He's not the Prime Minister, but Jeremy Corbyn has proven that he might as well be

Corbyn's unwavering commitment to his principles and increasing support show Theresa May as a flighty, untrustworthy politician who has no business leading the country

Louis Staples
Sunday 25 June 2017 14:37
Support for the Labour leader at Glastonbury shows how far he’s come in the last year
Support for the Labour leader at Glastonbury shows how far he’s come in the last year

As the sun faded from the sky on Thursday night, a noise interrupted the humid, squelchy calm of the silent disco at Glastonbury Festival. It started with just one voice, but quickly grew into a thunderous roar. To the tune of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, hundreds of festivalgoers chanted: “Oh Je-rem-y Cor-byn.”

This year’s festival saw performances from the world’s most famous musicians, but the act on everyone’s lips is a 68-year old, brown suit-wearing socialist. Try as they might, the likes of Stormzy, Lorde and Radiohead simply couldn’t compete with Jeremy Corbyn.

This is a stark contrast to last year’s event, where the embattled Labour leader was forced to cancel his appearance following the shock Brexit vote. In the months that followed, Corbyn would see his approval rating fall to an all time low of minus 42 per cent.

Yet last week, a YouGov survey for The Times found that 35 per cent of respondents thought the Labour leader would make the country’s best leader. At 1 per cent ahead of Theresa May, this marks the first time that a Labour leader has polled ahead of a Conservative leader since 2008.

Jeremy Corbyn's first Glastonbury in 60 seconds

What makes this seismic shift even more remarkable is the speed at which it has taken place. In April, just 15 per cent of people picked Corbyn as the best leader, compared to 54 per cent for May. So why is supporting Corbyn suddenly even cooler than hating Coldplay?

It seems impossible to discuss the rise of Corbyn and the fall of May without mentioning the C-word (campaign) as his popularity has undoubtedly been boosted by her inadequacy.

Backlash to May’s out-of-touch manifesto led to the now infamous U-turn on the dementia tax. This shattered the carefully constructed narrative of May as a “strong and stable” leader and positioned her firmly within “nasty party” territory in the eyes of the public.

May then made her villainous image even worse by stating that she has “always been in favour” of fox hunting. After endless U-turns, it was nice to know that there is at least one thing that she has always supported, but fox hunting is widely considered to be barbaric and is opposed by 84 per cent of the public. This might not seem significant, but Facebook users shared more stories about fox hunting than Brexit during the campaign.

As May-bot began to short-circuit, bringing the entire Tory machine down with her, Labour’s hopeful manifesto inspired voters across the country. With May either running away from debates or “confessing” to running through fields of wheat, Corbyn was out meeting voters and listening to their concerns.

After failing to secure a majority, May’s cautious cabinet reshuffle only proved that she is in power, but not in charge. Astonishingly, she is still yet to secure a deal with 10 DUP MPs, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that she’ll be able to negotiate Brexit with 27 EU states. Such is her weakened position that May herself had to assert that she is “still in charge” during meetings with EU leaders this week. This isn’t strong or stable.

Part of leading the country is being able to guide a nation through periods of grief. In the face of tragedy, Corbyn has shown that actions speak louder than words by demanding funding for the emergency services – money that they were denied by May when she was Home Secretary. By embracing survivors, he hasn’t been afraid to show his human side. On the other hand, May’s clinical response to these events has failed to inspire public confidence. This is particularly damaging when competency is supposed to be your selling point.

Unsurprisingly, virtually all key pledges from May’s disastrous election manifesto were absent from the Queen’s Speech. With his party united behind him in Parliament for the first time, Corbyn taunted the Tories for scrapping their manifesto. He lambasted the speech as a "threadbare legislative programme” from a government that has “run out of ideas”. As the Prime Minister squirmed, he looked like a leader.

Reports from Glastonbury suggest that Corbyn’s speech drew one of the festival’s biggest crowds. Whatever you think of him, the fact that any British politician can provoke this reaction is astounding. As the familiar chants of “Oh Je-rem-y Cor-byn” echo across the country, it’s clear that he has inspired so many to believe that a fairer world is possible.

Whether he has the keys to Number 10 or not, since the election, Corbyn has been prepared to offer strong leadership. To a growing number of people, he is already their leader. I only hope that he can live up to the hype.

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