By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
When I was a little boy my sister and I would sit on the top of the stairs and listen to my mum and dad and their mates drink, play the guitar (badly) but mainly discuss their left wing political beliefs.
My old man would never swear in front of us, but with a can of Special Brew (don’t ask) in his hand and Maggie Thatcher on his mind, curse words freely drop out of his mouth.
He was my left wing hero, the Lenin from Longbenton (which nobody ever called him, which is a shame).
I spent my early years at the Durham Miners’ Gala hoping my mum wouldn’t get arrested at Greenham Common,and going to Woodcraft Folk camps (I have to admit I hated them).
One thing I noticed was there were no other children at my state Primary School in Newcastle-upon-Tyne who did the same thing, and very few at the large Comprehensive I went on to attend. But the ideas of equality, bridging the class divide and caring for the environment made perfect sense, how could they not? One day these ideas would win through, it was a matter of when, not if…and it did.
However, after the initial excitement of Labour’s victory in 1997, something didn’t feel right. These were not the Sosmix (don’t ask it’s vile) eating, ban the bomb t-shirt wearing, “Maggie out” banner making activists I knew from my youth.
Everyone seemed slick and polished, not even one hole in their jumpers and (token Prescott aside) no regional accents. This rejection of the party’s roots was eventually one of their undoings. As Frankie Boyle said in a recent article in the Guardian, they chased after voters who have always hated them.
But with the ascension of Jeremy Corbyn, I see a man who could easily have been one of the people in my front room all those years ago, he could have been my dad. Ok, they don’t look alike (although most men nearing their 70’s sort of converge in the looks department) but they both have the same taste in moth eaten jumpers. Jeremy is a bit younger than my dad and my father was actually brought up in a council house – but he never let class struggle get in the way of shared values.
There is no doubt that Corbyn has amalgamated the left-wing vote like never before. The question is; will a swing voter in Crawley, North Warwickshire or Hendon vote for him? They struggled to vote for Miliband and “Red Ed’ is no “Commie Corbyn.”
The problem I have always had with the far left (well anyone on fringes/extreme – delete as appropriate) is that they are so certain of their views they can’t, don’t or won’t understand when people have different beliefs.
It’s difficult to argue that there has not been a hardening in some sections of society towards immigrants, benefits cheats etc. A section of traditional Labour voters always voted for the party, as it was the closest aligned to their beliefs, until UKIP started to tick more of their boxes.
Will Corbyn’s expected victory push even more old Labour voters into the hands of UKIP? Will Jeremy create stronger ties with SNP to create a consensus on the left? Could it change the political landscape like the SNP in Scotland?
Although it is doubtful the people of Esher will start singing “The Internationale” any time soon, we don’t know. If anything, it’s exciting to find out. Think of it as an experiment, like can a monkey ride a Segway.
For me though, I don’t have the life long idealism of my parents, I have a huge mortgage (small property, I wasn’t showing off) in London to pay for, holidays to book and kids on the horizon to buy iPhones for.
So I have made the decision: if it doesn’t work out with Corbyn, then I will accept that this is the will (for better or worse) of the majority of the British people. I will crawl back on my hands and knees and beg Liz Kendall to remind me of that crypto-Tory spiel, nobody listened to in the leadership debate.
Until that date comes (or indeed doesn’t), when I look at Corbyn I will continue to see my old man, and it makes me proud. It takes me back to that little boy in his Superman pyjamas listening to my dad’s drunken dreams of a brighter future. That’s why I’m supporting Corbyn.
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