It’s that time of year again. The Jeremy Corbyn Never Ending tour. Several years ago, when just a stroppy backbencher, Corbyn called for the Labour party to have an annual leadership election. Now that he has got his wish, Corbyn is back on the road reprising most of his greatest hits from 2015.
The tour started in the unlikely location of seminar room 642 of the Institute of Education. Pure rock’n’roll. Playing your opening gig in a small venue in front of a selected group of diehard fans is a classic headline-act tactic. “Jeremy is in the building,” a roadie announced. A frisson went through the 50 or so young people in the room who had already bought all the albums and had the Momentum T-shirts to prove it. The dozen or so hacks appeared less impressed.
Fashionably late, Corbyn bounced in followed by just two MP minders. He’s never been big on warm-up acts, even when he could still book them. The Jeremy Show has always been all about Jeremy. The introductions were made by the little-known Kate Osamor, shadow secretary for just about everything since the 172 Labour MPs who passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership were sent to room 101 in the Institute of Re-Education. Kate wisely kept it short.
“Hello, Institute of Education,” Corbyn yelled. “We love you, Jezza,” the fans replied as he tuned up. Then it was straight into the first number. “Everything in the Labour party is much, much better than it was 10 months ago,” he sang. “We’ve got loads of members, we’ve fought the government on tax credits, everything is basically tickety-boo and it’s all down to me. Yeah!”
Some older members of the audience thought they detected a note or two of plagiarism in the song – hadn’t it been Labour party policy under the Ed Miller Band to fight tax-credit cuts, and hadn’t the House of Lords played an instrumental number in challenging the Tories? But they were drowned out by the noise of the faithful singing along.
Then it was time to slow it down a bit. “We’re going to do some kinder, gentler politics,” he growled. Dozens of lighters were held up into the morning sky. “Sadly Diane Abbott can’t join me for an acoustic set of ‘I’m a hypocrite and I’m OK’ because she is still rubbishing Owen Smith on the Radio 4 Today programme.
“And John McDonnell has checked into rehab after no one turned up to hear him play in the Commons yesterday because he had called the entire parliamentary Labour party a bunch of fucking idiots. So I’m just going to do a solo number of my greatest hit, Just Like a Rolling Stone.”
The line “How does it feel / To be a complete unknown?” didn’t have quite the resonance of the previous year, when he had been a no-hoper rather than Brand JC, but no one seemed that bothered. Least of all Corbyn. Like rock’n’roll, politics has long since become an irony-free zone.
With the main gig over, Corbyn decided to hang around and play some requests. He was feeling good. Real good. So what if he never got round to playing in front of the millions of old Labour voters who were now flirting with Ukip? It was so much more fun playing large stadiums in front of a few hundred thousand hardcore radicalised middle-class. Who wanted to form a government when you could have your very own social movement, man? I mean parliamentary democracy is, like, so uncool.
“Thank you for being such loyal fans,” he said, shortly before the final encore. “Loyalty means a lot to me. It always has done, apart from all those times I’ve been serially disloyal to Labour party leaders in the past. Because that wasn’t disloyalty, it was having a conscience, m-a-a-n. So I’d just like to say to all those Labour MPs who are more worried about getting Labour back into government than having me as your Supreme Being – fall in line or get deselected. And I say that kindly and gently.”
With that, Corbyn launched into an epic rendition of another of his greatest hits. He was going to win, of that there was no doubt. His tour would be one long triumph after another, ending in a coronation. Life was sweet. “I am the Champion, I am the Champion, No Time for Losers...” It was only rock’n’rollpolitics, but he liked it.
This article was written by John Crace, for theguardian.com on Thursday 21st July 2016 17.31 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010