A recent rally in Glasgow for the unexpected favourite in the Labour leadership race, Jeremy Corbyn, had to be moved to a larger venue because it’s 1000-person capacity wasn’t big enough. A message was sent around to all supporters: “the meeting will now take place at the Old Fruit Market in Candleriggs.” This about sums up the very British strand of radicalism being spearheaded by the softly-spoken veteran backbencher.
Nothing seems to be able to hold back the swelling tide of Corbynmania. The leadership contest has seen a veritable safari of Labour big beasts all pleading with fans of the Islington socialist to grow a brain. Yet as Owen Jones points out, “apocalyptic warnings from unpopular politicians” is hardly going to compete with the inspiring message that appears to be driving Corbyn’s support. What Corbyn’s critics fail to grasp is that personal attacks on the man miss the fact that, for all the MP’s authenticity and frankness, his campaign has become a movement bigger than its nominal figurehead.
Corbyn doesn’t need to turn Labour into a protest movement, he already has one. The Corbyn campaign is unconventional for a party leadership contest in that it has become a locus for grassroots activism akin to the Stop the War Coalition (which just so happens to be chaired by one Jeremy Corbyn). There are branded badges –a favourite accessory of the CND crowd- and an army of young volunteers. From the perspective of the Westminster bubble his candidature came out of nowhere; but his campaign team, drawn from a vast network of activist groupings that Corbyn has championed over thirty plus years, was quick to assemble and soon dwarfed the teams of his rivals put together. What the Corbyn team lacks in heavy weight political endorsement it easily makes up in its ability for organising mass rallies, crowdsourcing resources and driving telephone campaigns.
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