There’s a bearded, beige jacketed, 66-year old man who has won the hearts of students across Britain and everyone has been left stumped as to how he has achieved the impossible. Many have tried and failed to get the unyielding students’ approval but few have gained even an acknowledgement. Granted, Ed had his five minutes with the youths during the elections when the #Milifandom kids went wild, but if we’re honest no one really took it seriously. The Milifans were probably not even old enough to vote, so all Ed really gained were a couple of memes of his face on various muscular bodies. Mr Jeremy Corbyn however has somehow managed not only to get students to like him but actually to listen to him as well whilst taking his policies seriously.
So who is this Mr Jeremy Corbyn chap you ask and why has he infiltrated every Twitter and Facebook feed in the UK? Students can’t get enough of him and he’s the hot topic on every campus.
I met UAL Graphic design student, Amy Connolly, 22, for a cold bevvy in a pub in New Cross. On Corbyn she says: “He’s so different from other politicians, so many students in Uni are talking about him. I’m not sure what it is about him and I’m shocked he’s as popular as he is and at the impact he’s had in university – literally everyone is talking about him!”– So there you have it, hotter than pound pints at the SU bar.
Hundreds of people turned up to see Corbyn in the flesh leading up to the Labour leadership and one student describes it as being at a gig or rock concert. I met UCL phD Cancer research student and Jezza fan girl Zoé I. MV, 24, in Russell Square gardens. After attending a rally she explains it “felt like being at a gig or a rock concert. The crowd was really a mixed demographic and there was a real mix of people but lots of young people too and I’ve just never seen people go so crazy for a politician – I couldn’t ever imagine people giving that kind of reception to a politician – it was crazy!”
Jeremy, or ‘Jezza’ if you will, renowned for his activism, is the current Labour party leader and leader of the Opposition. He’s considered to be pretty damn radical in his policies, takes no nonsense and always sticks it to the man to fight for what he believes in. In 1984 he was arrested outside the South African Embassy for protesting against apartheid at a time when protests were banned. Corbyn was also strongly opposed to the Iraq war and was only one of a few Labour MPs to call for an inquiry into the invasion in 2006 – pretty ballsy bearing in mind he was up against heavyweights like Blair and his Blairites. Not only that, he’s also always been a strong advocate of LGBT rights and voted against section 28 which sought to cast aspersions on same-sex relationships. Better yet? He wants to scrap tuition fees – hoorah!
What is so surprising though, is that it is well-known young people tend to alienate themselves from electoral politics and so for a politician to ignite such a widespread interest and energise so many students verges on being revolutionary.
A survey done by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has shown that a vast number of young people do not vote and show a lack of interest in politics. In fact it showed that people aged 16-24 were more likely to state no interest at all in politics (42%) than those aged 65 and over (21%) in the UK in 2011-12. Whilst these statistics are a little disappointing, perhaps it is Jezza Corbyn himself who has proven that it is not that students ‘lack an interest’ in politics but simply that there have not been any major politicians to date who have really resonated with young people.
Philosophy student at Manchester University, Sofia Wrazen, 19, gave me a call on my cell phone – unfortunately not for that hotline bling 🙁 – but to pass on her views on why she believes youths don’t vote. She says this may be down to a lot of young people feeling ‘messed about by the big players such as David Cameron and Nick Clegg’. She added: “I think especially with the whole tuition fees crisis – it’s made a lot of people feel very apathetic.”
She goes on to express: “I feel like politics is generally over complicated and I feel that’s done on purpose. It’s difficult to understand what’s going on so it’s a lot of effort to sit down and read through all the parties’ manifestos and attempting to separate facts from propaganda. There’s just so much jargon and it’s just a lot of work to kind of take an interest – that’s why. It’s simply too hard to understand.”
She’s got a point though hasn’t she? The reality of it is, are we really going to choose to sit down in the evening after being at university all day and attempt to read through Cameron’s (or any other politician’s) clutter for a couple of hours to try and figure out their plans for the country, or are we going to watch an adorable pug dressed as Drake dancing? Don’t lie. We both know the answer. Not because we don’t care, but simply because many of us feel a lot of major politicians haven’t taken our concerns on board and aren’t listening to what we have to say. It wasn’t too long ago that Russell Brand encouraged young people everywhere not to vote. A lot of us perhaps felt he had a point: why vote for someone who clearly doesn’t share any of our values and aspirations or even makes sense?
Matt Morley – the CEO of ‘Tickbox’ – a website designed to help match people with a party which best suited their values – tried to find out why so many students choose not to vote and disconnect themselves from politics. It seems the three main reasons are – ‘a lack of knowledge, the perception that all parties are the same, and the concern that no single party matches an individual’s specific list of concerns’. Perhaps we’re all sick to death with consensus politics and Jezza at least, it seems, offers a decent alternative.
Observer’s Britain Uncovered survey done in 2015 has shown that there is a fairly large divide in views between older generations and younger generations. Immigration as we all know is a hot topic which politicians simply love to talk about. We are constantly told to be concerned most about immigration by politicians over everything else. However, the Britain Uncovered survey has shown that with under 25s, immigration is only 17th on their list of concerns, with job markets and housing prices being a lot higher up. The survey shows that under 25s welcome Britain’s transformation into a multiracial society and that ‘Younger Britons aged 18-24 are most likely to believe the country has benefited from multiculturalism (64%), whilst older Britons are more likely to disagree with the view (35% of those aged 55+ agree and 42% disagree).
