I always voted, council or general election, had the attitude ‘you can’t grumble if you don’t vote’ but to be honest, politicians didn’t excite me very much. Then Ed Milliband resigned as labour leader and I watched the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn, to be honest he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights, a bit scruffy, didn’t know how to deal with the press and couldn’t read an auto-cue, but he had something to say and it was different. It was honest, it was heartfelt and it resonated, he put into words the sort of nebulous feelings I had about our political climate that I had been unable to articulate.
I couldn’t vote for him but I was cheering for him all the way; absolutely ecstatic when he won, I really thought that we were in for real change. Imagine my shock when his MP’s started resigning before he’d even celebrated the win. Sour grapes I thought, only really to be expected, I was sure they would come around and respect his win. How wrong can you be!
I’m convinced Mr Corbyn and the rest of the socialists would have respected and worked with any of the other candidates if they had won. Well I watched with growing alarm as Labour politics descended into farce, I saw cruel personal insults and abuse thrown in a very public way at a man I grew to respect very much for the way he conducted himself.
His parliamentary MP’s mostly deserted him, expecting him to resign, but Jeremy Corbyn is made of sterner stuff, he knew he had a mandate from the people. The old guard and an extremely talented bunch of young MP’s came to the fore and joined forces to form a shadow cabinet of youth and experience.
The challenge came to his leadership ultimately from Owen Smith a little known MP, not one of the big guns but someone not tainted by Iraq and the Chilcot report. So began a long summer of a pointless and tiring leadership campaign.
This time I decided to take the plunge and vote so became a registered supporter, shelling out £25 of my hard earned cash, to my disbelief I watched Labours NEC stop people voting by going to court, using the money we had all just paid in, then spent the next few weeks hoping I wouldn’t lose my vote for something spurious that I might or might not have said; I am not abusive and don’t use bad language but I was as paranoid as everyone else.
I took the opportunity to go to two of Mr Corbyn’s rallies to hear him speak and I was impressed and inspired not because he’s a great orator but because of what he said and how he said it. I also decided to go and see Mr Smith as well for balance, and though he was a more fluent speaker I didn’t get the feeling he believed in his own words.
The leadership battle intensified even though Mr Corbyn was calling for calm amongst supporters the insults were turning vitriolic and the whole air around the campaign was becoming toxic, I heard Mr Corbyn later describe it as trench warfare later and I think that was an apt description.
By the time the party conference arrived I think everybody was exhausted just needing the result which for Corbyn supporters like myself was a thumping endorsement of the man and his policies again. Even bigger this time and if you take into consideration voters denied, purged and non-received ballots it would have been even bigger.
For the first time ever I watched a political party conference and even more to my surprise understood what was going on and was making comments on it! Watching Jeremy Corbyn’s closing speech, this time I saw a man at ease with the media attention and totally confident in himself delivering a powerful call to action.
I found I was beginning to get an urge to be more involved so decided my first act had to be to join the Labour Party proper, so I’ve done that and I’m just waiting to hear if I’ve been accepted.
From there who knows, Jeremy Corbyn has awakened me, I wonder how many more he’s done that to and what will happen when he begins to reach out to the wider electorate, together we can all change the face of UK politics.