When Jeremy Corbyn arrived in Llandudno on the Labour leadership campaign trail some 500 people spilled out of the doors of a hotel ballroom in seaside town of just 20,000. Corbynmania had gripped the country and he was elected with the largest mandate ever won by a party leader, though no previous Labour leader had been elected with so little support from its own MPs.
It’s all so Michael Foot isn’t it? The scruffy, eternally socialist but ultimately unlikable leader is running The Labour party into the ground as we prey that the next Tony Blair is somewhere in the ranks. He poses for selfies among his youthful socialite comrades as he sets a course for self destruction, dividing his party and unable to appeal to the wider audience needed if Labour is ever to stand a chance in an election.
Yet for friends of Jeremy Corbyn, it’s the laziest criticism you can level at the Labour leader. This is a new, more mature style of politics in which he won’t compete ‘tit for tat’ with the Tory Party and will instead lead informed debate on issues that matter to the nation. But can it ever work?
That’s the question posed by Ben Ferguson of VICE in his documentary, Jeremy Corbyn: The Outsider. Following the Labour leader day-to-day Ferguson gains a unique insight into the life of a politician trying to woo Labour MPs and “undecided voters” while at the same time keeping his core support group happy. If he is to deliver his alternative style of politics, he knows he needs to garner wider support, but that has not been forthcoming.
The documentary highlights the juxtaposition between the campaign trail – where Corbyn feels most at home – and Westminster, where he is out of his depth. It tracks Ian Duncan Smith’s resignation which threatened to tear the Conservative party in two, yet the Labour Party never capitalised. Corbyn “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory”, Labour whip Angela Smith said at the time, a slogan, in the eyes of many people, of his brief time in opposition. Rehearsing ahead of PMQs Corbyn asks his staff: “Who want to be Prime Minister,” to which a close comrade replied, “you do, I think”.
Young voters have rallied behind Corbyn like no other leader in modern history, but does he have the ability to first unite the Labour party, then dismantle the Tories and win over the crucial ‘undecided’ voters?