Opinion

Paul McNamee: Corbyn, like Blair, is an agent of disorder

"Jeremy Corbyn is tapping into the same vein that Nigel Farage hit during the election: an appetite for radical change"

Jeremy Corbyn

What do they really have against Jeremy Corbyn? And when I say they I mean EVERYBODY. The narrative is binary. A huge part of the parliamentary Labour Party say he is an unelectable throwback who will keep them from No 10 for years. Those on the other side of the political divide want to keep Labour from No 10 for years and therefore celebrate the fact that he is, to them, an unelectable throwback.

And yet he is like the SNP in Scotland. No matter what the brickbats or opposition, he not only remains but surges in popular support.

Broadly, it is elements within the establishment who are making the claims around Corbyn. Therefore, he is clearly an anti-establishment activist – a threat to power, privilege and the status quo.

Whether there is any workable substance beneath Corbyn’s rhetoric is moot (the idea of collectivism isn’t wholly bad – dairy farmers are certainly making good using it). Corbyn is unquestionably charismatic and sounds like he is trying to better the economic condition of the ordinary man.

He is clearly an anti-establishment activist – a threat to power, privilege and the status quo

In this way he’s tapping into the same vein that Nigel Farage hit during the election – beyond the perceived elite he is the contrary voice bringing truth from the wilderness. They are quite the pair of John The Baptists.

It’s why Corbyn is less of a Michael Foot figure and more like the man desperate to keep him out – Tony Blair. Bear with me.

Foot fitted the conventional narrative of the Labour Party then. He was not unexpected. Blair, with Brown and Mandelson, bridled against that convention and knew that to bring about what they wanted – a Labour administration that sought to better the economic condition of the ordinary man – they had to break all received notions of what was expected and reframe the game. In their way they were agents of disorder.

And while the other Labour leadership contenders may say sensible things about the need for clear-sighted plans and a means of speaking to a certain demographic, it’s not chiming because there is an appetite for radical change. It’s possible that Corbyn could have said he was planning on bringing in a hat-stand as shadow chancellor and it would still work, such is the desire for change.

He is at the moment of disruption that Blair found himself in a generation ago. For most of the Labour Party this is bad, as Corbyn doesn’t look like he could lead as Blair could.

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But really, is it so bad for the rest of us? There won’t be a general election for another five years. It could be that Corbyn won’t be leader then but for the time he is he’ll foster broad debate. He’ll encourage the asking of difficult questions. His palatial Leader of The Opposition office in Westminster might start to resemble the staff room of a 1980s polytechnic rather than Socrates at the Agora – but there will be a different level of discourse across the country.

When people talk, things happen. That has to be good.

If you have any comments please email me at paul.mcnamee@bigissue.com, tweet @pauldmcnamee, or send a letter to The Big Issue, 43 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 1HW

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