It may be a grey Monday but after spending the weekend taking to the streets to show solidarity for refugees not to mention celebrating the election of a very different type of politician to lead the Labour party, I’m feeling that a small victory has been won for authenticity and empathy.
This battle has been played out both rhetorically and visually. Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign exuded purpose and energy, made explicit by a resolute refusal to comply with pre-prescribed notions of how a politician ought to present themselves.
Margaret Thatcher famously said ‘A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure’ and her dress code told us in no uncertain terms that she was NOT a women who would ever be found on public transport! Ever since the high priestess of free market principles uttered these illustrious words, the personal image of politicians, no matter their party affiliation, has veered ever more towards the corporate ideal; formal, groomed, affluent, opaque. Jeremy Corbyn’s clothing choices, not to mention his much discussed beard, tell us loud and clear that he IS a man you would find on the bus; of the people rather than for some people.
The establishment has done a remarkable job of convincing us all that the ‘Loony Left’ is a danger to society, that pacifist means nutter, that any politician with an open collar holds dangerous subversive views. Yet today we find ourselves with an opposition leader who received almost no support from the establishment, almost no support from the mainstream media and still won one of the most decisive leadership victories in Labour party history.
There’s no denying Jeremy Corbyn certainly has some strongly held, some might say radical, views but his image seems to illicit more speculation from the media than almost anything else about him. It would seem that simply being authentically ones self has become a subversive act, because let’s face it nothing about Jeremy Corbyn’s dress is outlandish, his sartorial choices have been pretty much the same for thirty years, what could be more conventional and reliable. What is true is that his personal appearance is not identifiably brand Blair, or brand anyone for that matter and this more than anything appears to indicate that he is unreliable and dangerous, never mind his actual policies.
The new Labour leader certainly has a job on his hands as he moves from a position of protest to a position of power but his unashamed commitment to being himself, in a world where so much of our lives are commoditized, must be a wake up call to us all.