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Devil’s advocate? Henry Chu pretends to be puzzled by the support for Jeremy Corbyn

henry chuWe are indebted to investigative journalist Felicity Arbuthnot for this link to a refreshingly lighthearted article in the Los Angeles Times by Henry Chu, born in Indianapolis, raised in Southern California, served as bureau chief in Beijing from 1998 to 2003, Rio de Janeiro from 2004 to 2005 and New Delhi from 2006 to 2008 before locating to London in 2009.

His subject is Jeremy Corbyn, an ‘unabashed’ left-winger, not quite sure why he could have needed to be ‘embarrassed, disconcerted, or ashamed’ of his eminently sensible and public-spirited policy proposals, but there it is.

Chu opens: “Jeremy Corbyn says ordinary workers didn’t cause the 2008 financial crisis but are paying for it through austerity cuts” but nevertheless finds that support for him “is surprisingly on the rise in British politics “ – surely cause and effect?

22-year old Aisling Gallagher, speaking at the Robin Hood demonstration pictured below, values the Islington North MP’s position against austerity – something other leadership candidates lack. “Governmental economic policies (ie cuts and “reforms”) have a hugely devastating impact on women and even more so on black women, migrant women, disabled women and so on”, she says.

robin hood style supporters

To those who once revelled in Robin Hood films, the comparison of this newly emerging hero with a legendary one is quite pleasing, and indeed Nottingham, where lives one of many gifted Corbyn allies – former Labour MP and environmentalist, Alan Simpson – already has much to be proud of, including:

  • its exemplary public transport system,
  • its coalfield regeneration,
  • and now its Robin Hood Energy Company, first council-taxpayer owned energy firm to operate on that basis since market was nationalised in 1948

Corbyn, for the common good

Jeremy Corbyn tells ‘hundreds of merry men and women’ – actually well over a thousand and merry/happy indeed – at the North Circus Street venue and the overflow in the courtyard behind Nottingham Playhouse , that the government needs to stop concentrating wealth in the hands of the have-a-lots and start investing in public services and welfare benefits for the have-nots. After all, he continues, single parents, nurses and other ordinary workers didn’t cause the 2008 financial crisis; bankers bent on “grotesque” profits did. Yet the rest of society is paying the price as the state slashes spending after doling out billions to rescue the banks.

Unelectable: scruffy, rumpled and non-telegenic?

casual corbyn

That’s debatable, one could instead describe his appearance as casual, relaxed and confident – decide for yourself. Chu describes Corbyn’s three rivals: “younger, slicker and, so far, fairly hopeless at firing up the public imagination” and their well-groomed youth is not of interest to Corbyn’s newly hopeful support base.

formal corbynAnd if so moved he will spruce up, wearing the totally pointless necktie and suit. See – and hear – the 2013 Oxford Union debate.

“He steps outside of the paradigm,” says Nottingham cafe owner Tres Gretton-Roche. “There’s something that feels very different. The whole thing that surrounded Blair was spin; there was something unreal about it. But what Jeremy Corbyn has is a real rhetoric, a real connection.”

Corbyn ‘clings to’ (Chu’s expression) – or rather is faithful to – causes such as nuclear disarmament. Would Chu value him more if he trimmed with the wind like most other politicians? I suspect not. He is also said to cling to a proposal to re-nationalise the country’s energy sector – for obvious reasons as the 99% are exploited and profits fly abroad.

Chu notes that Corbyn favours Britain’s withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – no so outlandish: several eminent commentators have said that NATO has outlived its purpose and exceeded its original mandate – see US army Lt. Col. Robert L. Bateman, Nick Witney, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, formerly the European Defence Agency’s first Chief Executive and others. The thousands who protested at the NATO summit in Cardiff last year obviously agree.

Chu’s reference to Margaret Thatcher is a great cue for tomorrow’s post – a comparison of the two politicians, also lighthearted, which would indeed encourage Corbyn if he ever finds time to read it.