So you don’t like Jeremy Corbyn.
How do you know you don’t like him? Have you met him? Have you spoken to him? Did he come round to your house and kick your dog?
No. You saw him on the telly. He was bit scruffy and he didn’t know how to do his tie up properly. He didn’t bow his head enough at the cenotaph. He didn’t sing the national anthem. What else do you know about him really?
You like his policies. You want railways and other utilities back in public hands. You don’t see why foreign-based state-owned rail companies should be taking profits from our subsidised rail system. You want to see our Health Service properly funded. You don’t want to see our nurses using food banks. You think that corporations that use our infrastructure should be properly taxed. You are against tax havens and tax cuts for the rich. You are fed up with foreign wars.
But you don’t like Jeremy Corbyn.
Shall I tell you a secret? We don’t live in a democracy. You think it’s one person, one vote and that the will of the majority should prevail? It’s not. You get your vote, your thirty seconds of choice, between the man with the red rosette and the man with the blue rosette, but it’s the will of the most well off that prevails. Power resides in the hands of those who have the most wealth, and governments do their bidding, not yours. So the choices you get are the choices between one set of wealthy people’s priorities and another, between one brand of neo-liberalism and another: between the blue Tories and the red Tories, Tory heavy and Tory lite. Your choices don’t come into it.
But you don’t like Jeremy Corbyn.
We’ve had relentless negativity about him since he first appeared on the scene. Why would that be? Maybe it’s because he’s offering you a real choice. For the first time in a generation, those are your priorities being set out before you, as a set of policies, not those of the wealthy elite. The same policies brought to you by the 1945 Labour government, and by governments across the Scandinavian world. Not extremist policies: Social Democratic policies. Policies that are known to work. So, unable to attack the policies, they attack the man.
It’s been non-stop, day-in and day-out, since he first won the Labour leadership, from every branch of the establishment. From the BBC, from the Guardian, from the government, from members of the Labour Party, those whose career trajectory has been knocked off track. From the Daily Mail and the Sun. Is it any wonder you don’t like him, really? If the BBC told you that cornflakes were bad for you, and repeated this message every day for two years, chances are you wouldn’t like cornflakes either.
A friend of mine asked me why the Labour Party didn’t pick a more charismatic leader, a more handsome leader, someone who looked good on the telly?
That’s because we were fed up with Tory lite. We were fed up with only getting the choice between one brand of neo-liberalism and another. We were fed up with being told that if you didn’t pick the policies that suited the wealthy elite, you wouldn’t get into power. But what’s the point of power without principles? Tony Blair got us into power. He was handsome, charismatic and he looked good on telly, but look where he took us: into an illegal war in Iraq that has caused devastation across the Middle East, and terrorism across the world.
And meanwhile Theresa May is refusing to debate with Corbyn, refusing to meet the public, refusing to take unvetted questions from journalists. She’s being sold to us like a commodity, like a soap powder brand or a type of washing up liquid. Strong and stable, strong and stable. Hands that do dishes. It’s an advertising slogan not a political platform. How many of you know what her actual policies are?
So this is my appeal to you. So you don’t like Jeremy Corbyn. Fair enough. But let’s see what the choices are at this election. Let’s hear a debate. Don’t let Theresa May get away without answering questions.
We want a TV debate between the two leaders to see who is genuinely strong and stable and whose policies we really can agree with. We want to see what the choices are.
Isn’t that the least we can ask?