Momentum or Hype?

11th Jul.
The Chat

Culminating in a Labour surge in the polls over the past month, Jeremy Corbyn appeared at Glastonbury to address tens of thousands of festival-goers. Calling for unity, he thanked young people for their participation in the General Election. The chants "Ohh Jeremy Corbyn" to the tune of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes overtook the Pyramid Stage and can now be heard in stadiums across the UK.

4 Mins (978 Words)

Yuji DevelleCharlie, Adam, and Charles, thank you for joining the Chat. So between Radiohead and Ed Sheeran, Jeremy Corbyn emerged at Glastonbury to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. You were there Charlie, how was it?

Charlie TarrVast swathes of the festival were singing his name – although it was not universal. There seemed to be an undercurrent and a mood of, not activism per se, but certainly of more political engagement. Maybe it was also seizing on the momentum of the June election.

Adam MaddockThere is definitely a bit of zeitgeist here, but my general reaction is 'So what?” Corbyn supporters think it’s great, Corbyn opponents think, don’t really care. I think people just got caught up in the Glastonbury hype!

CharlieThe most interesting thing to me is the platform he was given. You’ve been invited for free, everyone watching the speech on YouTube, all those people at home on BBC iPlayer. The organisers stopped every single stage and put him on all screens across the whole festival. They basically shut down the festival for him. You can’t really buy that sort of coverage, can you?

AdamIt’s positive for a lot of people, but for a lot of other people, it’s negative. A load of people who are trying to make ends meet, and looking at these middle-class liberals having spent £250 to stand in a field. And the idea that Glastonbury is rock & roll - Glastonbury is the second-most middle-class thing in the United Kingdom! The most middle-class thing in the United Kingdom is Jeremy Corbyn. The idea that everyone was watching this on the BBC thinking, “Oh this is great” is highly unlikely.

CharlieBut doesn’t this mean that Corbyn’s message for helping the less well-off is hitting home with those ‘middle-class liberals’? Even if the speech was a bit rambling in parts, it seemed to hit home with those who like using iPhones, drink expensive coffee and have a comfortable life.

AdamI mean, the idea that all these people are actually going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn - it’s just not going to happen.

CharlieI tend to agree that most of the people weren’t thinking whether or not they’d be voting for him. They were just enjoying the spectacle. And it was a spectacle! I have never seen that level of adoration for a British politician in my lifetime. It was a grand exercise of playing to the gallery.

Charles AnglinAnd it’s a new gallery. You will find that recently, winning sides have all managed to broaden the electorate; we had the “Shy Tory” for David Cameron, the discontent Labour-voting Northerner for Brexit, and now the youth vote for Corbyn.

AdamI don’t think Corbyn was the only reason behind the increase in the youth vote. I think the primary reason was the reaction to Brexit. Where a load of young people said, “hold on, maybe it’s a good idea to get off my backside and get to the ballot box because then maybe I would get the result I want.” As somebody who was a youth and student coordinator for the Labour Party for the 1997 General Election- even then when everyone hated the Tories and it was Tony Blair- winning the youth vote was like getting blood out of a stone. There were seats in June that were clearly won by the youth vote in Canterbury and in Leeds, where the Lib Dems lost as a consequence of the increased youth vote.

YujiWhat about the “Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn!” chants that are now spreading to festivals and stadiums around the UK, truly viral no?

AdamA different version of that chant is sung at every football and rugby stadium of the country.

CharlieBut this is the first time in a while that a politician’s name is sung in the stadiums. It’s not Chelsea nor Arsenal players, but Jeremy Corbyn. What I find interesting is the transition from the more detached and convenient social-media activism, to a more old-school style of bringing out placards and shouting from the rooftops. The people who were madly typing away after Ed Miliband’s loss in 2015, are the same people who were demonstrating support at Glastonbury. They’ve woken up.

AdamI think this is a good point, and could be quite dangerous. People talk about the alt-right media, but there are an equivalent alt-left media. People are getting their news from sources that are not reliable, and now they’re mobilising. Whenever they move on from whining on social media about the Tories and then there are these tens of thousands of people knocking on doors for the Labour Party. That is potentially significant, yes.

CharlesIt might be that the way these new activists get active is slightly different from the traditional view, but actually, I don’t think this is a novel approach to politics. Political protest dates back to the unionist and Socialist traditions of the past. I think Glastonbury was an exercise of stoking the fires of the electorate. What Corbyn is doing is finding new things to be “angry about”. Brexit, then Trump, then Grenfell.

AdamMy guess would be that we are looking at a subculture, which is getting more engaged. But this remains just a subculture with little national influence. I would love to have a Survation poll of the 100,000 people on that field -  asking them how they voted in 2017 and how they plan to vote in the next General Election. That would have been quite informative…

CharlieYou should go check Glastonbury out Adam, it’s very nice.

AdamI went thank you very much - to see The Velvet Underground when it was still proper Rock n’ Roll.

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