The very British magic of Jeremy Corbyn
Why you must have a heart of the blackest stone not to love this doe-eyed Labour leader
I am old enough to remember a time when Americans cared passionately about the outcome of European general elections. My 6-month-old daughter is too, because that halcyon era came to an end about a month ago. I'd like to think that if it weren't for the unflagging tedium of the ongoing Comey-Russia-Trump saga, we'd all be tuning in to watch the results come in on the BBC tonight.
If I lived in Britain, my guess is that I would be no more likely to vote than I was last year in Virginia. But since I am not one of Her Majesty's subjects, I am free to indulge in the fantasy of pulling the lever for the Labour Party — or, more precisely, for its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
You must, I think, have a heart of the blackest stone not to consider voting for this ascetic, non-car-owning, vegetarian, manhole-cover enthusiast and member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling, a thing that actually exists. Corbyn was once asked by a mommy blogger what his favorite kind of biscuit, i.e. cookie, is. "I'm totally anti-sugar on health grounds so eat very few biscuits but if forced to accept one, it's always a pleasure to have a shortbread," he said. In the same interview, he admitted that his favorite book is, in fact, Ulysses, something I haven't had the guts to own up to since I was 14.
Then there is Corbyn's absolutely killer look: tweed jacket with no tie, beard, glasses at the dispatch box. When David Cameron, scowling in his quasi-presidential blues and shiny ties, told him last year to "put on a proper suit, do up your tie, and sing the national anthem," he was speaking for the forces of bland PR consultant politics. Who could not love this man? How many species of elf would you guess he has conversed with just by glancing at him?
You might be thinking that all of that sounds very frivolous. Trust me, it isn't. These are dark times in which the most meaningful level of political engagement is often at the level of fantasy. The very things that make Corbyn a laughing-stock — his naïveté, vagueness about policy, his obvious allergy to spin and hype, his dogged refusal to do all the things that would make him an acceptable candidate in the eyes of the sorts of people who admired "Dodgy Dave" — are the things that make him an endearing and inspiring figure. When the professionals are all boring and evil and likely to make a mess of things, you can't go wrong backing the doe-eyed amateur. At least Corbyn has a vision.
Corbyn's socialism is not the socialism of brutalist architecture and famine. It is Orwell's vision of socialism as a paradise of "old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist." It is a vision of politics as humane and decent and perhaps slightly charged with magic.
In Corbyn's Britain, cats drink artisanal milk at cat pubs and more than infrequently walk on two legs and converse with their owners. Dryads and hamadryads dance across beds of autumnal leaves. Welsh peasants line up to have their asparaguses blessed by ascetic mystically inclined bishops barely removed from druidism. Bankers and consultants are corpulent flatulence-prone Dickensian villains who get their comeuppance. Robin Hood and his Merry Men quaff brown ale and venison beneath the boughs of Sherwood Forest. Pooh Bear and Piglet stroll among the vast oaks of the Hundred Acre Wood unmolested by Heffalump or Woozel, while Ratty and Mole blow crepuscular smoke rings into the summer breeze to tickle the nose of the Great God Pan.
Given the choice between daydreaming about this and making one's peace with the tedium and viciousness of modern life, you'd have to be more jaded than this correspondent to put on a proper tie and vote Conservative.