Why Jeremy Corbyn is just the new Nigel Farage

If there’s one thing that the election has highlighted, it’s just how fickle the British public is. This time last year, much of the electorate decided it wanted what has been referred to as a ‘hard’ Brexit. Theresa May, a staunch remainer, offered this. Job done, or so she thought. But instead, now everyone’s confused, even UKIP supporters! They’re too besotted with Jeremy Corbyn.

Why could this be? Many have asked, particularly as Corbyn’s globalist values seem at odds with the protectionist sentiment expressed by vast swathes of Leave voters, the UKIP contingent especially. Could it be that they’ve had a change of heart in regard to ideology? Or that humans are superficial creatures, prepared to trade previously held views for new personalities? Methinks it is a case of the latter, and Jeremy Corbyn simply took Nigel Farage’s previous role as Mr Popular.

Some will throw their Momentum leaflet in outrage when I compare Corbyn to UKIP’s former leader, but the crossover is really quite stark. The fact is, when Farage decided not to stand in this election, he not only put his vision of Brexit at risk, but left a huge opening for someone with a similar personal style to enrapture voters. This was not filled by May, the robot, or any other Conservatives – nor Liberal Democrats, but Corbyn himself.

He and Farage are far closer than either would dare to acknowledge. What has been obvious over the last year or so is that a specific type of individual is now extremely popular with the electorate. No longer do people want politicians who are nuanced or measured, and that is why May and Hillary Clinton have not been a real success. They are actually enamoured with ‘anti-establishment’ figures, which is basically another way of saying a ‘bloke’.

This underpins how Farage, Donald Trump and, yes, Jeremy Corbyn all made big strides politically. Each has a great ability to convey themselves as “system-breakers” to their target demographic: the working class. Farage and Corbyn both seem to think they are leading this segment of society into a revolution against collectives they deem economically ‘threatening’. For Farage, it was immigrants; for Corbyn, it is the rich.

And both men have been able to promote their ideologies because they have this likeability factor, from their ability to communicate in layman’s terms to the fact they can laugh at themselves. They do everything that they can to radiate being ‘men of the people’; neither has a university degree, incidentally, but – for them – that’s rather an asset.

What we are learning, troublingly, is that politicians can get very far, indeed, if they can win the popularity contest, and right now it is the ‘bloke’ that cuts it. That Farage and Corbyn have made it so far does say a lot about how desperate people are in this country for a quick-fix route to economic issues; they are falling for cavemen who make loud noises. Unfortunately what this means for the other parties is that, far from trying to outsmart Corbyn, they are going to have to play to his level. It is no longer enough to play the intellectual game; leaders must divert, instead, to a rather basic one.

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Forget Conservatives. We need some Cool-servatives at the party

priti patel.jpg
The only hipster: Priti Patel

Young people will try anything once, it sometimes seems, whether it’s tattoos, anal sex or Jeremy Corbyn; the latter of which is rather unfortunate for Conservatives, who have been concerned ever since last week’s election. As everyone now knows, a huge number of 18-24-year-olds (66 percent) turned up to vote, many of whom selected the Labour leader with an enthusiasm normally reserved for Glastonbury tickets. None of this secured Corbyn’s victory, of course, but it felt too close for comfort. Clearly we Conservatives have to do something. Fast! 

But unfortunately, in the last week we do appear to be in a creative rut, as there has been aimless pontificating and posturing about what went wrong for Theresa May. No hypothesis has ever sounded apocalyptic enough, to me, to have ruined her campaign. Some blame Thing One and Thing Two for messing up (aka Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy), others say it was the election timing, and then there’s that One Show appearance. The answer, I suspect, is really rather straightforward, although difficult to solve: we Conservatives haven’t been cool enough. 

This has been Labour’s top trump throughout the election, and even afterwards it continues to win over hip young voters. It has managed to become more than a political party; instead, a pop movement of sorts, through which the young can celebrate peace and love and (terrible) economic theories. The interesting thing is that none of Corbyn’s tactics were all that intellectually astute; he simply worked out what young people like – Snapchat, magazines, grime stars and huge educational freebies – and used them in his campaign. 

This has not only helped him to galvanise the majority of the 18-24-year-old vote, but also older parts of the electorate, many of whom are not so dissimilar in terms of their tastes and activities. That is what it appears, at least, from looking at YouGov’s data; it estimates that the 30-44 age bracket had the biggest swing from Tories to Labour (with 30 percent of them defecting). It is not a stretch too far to suggest that this cohort will have found Labour’s vision attractive for the same reasons to younger voters. 

Conservatives have previously given up on trying to win 18-24-year-olds over; a choice that has made sense in other elections, given that they are more likely to vote for Left-leaning parties, with turnout being historically low. It’s been far easier to rely upon older groups. But now things have changed and, by all indications, the 18-24-year-old may continue to increase. So it is not an option any more for us to ignore this fact; we must actually try to sway young people to our vision. We have to be ‘Cool-servatives’. 

There is no easy route to this, but for starters, Conservatives must become far more savvy with their campaigns, using social media in a far more bold, fashionable way (as Corbyn did himself – cosying up to grime artist, JME, for instance on Snapchat). The Conservatives did advertise videos on Facebook and Twitter, but most of them were alarming – more like public health warnings than anything else – compared to Labour’s optimistic numbers. Labour benefited from having a poetic edge to its slogans, whether it was the promise that the party would be “for the few, not the many”, or a choice of “hope” over “fear”. People like these mantras not only because of their positive angle, but because they have a certain musicality. Frankly, Conservatives could really do with a rapper behind the scenes to give their soundbites some umph. 

The trouble, fundamentally, is that often in politics it pays to be superficial. Many of us witnessed this last year with Donald Trump, whose rhetoric was centred very much around everything being “bigger” and “better”, versus the nuanced campaigning of Hillary Clinton. This has happened in British politics, too, only it is the Conservatives who are being too subtle about their methods, hoping that the electorate will understand the need for austerity in a recovering economy, and be able to spot that many of Corbyn’s pledges don’t stack up – and are not even costed in his manifesto. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t care. 

Instead of mourning this fact, Conservatives must do far more to tap into the public appetite for style over substance, starting with a leader. Methinks Boris Johnson may be very much the ticket, as someone who has enamoured himself with London’s cool crowd in the past, and appeals because he is – like Trump – rather entertaining. But a new leader is not the end; Conservatives need much more young people on board to spread their message on the ground, and also give their adverts some light and artistic vision. This is what the party is missing ultimately at the moment; not even Theresa May’s leopard skin shoes were able to make the party appealing. Frankly, it’s time they all got a little less Conservative.