On Friday the 15th July I took the two and a half hour train journey down to London to see a talk with Jeremy Corbyn and Ben Okri at Southbank.
I’m twenty-one years old and some may put me in the new-era category, the “corbynites.” I respect the man immensely and was rather eager to see if this man lived up to his name, if he truly was “the man, the myth, the legend.” Some believe he is our answer to future politics, like Jon Snow to Game of Thrones, and others believe he is simply a passing phase.
I was surprised when I first laid eyes on the real Corbyn, as I took my seat at the Southbank centre to hear him and Ben Okri speak for the next hour and a quarter. He was more tired than I’d imagined, his stance was slightly slumped forward, but then he opened his mouth and he spoke with such integrity, wisdom and knowledge that I was transfixed. Me, a young adult who had not listened to a word of school, who had not really given a damn about education up until two years ago. There I was, leant forward engrossed in everything Corbyn and Okri spoke about.
From Corbyn’s early life leaving school at eighteen. To going to Jamaica where he volunteered and helped people with polio whilst teaching younger generations, who he’d helped with theatre over there. His confusion on how Jamaica only performed English plays and his encouragement to express their own culture through the arts. He talked about post colonial Africa which he read from the Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad which displayed colonial Africa through the eyes of a colonialist. Then a comparative piece, discussing the meaning of poverty around the world and how poverty was clearer to see in colder places. He talked us through people who had inspired him along his way, right up until the controversial Brexit.
There was one thing that particularly reached out to me, besides his humble character or even the pure silence in the room in which everyone was so immersed in, not even a phone beeped, a cough made or a nose blown. It was his answers to questions that were fired at him, you see, MP’s and especially our old prime minister have a tendency to baffle when answering a question.
I will never forget a clip from Question Time with David Cameron in which he was asked a question by an English university student who had the courage to stop Cameron halfway through his answer with a sharp witty reply of “I’m an English university student Mr Cameron, I know waffle when I see it.” Corbyn showed no “waffle” he was quick in his decisions and could back up almost any question with research or similar situations to his earlier life.
He spoke about many important issues of today, such as the education system and his beliefs within the system. That we’re divided into different sections and forced to specialise in different areas, that you basically have to decide your life plan at the age of fourteen. Whether it is more Maths and Science or English and Drama. He argued that there is not enough variation between subjects so everyone sticks in their roles rather than having a better understanding on the world. That creativity is often limited to the arts or considered to be something that is associated with the arts, and as the result of this, many people don’t think creatively in other areas such as Politics. Many people may come into politics with a creative mind but are reduced to discussing long-term plans, business situations, turnovers etc that leaves no area for creativity. That politics has become more focused on short-term solutions, which requires politicians to think only in terms of completing short term tasks as opposed to thinking outside the box for long term solutions.
I gained a lot of respect for Corbyn, as he did not just answer questions that made him look good. No doubt he would have been told what questions would be coming up from Ben Okri beforehand and would have had a say in what could and could not be asked. Brexit and Corbyn still seems a sore subject, yet he did not stop Ben from asking Brexit related questions. Okri spoke about the main image of the Brexit campaign, of the migrants in a queue and the way it was used from the opposing remain party and that it “effectively” won the campaign. He then asked what could have been done to counteract it? An excellent question. Corbyn spoke of how they could have turned this image around and used it against the leave party, that the image should have been used to present all the potential success of the UK and migrants, that rather showing it as a problem, showing all the potential builders, doctors, lawyers etc. After all, there are more migrant doctors in this country than UK. But why has he acknowledged this now rather than during the campaign? This should have been used weeks ago, rather than only discussing it now, but at least he was discussing it. Where’s Cameron? Has he even discussed Brexit since the vote?
The issue of the media was also discussed. Corbyn always comes across as someone who hates the media. However, Okri pointed out that although Corbyn may hate the media he always seems happy to talk to the people. Corbyn’s response seemed fair, that although he may not like the way the tabloids and broadsheets co-operate such as attacking him and giving him abuse rather than actually contributing to a meaningful conversation. He clearly pointed out that you cannot rely on social media alone to tackle complex issues, for example, changing your profile pictures to a flag after a terrorist attack isn’t going to change anything that it is beneficial to raise awareness and show support but it won’t tackle the problem. Nevertheless, it is good that with the monopoly the broadsheets have on public opinion, it is no longer as strong as it used to be and they are somewhat arrogant in the way they can sway public opinion. Social media has enabled us to have more freedom of speech and find out the facts or opinions ourselves rather than being more swayed towards a broadsheets opinion.
Corbyn stressed the importance of campaigns in the past and expressed the appreciation of how people used to campaign, for example the National Health System. When there was a campaign to create this system, there was no social media, people had to believe strongly in the campaign and go round the country to different towns, cities and villages to express their opinion and show them a way in which things could be changed and that we should always have respect for that.
I was so engaged with what he had to say. I’ve felt quite annoyed by politics recently.. I’m living under a tory government, which I didn’t for, undergoing a Brexit I didn’t vote for, now overseen by a prime minister that nobody voted for. That’s ok though that’s democracy. But the man I did vote for, the unelectable one that was overwhelmingly elected, I have to vote for him again, because those I didn’t vote for don’t like him. And they have decided I have to pay more money for the right to do so?
What I noticed on Friday was that at no point did I question him or doubt whether he was “unelectable”, I mean this man has over 100 MP’s against him yet he’s still here battling it with such strong views and no sense of disheartenment. It made me realise this man is genuine, honest and trustworthy. His future? I want to be a part of it, I want to be a part of the dreams he has and I want to see this “new kind of politics”.