Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: The Jose Mourinho of politics is playing in the Premier League at last

Simon Kelner in The Independent

When he narrows his eyes and stares into the camera, there is something of Jose Mourhino about Jeremy Corbyn. “The Special One” of Labour’s left wing may be a bit older and have less of a confident swagger, but he has the tousled grey hair, the deep-set eyes and the craggy, unshaven look of the all-conquering Chelsea manager.

There the similarity may end, because Corbyn is not a natural born winner. It is true that he has lived much of his political life on the fringes of the Labour Party, the vocal champion of special interest groups like the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

He’s never played in the Premier League of politics, and the sense is that he rather enjoyed his position as something of a provocateur, a man who, when the occasion demanded, could act as Labour’s conscience, reminding his colleagues that this is the party that should look after the poor and the disadvantaged, not the rich and the privileged.

He’s “a romantic idiot who wants high taxes”, according to Labour peer Lord Sewel, although the opinion of a 69-year-old man wearing an orange brassiere while snorting coke off a prostitute’s bosom might be considered inadmissible.

Nevertheless, it’s true that Mr Corbyn is a romantic, and not just because the thrice-married MP seems to find it quite easy to fall in love. He’s a conviction politician, a man who has the rather old-fashioned notion that his ideals shouldn’t be compromised in the pursuit of power. And now he stands, almost accidentally, on the brink of the leadership of the Labour Party and people are suddenly asking: How the hell did that happen?

For the past few weeks, Labour stalwarts have been trying to discredit Mr Corbyn and his wild, left-wing views, like his wanting the railways to be renationalised or saying the wealthiest in society should pay higher taxes or campaigning against tuition fees. Tony Blair has warned that the election of Mr Corbyn as leader would be a gift to the Tories, while others have said that moving the party to the left would make it unelectable (they seem to have forgotten that there is recent evidence that Labour is pretty unelectable as it is).

Now, however, a new narrative is getting traction. Jeremy Corbyn is ahead in the race because he believes in something, and is consistent in those beliefs. Andy Burnham, one of his rivals, has acknowledged this by saying that Labour “has become a purveyor of retail politics, trading in the devalued currency of policy gimmicks designed to grab a quick headline”. He added: “It is in this context that we need to judge the current leadership race and ask why Jeremy Corbyn is having such an impact.”

Mr Corbyn, like Nigel Farage, is unafraid to say the unpopular, and both are brave enough to eschew middle-ground politics because it’s not where their heart is. Tony Blair gives the game away somewhat when he talks about politics in terms of winning and losing. “Personally, I prefer winning,” Blair said.

The irony is that because Jeremy Corbyn is a principled man (a legendary paltry expenses claimer) and is true to his values and beliefs, he might – in this election, at least – end up being a winner, too.

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