Some call him brave. Some call him misguided. But one thing no one can accuse Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of is fence-sitting. His latest video attack on the banks has gone viral, arousing a storm of comment. In typical style, Corbyn responded simply to the agitation and accusations of corporate leviathan, Morgan Stanley, which accused his Labour Party of endangering its future. He said:
when they say we’re a threat, they’re right. We’re a threat to a damaging and failed system that’s rigged for the few.
And it was music to the ears of those who yearn for change.
When bankers like Morgan Stanley say we’re a threat, they’re right.
The next Labour Government is a threat to a damaging and failed system that’s rigged for the few. pic.twitter.com/v1ujMkngdv
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 30, 2017
The social media age
While many lament the so-called Twitter presidency of Donald Trump, in truth it is symptomatic of our current reality. Over the last decade, politics has moved from the TV era to the internet. This is the new sphere of discourse. There are whispers of echo chambers and Russian interference. But regardless of those, Corbyn, to his immense credit, plays this game so well. Far better than the Conservatives. In focusing so much of his 2017 election campaign online, JC stole a march on his smug and over-confident opponents. They still thought the old rules applied.
They were wrong and Corbyn left them bruised and reeling. They have never really recovered. And they never will.
When pundits speak of Corbyn’s political strengths and weaknesses, as they do so often, this is one fact deserving of universal acknowledgment. Who in UK politics is so adept at using Twitter and Facebook to connect with the electorate? To understand the zeitgeist so instinctively and appeal to it? In that way, his latest video has done what all of them do – cemented his position as the only viable challenge to the established order. This is Corbyn’s USP (unique selling point) and he knows it. No amount of carping behind the scenes from Tony Blair, Howard Jacobson or Jonathan Freedland can change that.
A unique time
And in establishing that USP, Corbyn has done something special, something that his detractors seem to gloss over. He has created a real political discussion where none existed for 30 years. A real battlefield of ideas to greet the future. The previous incarnation of the Labour Party, the doomed project known as New Labour, was formed in the old age. It bore all its hallmarks.
Tony Blair was little more than a TV-savvy populist. Soundbites, smiles and economic growth. New Labour’s success came from appealing to the middle ground. It wooed Conservative voters with Conservative policies and a Conservative ethos. It didn’t seek to disrupt the neoliberal model, or change it, only to work within it. Margaret Thatcher reportedly described New Labour as her “biggest achievement.”
Deserted by Blair and Co, this left a huge gap in the marketplace of ideas. Alternatives could be offered to those who needed them. And many, many did. Up stepped JC, and the rest is history.
At present, we stand on the cusp of something seismic. The world literally changes before our eyes. Old power blocks crumble. New ones emerge. The global community draws ever closer together. And a new kind of politics is coming.
The people of the world have a chance to stake a claim for their futures. Here and there, clear-headed public figures help along the way. Trudeau in Canada, Ardern in New Zealand and yes, Corbyn in Britain.
His response to Morgan Stanley’s jibe is an illustration of his growing role in our political lives. One that is beyond the trivialities of party politics. In not only standing up to corporate power but openly confronting it, he sounds the death knell for the post-war economic order.
And we choose what comes next.
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Featured image via screengrab
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