This fabulous, eccentric, island nation of ours has always loved an underdog. From Queen Boadicea to St George to Robin Hood to Leicester City, there’s nothing more British than a plucky upstart sweeping in against the odds and slaying a dragon. Our love of a dull bully getting their comeuppance at the hands of a bold little guy is such a foundational part of the national identity that the steady climb of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is starting to take on the air of a particularly British fable.
As polling day draws closer, you can almost taste it in the air; Corbyn may – just may – be about to beat unimaginable odds. There’s a cinematic quality to his rise; Corbyn has travelled from being a rank outsider to leader of the biggest political party in Europe. He’s seen off challenge after challenge, been disparaged continually from every side, and faced constant assaults from supposed allies apparently keen to stick the knife in deeper than their hapless Tory counterparts ever could. Yet despite all this – despite the kind of monstering that should have finished him a hundred times over – he’s still closing on Theresa May and her cabinet of dull, greedy criminals. He’s still seeing his personal approval ratings rise and he’s still got a chance to pull this country back from the brink of endless austerity and incompetent, vicious governance.
I can only assume his steady, unpredicted rise is because – despite the bleak spectres of Britain that May’s necromantic trio Dacre, Crosby and Murdoch seek to conjure- we’re not actually a nation of idiotic, self-loathing bastards. We’ve heard everything they have to say about him. We’ve parroted it ourselves. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He should dress better. He’s a nice bloke but. We’d already internalised every negative about Corbyn while this snap election was still a mere twinkle in Theresa’s predatory eye. As a result there’s been very little more they can throw at him.
Yes we already know he’s an IRA ‘sympathiser’, and a pacifist, and he’s had three wives, and he wears a wonky tie, and he disagrees with other people in Labour, and he screws up a bit here and there (hello Traingate!), and he doesn’t fancy inflicting a nuclear winter on the world, and -the horror!- he likes to make jam from his allotment. But then it turns out that, for a frothing Stalinist coward who despises everything about Britain, he’s seems like quite an amiable bloke.
As Theresa May increasingly resembles Davros with a bowl cut, rolling round the country on rusted wheels, spittle screeching ‘strong and stable’ whilst dreaming of galactic domination, Corbyn has gone closer to Dr Who in the public eye; eccentric, dishevelled, but also fundamentally decent. Crucially, he’s also apparently listened to a few people, got some economists to do so sums (perhaps even turning to the dreaded experts that Michael Gove was so quick to disparage), and come up with a manifesto on how to make the country better that’s a positive set of fiscally sensible policies that – remarkable though it may be to believe- go somewhat beyond “Brexit means Brexit.” May has offered us meaningless soundbites. Corbyn has come with substance. Granted, he’s certainly not gonna deliver everything he’s proposing but at least he’s proposing something..!
So there’s hope right now, and a sensation that Corbyn might just be tapping into an energy that is fundamental to our national identity; this plucky outsider, this misfit, this little guy triumphing against the odds. A sense that after years of meaningless harsh medicine and grey decay, there might be a chance for some high drama, a victory snatched against the odds, and a new, positive reset for a country that has been stuck in the always-winter-and-never-Christmas of austerity.
But hope is meaningless if it isn’t backed with action. As I’ve written about before, the over 60s will definitely vote, and they will almost definitely vote overwhelmingly in favour of May. So the younger generations have to come out and vote. We have to persuade those around us to vote. We have to show those who would hollow out this country as blithely as they would asset strip a company that we have been watching them, and we have got their fucking number. We have to believe in the change that is possible, we have to believe we can be part of making Corbyn’s bewildering, whistle-stop narrative complete, that we can back the underdog on his million to one shot as he rises up to slay the dragon. And if he does; well… I can’t think of a single more British thing to happen.
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