I caught part of yesterday’s coverage of the Labour leadership election result and there was one thing that struck me very strongly listening to his acceptance speech.
I don’t recall hearing the words “passion” and “passionate” so frequently or so prominently in a political speech. The leadership election was said to show that the Labour party and movement were “passionate” about a quest for a better society. Harriet Harman was described as showing “passion” for decency, equality and the rights of women in society. Tom Watson, the new Deputy Leader of the Labour Party was described as “passionate” about communication and “passionate” about holding people to account. Ed Miliband’s “passion” for defending the world’s environment was referenced, as was Andy Burnham’s “passion” for a national health service and comprehensive education. Party members were described as wanting, “passionately”, to engage in debate. And Mr Corbyn wasn’t halfway through his speech at this point. You get the idea?
And there were also references to the “tragedy” – not loss – of the general election result in May of this year, “abuse” by the media and Yvette Cooper’s “sympathy and humanity” to refugees and the way they are treated.
This is emotional stuff. It speaks to the heart, not the head. And it appeals to the way voters themselves – and particularly people turned off by UK politics of the last decade and more – think and speak. It’s reminiscent of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, the SNP’s campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the rhetoric of far-left parties in Greece and Spain.
I heard some commentary yesterday around whether Mr Corbyn will set his own agenda for the Labour Party, whether he’ll need to fall into line with the Party or whether he’ll be influenced by the wave of public opinion that he’s tapped into. I’m not sure that there is a distinction between what Mr Corbyn thinks and what many of those who voted for him think. From what I’ve seen, he believes and articulates what they believe and he’s given a voice to those views in a language that people can identify with. That he also appears to be his own person – outside the current mainstream of political careers – gives his views an authenticity that few are able to match.
And it seems that it’s this authenticity, in speaking to the heart, is what people have really responded to. Although people are looking at the Labour Party now and considering whether it can avoid implosion, perhaps the spotlight should be on the Conservative Party too. Although it’s nearly five years to the next election, remember that nobody gave Mr Corbyn, the outsider, a chance of winning the Labour lLeadership election and he nailed that pretty conclusively.