and, presumably, stable) leader, with just 17 per cent saying the same for Corbyn.

Corbyn, of course, didn’t win the election. But something remarkable happened. A formerly quiet tide of, mostly young, voters rose. And nobody saw them coming. Activists and canvassers for the first time in their lives, they were more than simply people putting an X in a ballot box and moving on. The 18- to 24-year-olds of Britain came out and voted in droves, confounding everybody. And Labour were ahead in every age category up to 50.

This election campaign was a story of the ancient and the modern. Old-school political rallies at which Corbyn and his Labour allies addressed thousands of people, alongside new left-leaning online news organisations working to counteract the attack lines from the other side.

Good old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing was directed by new apps enabling would-be canvassers not only to find their nearest marginal seat but to organise car-sharing to get there. Appearances by supporters in the established news media were allied with dedicated teams creating videos specifically to go viral, and the Grime4Corbyn movement.

The election campaign was a story of the ancient and the modern

The Big Issue has looked at who these new voices leading a new political resurgence are. It’s not enough to dismiss them as idealists with a smartphone and no sense of fiscal policy. There is more going on. There is a community of news-makers and opinion formers; of vote-registration drivers and political agitators who have brought Corbyn to the very cusp.

They are not going away. What will come next?

Photo: © David Levene 2017

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