The fact is, especially in London, the majority of the younger generation has grown up integrated with people from various cultures, nationalities and religions. In a university today, it would be unheard of not to have students from other countries on our courses. We have grown up often with extremely different views from, say, our grandparents or even our parents. Yes, we all reluctantly put up with a racist remark or two from granny at Christmas dinner and we all have that one elderly relative who spews out sweeping generalisations about foreigners, but racial prejudice is something which the majority of the younger generation no longer understands or relates to. We’ve grown up with our best friends, flatmates and neighbours who are from different countries and cultures and we not only learn from the experience but quite often welcome it.
It is also fairly popular and even fashionable to take a ‘gap yah’ after university to go and experience other cultures and learn different languages. It’s now seen as ‘cool’ to get out there and meet people from all over the world and so when politicians talk about immigration as being a major concern – a lot of the time it’s unsurprising that it goes straight over our heads.
On this topic Sofia says: “People who have grown up in the early 2000’s with social media have kind of been unified in a sense and it’s more like a global community – we’re all kind of connected through that so things like prejudices or scapegoating and xenophobia, which is obviously a massive issue in Britain at the minute and forms a basis for quite a lot of right-wing rhetoric to gain votes – I feel like that doesn’t really translate with young people so much because prejudice is kind of dated and I think people realise that now, especially young people.”
Zoé I. MV agrees with Sofia and says: “A lot of what other politicians say doesn’t resonate with young people at all. I guess politics is often seen as a middle class white man’s game and I know Corbyn is a white man but I think he talks about things which a wider demographic can relate to.”
I met City University Journalism student, Matt Broomfield, 21, in Greggs and bought him a coffee with the little I had left of my student loan (Thanks Cameron) – keeping it classy. Matt, it seems, takes a slightly different stance on why he believes students are disillusioned from politics – and thinks they simply just do not take it seriously enough: “Something which has always really fucked me off on both student left and student right is the people who say they’re interested in politics but just see It as a sport or a game – it’s all ‘I voted for this one and my one beat your party har har”
He went on to say: “The reality is it’s not actually a game and it will affect their lives and what they do – every young person wants their grandma to be cared for in retirement and every young person wants the opportunity to have an education and to know that they can have a job and that they can have a house and their family can have a house and that’s politics. It’s connecting and making people see the connection between what happens in Westminster and what happens in their day to day lives, which needs to happen.”
So what is it exactly that Corbyn is doing which so many of us love and admire? Just how is it that he’s managed to get so many young people to root for him? We’re unsure as to whether Corbyn anticipated his popularity with so many of us or if he’s just as surprised as everyone else is.
However when I asked Zoé why she feels Corbyn is different to other party leaders she responded: “Well for so many reasons. He’s the most genuine, straight talking, self-effacing politician there is compared to the other Labour candidates who are all essentially Toryite and so scared of the Murdoch press they end up saying nothing at all. Jeremy actually says what he believes in and you can tell that he really does believe it. He never bitches about other politicians or stoops down to personal remarks whereas pretty much all the others do. You can tell that he just really cares and is not a career politician.”
Amy Connolly backs this up completely and responds: “I don’t know much about politics at all and it’s not that I’m not interested I just don’t know. But the thing that stuck out for me with Corbyn is he speaks in an easier way to understand. With Cameron and others I have no idea what they are going on about or what they are saying. I also think the way Corbyn represents himself – even with the way he dresses – it’s casual and it makes him come across as sincere. I just really like some of the things he stands for – I think people are really looking for a change and believe he’s the man to do it!”
What Matt Broomer likes about Corbyn however is: “I don’t feel I have to compromise on stuff to be with him.”
He explains:”So you know someone like the green party – I think everything they say and do is really good and I agree with what they stand for but if I vote for them it would be out of a kind of they’re the best possible option or I’d vote for Labour had I been part of their constituency simply to keep conservatives out. But the idea of there being a candidate of one of the major political parties who has a proper genuine social understanding of what needs to be done, for me, and I think for a lot of people, is an amazing thing.”
So what is it exactly that Corbyn stands for? He’s well known for his anti-war stance and is all for abolishing nuclear weapons. Perhaps his main goal is to end austerity, help those on welfare and improve the economy. He wants Britain to stay in the EU and also introduce rent controls and introduce housing benefits for families in central London to make it more accessible for people to stay in areas which would otherwise be too expensive – essentially he wants to stop gentrification and social cleansing. He has been quoted in the Telegraph as saying ‘[Families are] forced to move away. If we can’t control rents then the very least we can do is keep families together’.
For Corbyn, the next five years are essential leading up to the elections. So far, he has a lot of us rooting for him, but how will this affect the next election? And will Corbyn continue to inspire young people to take an interest in politics?
Sofia says: I think he will – I think he’d be silly not to because that is already his, maybe not his target demographic, but more the people who make up a lot of his supporters who are basically young people and students – so I feel like it would be illogical on his part to not tap into that.
Asking Sofia what she thinks will happen if Corbyn does manage to succeed, she responded: “If people do what they say they’re going to do, then it could be a really insane thing for Labour, though there is always a danger of the party splintering. It might be a case of the old Labour supporters leaving and new ones coming in and it may not affect the balance too much. But perhaps then, more young people will be more motivated because it would be more of a unified party. I think it could go one of two ways but obviously I’m not an expert so…”
They say a week is a long time in politics and Jezza may find the next five years feels more like a thousand with even some of his own party members out to get him. He’ll need to watch his back if he is able to remain as Labour leader with such radical policies and more importantly get at least some of his refreshingly different policies put into practice. The question is whether the men in grey suits decide he is unelectable and replace him with another Blairite. Let’s hope not because #Jezza4Eva
Featured image by Anisa Easterbrook with images sourced from Wikimedia Commons – author Global Justice Now, Crowd pictures used taken by Izzy Trixx, Collage art work created by Tania Mundell