SINCE last weekend’s Glastonbury appearance, Jeremy Corbyn has sacked three of his frontbenchers for dissenting in the first Commons vote of this parliament and lambasted Primer Minister Theresa May at Wednesday’s PMQ’s. His approval ratings are now higher than May’s , his party’s manifesto was widely better received, and after another U-turn on the possible rise on the 1% public sector pay cap (along with Boris Johnson lending support to the cause) he is in a near-unprecedented position of strength.
But have we reached peak Corbyn?
I’m not the first person to consider the possibility of peak Corbyn. As far back as the 2015 post-Milliband Labour leadership race there there has been an expectation that his support will reach critical mass and begin to wane. Each time before this however it has been in a limited pool of people. Membership to the Labour party was as simple as giving £3 two years ago, but it required parting with £3 more than many were willing to do. Again, in 2016, when challenged by Owen Smith, all you had to do was join the party. Since this began he’s withstood accusations of dithering as leader, hiding behind glass cabinets and sitting on train floors and now, two years since taking the helm of the shadow cabinet, he is enjoy a very comfortable time as leader.
Support is generally two-pronged: Either Momentum or non-Momentum. There’s problems with both.
Momentum, established in 2015 to find the public backing to elect the Islington North as Labour leader, sent spokesman Adam Klug appeared on This Week on Thursday to discuss whether a snap election would go Labour’s way, or the possibility we had reached peak Corbyn. He and other Momentum members, whether publicly or privately, are afflicted with Corbynmania.
Corbynmania is a very real, very present thing right now. Those who saw his speech at Worthy Farm will know that you can now get your very own Corbyn t-shirts and flags, and those that don’t are making their own. His stunt double Graham is finding fame on The Last Leg. After a productive political campaign in the snap election (to call it a success without securing a majority might be a stretch) he has, more than ever before, transcended to a fashionable commodity. All your favourite grime artists are backing Corbyn, so why aren’t you? It’s hip to be left.
On the other side there are non-Momentum supporters of Corbyn and Labour. Generally painted as more centrist, compromising and critical of The Opposition, they still support the cause but see problems with the direction it may be headed. Take this article from The Independent.
The story doesn’t mount a convincing argument against Corbyn, but that doesn’t seem to be the message Bergman eventually communicates. Rather, the argument was that the ‘absolute boy’ image being made of Corbyn is masking potential problems with the leader and shadow cabinet. One problem is the lack of attention being given to women’s rights. Previously he has come under fire for abolishing a position in his cabinet dedicated to mental health. The issues this group have are disparate and varying in size.
These two camps are, outside of election cycles, prone to clash. Now on a national level, there is no more people to add to the fold to help Corbyn reach Downing Street, so minds must now be changed. Documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, in a recent interview with podcaster Adam Buxton, talked about the problems with the public trying to unite behind a cause (in the is case the Occupy movement), and how individualism may be thwarting progress:
That was the problem with the Occupy movement. Past political movements that really did change the world, like the Civil Rights movement in America, saw white activists of all ages, a lot of them young, go down to the southern states of America joined black activists.
For years gave themselves up: often the got beaten up, some of them got killed, and we don’t know their names. They did it year after year and finally, 10 years later, they changed the world through really important acts bought in by Lyndon Johnson.
They surrendered themselves to the movement and the point about the Occupy movement is that no one wanted to surrender themselves. They had meetings where everyone was equal and an individual and they got completely locked in. They had a lot of people behind them who would have not normally gone that way and they blew it. I think they blew it because they got trapped in that individualism.
So, for Labour supporters, is the solution to fall in line for a greater cause? Has the image of Corbyn become so commodified he could fall out of fashion and render this all useless? Does the party need to be rigorously examined from every angle before people can vote for it? Or have we finally reached peak Corbyn?