Saturday, 22 August 2015

Why Jeremy Corbyn is so popular with the 'grass roots'

In my opinion, the current popularity of Jeremy Corbyn is not, on the whole, to do with any real increase in the level of support for left wing or traditional socialist ideology. In some ways, the old distinction between left and right wing politics is becoming outdated (or, perhaps, transcended), at least among large sections of the public. For many people, the more relevant distinction today is that between the ‘elite’ (both in political and economic terms) and the ‘masses’ of ‘ordinary’ people (the so-called 99% of the Occupy movement rhetoric). This explains why some people who voted UKIP at the general election now warm to Jeremy Corbyn (I know this because I have heard a number of them discussing their newfound interest in Labour on radio phone-in shows. They are not ‘saboteurs’ trying to wreck the Labour Party but people who are cynical about slickly professional mainstream politicians and drawn towards anyone who comes across as someone they might bump into in the local pub).
This phenomenon (the viewing of politics specifically in terms of the ‘little guy’ versus the elite) is, of course, partly a response to the growing momentum behind globalisation, with the increase in influence of the European Union and the growth of multinational corporations. But in some ways it is also a very old movement. The allies in World War 2 overthrew fascism and the ‘West’ then resisted communism because support for liberal democracy with its championing of the rights of the individual is embedded deeply in our collective psyche and, I would argue, this helps to make our culture predisposed to favour the dispersal (as opposed to the concentration) of power.
The distinction is deeply rooted in many aspects of our culture. From Tolkien to Harry Potter, the underlying theme is that of the small, the weak, the ordinary and the everyday (and therefore the good) versus the big, powerful enemy with its huge plans and ambitions for global domination.
Put simply, Corbyn is doing so well because his obvious sincerity and commitment to represent those who vote for him mean that he is trusted, to defend their corner, by those who feel alienated and powerless in this increasingly elite-controlled and globalised world.

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