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‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ – Glastonbury 2017 and the anthem of hope

Whether you loved, hated or were indifferent to that Radiohead set on Friday night, Jeremy Corbyn is the real headline act at this year’s Glastonbury Festival and I’ve never seen anything like it. He may be hanging out with JME, A.J. Tracey, Stormzy and Clean Bandit these days, but when all’s said and done he is, after all, a politician!

It began in the queues on Wednesday. The excruciating boredom of the notoriously long wait to get passed the gates, extended in the enhanced security aftermath of recent terror attacks, needed some relief. A handful of punters began singing that adaptation of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”, that was born during Jeremy Corbyn’s election rallies, and it spread through the crowd. It happened again at the Silent Disco on Friday and quickly spread like wildfire across Worthy Farm where in every field, at every stage, in every corner you’d find someone wearing a Jeremy Corbyn mask, many wearing Corbyn T-shirts and banners bearing his name and hash tagged slogans such as ‘#Resist’, ‘#Hope’, and ‘#JC4PM’.

Video: ‘O Jeremy Corbyn’ chants break out across Glastonbury. 1m 41s
At the time of writing Corbyn is yet to make his much anticipated appearance, delivering a speech before introducing the politically motivated Hip-Hop duo Run The Jewels. It feels like that appearance is the most anticipated event on the bill at a music festival attended by 200,000 people who, in a world more familiar, would be more likely to have disdain for any politician entering their Shangri-La than the adulation that is clearly on display this weekend.

What a difference a year makes. This time last year the daggers were drawn and they were puncturing skin. For nearly two years Jeremy Corbyn has endured a relentless onslaught of abuse that frequently got personal. There were times when many of us feared – because after all he’s only human – that he might just give up and return to the “safety of the back benches”, confirming that much vaunted rationalisation of the ‘unelectable’ trope: that being there so long, being an activist meant he wasn’t leadership material. We feared him throwing in the towel because we saw, given the sorry state of the Labour Party, the last best chance there’d be for a generation to break out of the neoliberal consensus that is literally killing people.

The reality is that if we aren’t able to use the Labour Party and the wider Labour movement to turn the tide on decades of passive reaction, it could take generations and possibly a fair amount of bloodshed to begin to effect change in Britain via any other mechanism. How ever accidentally it came about, Corbyn knew this moment would be a once in an epoch opportunity and, despite looking like he could well do without it on a few occasions, he shouldered that responsibility. So JC deserves the stroke of adulation – he’s earned it. But most importantly we deserve to feel this mood within and around us, a mood of hope, a mood I haven’t experienced for a very long time and never on this scale, in this country.

The relatively recently established orthodoxy that unbridled, free market capitalism is just the way of the world – a kind of law of nature that pushes all other thought to the margins with an ‘extremist’ tag attached – is no longer acceptable to a growing number of people and the majority of the young. The ‘unelectable’ trope has been firmly consigned to the same trash can as ‘strong and stable’ because, as recent sweet and bitter experiences have born out, it only ever reflected the reality of a few, not the many.


Now about that Radiohead set… Just kidding. I won’t be writing a blog post that takes as long to read as it does to watch a Radiohead gig 🙂

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