Since his election as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s unashamedly staunch socialist policies have polarised opinion within the media, public, and even the Labour party itself. Whilst he appears, and has certainly been portrayed as, a Marxist Martian reborn from the ashes of Michael Foot’s kamikaze 1983 general election campaign, he can actually be seen as something much simpler, and less sinister: a student.
His £1.50 market stall vests and creased shirts certainly give the impression that he must be living off a tight student budget under the thumb of an archetypical landlord that refuses to provide his crumbling, mouldy rented property with an iron. Previous fashion statements, which include socks with sandals, even go as far as suggesting that Red Jez has fully embraced the wavy garms revolution; thrifty Corbyn-casual would certainly be the envy of most at Cirque du Soul. And the beard… It’s quintessentially student. From the gap yah kids that decided in Peru that they would no longer conform to society’s clean cut expectations, to those whose maintenance loans won’t stretch as far as razors, and the rest, who are simply too downright lazy to shave: a beard is a student staple.
“Thrifty Corbyn-casual would certainly be the envy of most at Cirque du Soul”
His attitude also exudes the stereotypical student confidence: that the world is a malleable globe each individual can single-handedly change for the better without any idea exactly how to. His plan to retain Trident submarines but remove the warheads from them, for example, is a policy altogether uninhibited by reason. His populist campaign for leadership, like Trump’s and Sanders’ in the U.S., followed a simple rhetoric of saying what he feels without the protection of politics.
The main point, however, is neither that Corbyn dresses like a student, nor that he has a youthful glisten of hope in his eyes that suggests anything is possible, but rather that his policies are intrinsically in line with those that resonate with students. Inherently pacifist, Corbyn has called for “political and not military solutions” to global issues, favouring nuclear disarmament and voting against both the Iraq War and the recent airstrikes in Syria. This is in line with the National Union of Students (NUS), which similarly voted against the Iraq campaign and unanimously against Syrian bombing. First year Law student Umaar Kazmi voiced his fear as a student of the repercussions of the government’s decision to bomb Syria. He told Impact: “Al-Qaeda was the child of the Afghan War (2001), ISIS was the child of the Iraq War (2003); I’m afraid of what the child of this war will be”.
Additionally, Corbyn wants to scrap Student Finance and restore student maintenance grants. Apologising on behalf of the Labour party to the last generation of students on whom Labour imposed fees, top-up fees and the replacement of grants with loans, Corbyn has vowed to fund university education by increasing national insurance on those earning more than £50,000 a year and increasing corporation tax by 2.5%, or slowing the pace of deficit reduction. Whilst even the NUS opposed the mobilisations opposing tuition fee rises in 2010, Corbyn has connected with these student grassroots social movements through his daring policies like no other Labour leader who has gone before.
“Corbyn has vowed to fund university education by increasing national insurance on those earning more than £50,000 a year and increasing corporation tax by 2.5%, or slowing the pace of deficit reduction”
The appeal of Corbyn to young people, however, extends far beyond his support for a fully funded education system that doesn’t burden the next generation with £40,000 of debt. Like most students, he understands that today’s youth face a cost-of-living crisis as food prices, rent and travel costs are on the rise, while wages are falling in real terms. One well-known student, namely Jonathan Davey, 23, currently commutes from Poland to London to attend his lectures, saving the thousands of pounds he would lose if he chose to live and commute in The Big Smoke. Corbynomics, however, seems to offer a solution. In the words of Tony Benn: “if you have enough money to kill people then you have enough money to help people.” Thus leftie Corbyn believes if the government have enough money to spend £500,000 on every air strike against Syria in a bombing campaign, they have enough to re-nationalise the railways. With an average train ticket on the day costing students £160.50 from London to Manchester, £106.50 from London to Cardiff, and £109.00 from Bristol to Leeds, travelling home for students has never been more economically challenging. Eighteen years since the disappearance of the infamous double-arrow logo, however, Corbyn is backing our corner.
Whilst Corbyn’s brand of watered down socialism may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is time to end the idea that he is a crazed Marxist, devoid of experience, awash with extremism and living in his own socialist Utopia. Because the truth is that Jeremy Corbyn is, in fact, just a lot like us.
Embedded image: Garry Knight via Flickr. Featured image: 70023venus2009 via Flickr.