THE right wing press loves to depict Jeremy Corbyn as a dour, out-of-touch “retired geography teacher” who is more at home pottering on his allotment than connecting with real people.
Oh, how wrong they are!
Corbyn’s leadership election campaigns in 2015 and 2016 gave the electorate a glimpse of the man’s universal appeal.
And anyone who has met him or heard him speak publicly, will attest to the 67-year-old’s contagious charisma and genuine human warmth.
Small wonder therefore, that celebrities from the world of acting, music, sport, and elsewhere, are flocking to support him in his bid to become the UK’s next Prime Minister.
An unlikely quartet of multi-millionaire snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, Welsh diva Charlotte Church and the Modfather himself, Paul Weller, are leading a 21st Century Red Wedge for Corbyn.
This new Wedge kicked off last December with the hugely successful Concert for Corbyn at Brighton’s famous Dome auditorium.
The People Powered concert was a real return to the days of Red Wedge and Rock Against Racism, when musicians publicly stood up for political causes.
In the case of Red Wedge, a collective of musicians spearheaded by Paul Weller, Jimmy Somerville and Billy Bragg, the aim was to support the left leaning Labour Party of Neil Kinnock in their battle against Margaret Thatcher and her far right Conservative government.
Red Wedge was launched in November 1985, with Bragg, Weller, Strawberry Switchblade and Kirsty MacColl invited to a reception at the Palace of Westminster hosted by Labour MP Robin Cook.
Red Wedge was not officially part of the Labour Party, but it did initially have office space at Labour’s headquarters.
And it organised a number of major tours.
The first, in January and February 1986, featured Bragg, Weller’s band The Style Council, The Communards, Junior Giscombe, Lorna Gee and Jerry Dammers, and picked up guest appearances from Madness, The The, Heaven 17, Bananarama, Prefab Sprout, Elvis Costello, Gary Kemp, Tom Robinson, Sade, The Beat, Lloyd Cole, The Blow Monkeys, Joolz and The Smiths.
It was mind-blowing in its style and political swagger – particularly with under 25 electorate.
But after the 1987 election produced a third consecutive Conservative victory, many of the musical collective drifted away and Red Wedge was formally disbanded in 1990.
Billy Bragg remembers the days clearly: “I suppose the Wedge came about because we all kept meeting at benefit gigs for Nicaragua or whatever. Those were the darkest days of the Thatcherite 80s, as well. There was a feeling that something had to be done.”
Paul Weller added: “The MPs we’d meet around the country were more showbiz than the groups. It was an eye-opener; it brought me full circle in how I feel about politics. It’s a game. I’ve very little interest in it. I’m not talking about what’s happening to our planet or our country, but about organised politics.”
But the last few years have seen an upsurge in radicalism in both music and politics as the economic conditions for the poorest in particular reach crisis point.
Now the people are hand-in-hand with celebrities speaking their minds about Theresa May, the Conservative government, austerity, homelessness, the NHS and the greater Establishment.
Last December’s Concert for Corbyn was organised by music journalist Lois Wilson and the Brighton branch of Momentum; and it persuaded Paul Weller, to take part in his first direct support of a politician since the days of Red Wedge.
The Dome was sold-out and the organisers smartly utilised both the bar area and main auditorium for a ‘revue’ type affair.
Edgar Summertyme Jones and Kathyrn Williams played to an enthralled bar; and later Ghetto Priest and his band delivered one of the sets of the evening; a superb concoction of dub, grime, percussive African-fusion, and rock, that had the audience tapping away, many with big smiles on their faces.
With many bands to get through and short turnarounds, there was very little time to relax before the quirky three-piece all-girl band Stealing Sheep took to the stage in fetching polka dot onesies.
Guitars dominated concert hall proceedings, beginning with The Coral founder Bill Ryder-Jones, who claimed on stage that he personally got the call from JC to appear.
Paul Weller, ever the rebel, puffed on a cigarette beside the stage, ready to go on with a collection of musician friends, put together for this occasion, including an exceedingly rare live gig for the wheelchair-bound Robert Wyatt.
He, Weller and Steve Pilgrim alternated songs, based around keys, guitars, drums and the double bass of the legendary Danny Thompson.
A personal highlight was Steve Pilgrim dedicating his anthem Explode the Sun directly to Jeremy Corbyn.
Meanwhile, Wyatt, like Weller, opted for a series of lesser known songs, such as Mass Medium, which originally appeared on his 1985 Old Rottenhat album, a song that Wyatt introduced saying the whole press had turned into gutter press.
Jeremy Corbyn followed them on stage and delivered a short speech; a mix of his politics and the importance of music in general.
The final words were left for The Farm front man Peter Hooton who said if he had to plant a flag in a field, he would want Corbyn on his side.
Prior to playing the Dome gig in December 2016, Weller said: “When Red Wedge came to an end I said I would never get involved in party politics again.
“’I’m doing the gig because I like what Corbyn says and stands for. I think it’s time to take the power out of the hands of the elite and hand it back to the people of this country. I want to see a government that has some integrity and compassion.”
Billy Bragg is with Weller on this.
