In accepting the Labour leadership for the second time in 13 months, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of the need to “unleash” the potential in the ideas, talent, and creativity of Britain. In the hands of another, this would be just another banal rallying cry for their economic policies. For Corybn, it was a call for extending Labour’s franchise. For putting the voice back in the vote. His success is not due to a sudden increase in popularity for socialist ideals, even though these underpin his image. The more central magnet is that Corbyn is projecting his version of Labour as truly attentive and responsive to the electorate. His message offers, in fact recommends, more citizen participation in the political process, first and foremost. If citizens are having hard time, then let’s hear about it, loud and clear. The Tory’s do not have this perception of an attentive ear. Why Corbyn does, is partly due to his back to the wall defence of the democratic process. It’s why he has never wavered in defence of his right to lead, and why he doesn’t play around with ideas pertaining to Brexit’s dilution. His message is backed up with action. Theresa May may skillfully hide the disconnect between her conservative government and the working classes as she deflects Corbyn’s wielding of voters’ questions in parliament, but it’s a doomed strategy as long as she belittles him. Labour is attracting new members in the hundreds of thousands, and this gravitation will demand tactful consideration from the silent majority, who struggle to make sense of the maturity of Labour’s message through the smokescreen of media hysteria and MP tantrums. It is political populism in its best form. Principled, peaceful, and resilient.
Of course, it is other forms of this populist energy that we see channelled through new and unforeseen political vehicles. Resentment and exhaustion with the ‘establishment’ has fuelled Trump’s psuedo-Republicans and Sander’s Democrats. It charged Brexit and will bubble beneath further uneasy Euroskeptic referendums to come. As flocks of people line up behind what seem like radical options, they stretch the political spectrum, and the centre becomes weaker and more opaque. But it also becomes redefined. It must fall towards democracy, irrespective of the left/right axes. The energy rattling it is tangible and powerful, but also combustible. It will at some point, if not channelled responsibly, erupt into violence. The flickering of its flammable components can power great things, or it can burn them to waste.
The problem much of the British public have had up until now is a lack of impetus to get involved and reinvigorate democracy, because there hasn’t been a clear way forward. The neoliberal “consensus at the centre”, so described by Chantal Mouffe, has muffled the votes of the increasing portions of society for whom the status quo ignores. Corbyn’s Labour provides a crack in this ideological stranglehold and beams in an alternative. Those who shriek about Labour’s end are only partly right: it is the end ofthis Labour. The party is shedding the stale skin of its recent stewards because it is no longer fit for purpose. It’s MP’s need to accept this and halt the infighting. New ways of doing things are the only way to harness the stifled calls for change.
Shifts of this nature are naturally going to attract opposition from established politics, in the same way that any established order defends itself. Some do rightly fear that it will fail, but who can say for sure? It’s clear that that politics needs an overhaul and clean out. Our complacency enabled the steady accumulation of mess. What starts as a small tear in a pair of jeans soon turns into a large drafty hole if unattended. And it doesn’t look cool. But if negligence is to blame, then involvement surely deserves our respect.
Momentum is the name of Corbyn’s support organisation, and as a commentary of his rapid accent, the name seems alone in its congruence with reality. It has become apparent that Labour’s future success requires its rebirth, and the reaffirmation of Corbyn’s helm will only draw more supporters to the cause. His offer of a more responsive democracy is proving just the tonic to the pernicious reverberations of political apathy.