When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared on Sky News recently and insisted he wasn't part of the political elite we commoners generally refer to as the establishment, you could almost hear the guffaws of millions of British men and women who aren't in charge of the nation's second largest political party.
After all, this is a man who earns almost £140,000 a year, lives in a house worth over £600,000 and will retire with a gold-plated pension of £1.6million. If those numbers look quite large, it's because they are. But that's not the end of it. Since 1983, the country has seen six different Prime Ministers, but just one MP for the constituency of Islington North. Who might that be? Yeah, you guessed it. To sum up, a career politician who leads the Labour Party and makes in 10 weeks what Joe Bloggs down the road doesn't earn in a year is attempting to tell the country that, actually, he's one of us. Sounds mad when you put it like that.
But hold on a second. I don't have any phone numbers or personal email addresses of some bona fide members of the establishment, so I can't be certain, but I have a sneaky suspicion he might be correct. Can you really imagine the chairman of Barclays taking Corbyn out to lunch at the Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (which Google tells me is one of the most expensive eateries in the UK)? Can you honestly picture the Duke of Edinburgh calling Corbyn up and wishing him happy birthday? Do you genuinely believe that the Secretary of Defence plays golf with Corbyn on the weekends? These people scream establishment in a way that Corbyn is right in saying he doesn't.
All it takes is a quick look into his past to see that he doesn't truly belong to this group of elites. His parents were peace activists. He joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at school. He refused to adhere to the dress code in the Commons when he was first elected because he argued "it's not a gentleman's club, it's a place where the people are represented." No wonder he's argued that anyone part of the establishment wouldn't count him as one of their normal members - they were mortified when he used to rock up to Parliament with the lazy schoolboy look of no tie and an undone top button.
Corbyn can hardly claim to be working class, but it seems fair to say that he isn't a true member of the establishment. Not like, say, MEP of South East England for the last 18 years and former commodities trader Nigel Farage. Cut him, and I'm sure plenty would like to, and he'd bleed establishment. But Corbyn? He may be on a decent salary, but he's not old money. He may live in a nice house, but it's not a 300-year-old mansion. He may arguably be out of touch with much of the general population, but that seems largely due to his public persona as a dinosaur from the radical days of the 1980s, not because he spends the equivalent of a teacher's annual salary on tweed jackets.
Trailing Theresa May in the polls and disliked by many in his own party, Corbyn desperately needs to change his image for the voters that aren't die-hard Labour supporters or too young to remember Smells Like Teen Spirit being released. This recent attempt to reinvent himself as an honest crusader nobly doing battle with the elite may just be a step in the right direction, partly because populism is all the rage these days and partly because he's mostly right - he's as much a member of the establishment as your average telemarketer. However, he'd better hope his gamble pays off and the general public starts believing him, because as it stands he's even less popular than one.Suggest a correction