Last August (during Corbyn’s second successful leadership campaign) he accused the Murdoch owned Times of twisting his words in a report claiming he thought Jeremy Corbyn was unable to reach enough of the electorate to become an effective political force.
In response to the Times article Bragg said he had “joined the long list of people stitched up by the Murdoch papers”.
“Don’t believe the bullshit about me in the Times,” he said, “I’m still supporting Corbyn.”
He then urged his followers to “stay calm”, adding, “don’t let Murdoch sow discord”.
He later said: “I’m a socialist which means my glass is half full. I’m encouraged by the young people being mobilised.”
But while the support of veterans, Weller, Wyatt, Bragg and award-winning film producer Ken Loach may be taken for granted, it is the new celebrity supporters who have caught the eye.
Snooker superstar Ronnie O’Sullivan has been positively verbose on Twitter about his support for Corbyn.
Recent Tweets include:
“I love paying tax. As long as it goes to the right people who need it, like the NHS and education”
And taking a swipe at Donald Trump and the Tories he tweeted: “Everyone should boycott the USA and any other country. Also the bankers who stole the tax payers’ dosh for fiddling the books.”
In an interview last month with the Daily Mirror, O’Sullivan said people should give Jeremy Corbyn a break.
“Jeremy Corbyn is a man of his word,” he added. “He is unwavering in his beliefs whether he is criticised for them or not. I’d like to be his friend.”
And step forth Harry Potter to lend some magical support for Corbyn.
Actor Daniel Radcliffe energetically praised the Labour leader saying it was “just so nice to have people excited about somebody.”
“It seems to be more or less because they are excited about sincerity,” he said. “I think we all suddenly realised that we are so used to politicians lying. Even when they are being sincere, it feels so scripted that it is hard to get behind them.”
Singer and activist Charlotte Church is a well-known Labour supporter and is also 100% behind Jeremy Corbyn.
She called Corbyn: “A cool-headed, honest, considerate man”.
In a post on her blog, she said: “He is one of the only politicians of note that seems to truly recognise the dire inequality that exists in this country today and actually have a problem with it. There is something inherently virtuous about him, and that is a quality that can rally the support of a lot of people, and most importantly, a lot of young people.”
Shia LaBeouf, the actor from the universally acclaimed Transformers films normally delivers lines such as: “Not so tough without a head, are you?”
But for Corbyn, LaBeuf speaks plainly: “I like Jeremy Corbyn. I like him in every way.”
Former Roxy Music keyboardist Brian Eno wrote a whole opinion piece in the Guardian on his support for Corbyn, saying the Labour leader has spent many years sticking to his principles.
“He’s been doing this with courage and integrity and with very little publicity,” Eno said.
“This already distinguishes him from at least half the people in Westminster, whose strongest motivation seems to have been to get elected, whatever it takes.”
Turner prize winning artist Grayson Perry he would back Jeremy Corbyn, as he was “doing something interesting for the political debate.”
“I think he’s gold,” he added.
Comedian Josie Long has shown her support for Corbyn from the start of his 2015 leadership campaign.
“I think people are voting for Jeremy Corbyn because they like and are excited by him,” she said.
“There is so much excitement and so many people are desperate to get involved in a positive way.”
Pop star Lily Allen, is also an ardent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, and has worked hard to highlight the plight of the refugees.
She strongly supported Mr Corbyn’s campaign to remain Labour leader in 2016, stating: “He seems to be the only dignified person in Westminster.”
At a Corbyn rally in Manchester, former Corrie star Julie Hesmondhalgh said she’d left Labour after it “parted company with its principles”, but that recently she’d “started to smell something that smelled like hope”.
She spoke at the event, telling supporters: “Welcome to the vibrant, mass movement of giving a toss about stuff.”
And Maxine Peake, star of Channel 4 drama Shameless, and The Theory of Everything, wrote in The Morning Star, that Corbyn has put Labour “back on track”.
“He has inspired a movement of young and old to fight for education, health, welfare, peace and justice and we will quickly organise and mobilise ourselves in his support”.
But let’s leave the final words to three veteran celebrities
Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters has nailed his colours firmly to the Corbyn mast.
“I think it is fabulous that somebody has risen to the surface who could describe themselves as being heir to Aneurin Bevan or Tony Benn or Michael Foot or one of the genuine left wing Labour Party leaders,” he said in a BBC interview, before almost vomiting the word “Blair”!
Celebrated playwright Alan Bennett – the man behind The History Boys – said he “very much approves” of Corbyn.
“I approve of him. If only because it brings Labour back to what they ought to be thinking about,” he said.
And Star Trek’s captain Jean-Luc Picard (actor Patrick Stewart) believes Corbyn can “Make It So” for a Labour victory in the General Election.
“I think that Jeremy Corbyn has begun to find a voice that’s clearly authentic and passionate,” he states with conviction.
“I’m beginning to have a feeling that there’s a route for Labour that might be very exciting for the country. I carried a placard for the first election after the war in 1945, when Clement Attlee got in, and those principles remain my principles.”
Jeremy Corbyn: unfashionable and out-of-touch?
- Further Concerts for Corbyn were planned for Liverpool and Manchester this summer, but Theresa May’s ‘snap’ General Election has delayed those gigs, at least for the time being.