So, Corbyn has been elected the new leader of the Labour Party, he seemingly appeared out of the political wilderness and now everyone is talking about him, but will people vote for him in the next general election? There is something reminiscent of the late Michael Foot or Tony Benn, about Mr Corbyn, he's sincere, forthright and unwavering in his views. The other Labour leader contenders were uninspiring, by contrast. Corbyn is older, more experienced, a bit weather beaten. He's not slick, he is what he is - and it seems people have warmed to him. This new Tory government has marked a swing to the right like we've never seen before, where refugees are referred to disdainfully as 'swarms' and the very poorest of society are suffering at the hands of austerity measures. Have people had enough? Will the thousands of apathetic disillusioned non-voters be stirred to register to vote if they want to see the political landscape shift firmly to the left, see a radical change in policy and a very different Great Britain emerge.
As a child of the 70's, growing up under Thatcher's reign, I see this country as predominantly right wing. New Labour was a moderate form of the Conservatives. Corbyn is not, his policies are socialist and he's not afraid to voice them either. If we are going to see the tide shift, Corbyn must turn the young onto politics, mainly those that feel excluded from the political system like some of the Bengali and Somali kids I have worked with in East London, and make them believe his policies could make a difference to their lives by shaking up the political status quo, which has been perpetuated for decades now. The way Corbyn shunned mainstream media was impressive, audacious and even cocky. Grassroots - that's his way, speaking directly to the masses, old school, no mud slinging, sticking to his ideas - back to the fundamentals of politics.
'Somali Boy Wearing Baseball Cap' taken from my book Avenues, 2006 (pencil on A4 paper, 2006)
Image wise Corbyn is the antithesis of what a leader is supposed to look like. He almost reminds me a bit of a painting I did called, 'If God Existed He'd Look Like This Dude.' (Oil on canvas, 16x14 inches, 2010)
He's humble, understated, a bit crumpled, rough around the edges, I've seen people like Corbyn sitting at the bus stop or reading their paper in the park. He's the everyman on the street. The media image that sticks out is of him striding confidently in knee length socks and sandals - that's a radical look. He's almost saying, 'Screw you, I don't care about image, or being slick, or wearing smart suits because none of that matters. It's all about what comes out of my mouth and what I think and how I am going to effect real, sustainable change'.
But he can only do this if he's elected. There have been politicians, Corbyn style, that have been elected such as the former president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, known as the world's 'poorest' president who voluntarily chose to live on a farm and give away a large proportion of his pay. Shunning all the trappings that electoral office brings, the president and his wife worked the land and grew flowers. Anti the standard model of growth and consumption, he was a visionary, but he was also a political anomaly. Are we seeing something similar with Corbyn? Who is unflinching in his views, some of which are controversial; but isn't it refreshing to listen to a politician with a clear vision? He was always opposed to the Iraq war and military action against Assad in 2013, he's anti Trident, he wants to tax the rich to pay off the deficit, advocates the creation of more allotments, seeks a dialogue with militant extremists, intent on scrapping university tuition fees, receptive to immigration, seeks a restriction of the arms trade, he's a staunch Republican, an ardent cyclist, wants more access to the arts including the funding of local art projects, supports the imposition of an embargo on Israel and is pro Palestine. Missed out a few, but extrapolated the key Corbyn policies, and out of the ones I've selected I would support 9 of them. I'm slightly ambivalent about some of his other policies because they are too black and white and not nuanced enough, but at least I know where he stands. Can you say the same of other politicians? To say that his views will be divisive is an understatement and already we've seen the first resignation of shadow health minister Jamie Reed moments after Corbyn's spectacular victory. Other members of the shadow cabinet have openly expressed that they could never serve under him and are preparing to step down - he's maybe just too radical for their tastes.
But perhaps that's what British politics needs - a complete shake up. Never has our politics been so polarised between right and left and the outcome of the next general elections could carve a different political landscape - there is no middle ground; the demarcation lines have been delineated, so which side are you on? It is certainly going to make politics more interesting but will this mark an era where Labour becomes, in effect, unelectable. Too early to say. But I wish anyone luck who is prepared to take on Cameron and his lot, and I think he has a better chance of being elected than Ed Miliband ever had, but it will take galvanising and converting large swathes of the electorate for that to happen. Is Cameron scared or smugly confident that Britain will stick to the Right? Known Devil is better and all that... Corbyn has surprised us all, including those that derided him, so I wouldn't be too complacent; he's going to ruffle more feathers that's for sure. He's certainly got us all talking, thinking and wondering what's going to happen next.