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Monday 23 October 2017

Does Corbyn's Labour offer tangible hope?

By Fr Michael Commane - The Way I See It

In the run up to the general election in the UK the majority of newspapers were downright nasty to Jeremy Corbyn. The Sun ran a front page story with the headline 'Don't chuck Britain in the Cor bin'. Before the election Corbyn did say that if elected, the Labour Party would put higher taxes on extremely wealthy people and corporations. The Labour Party's slogan was 'For the many not the few'. That was bound to make newspaper proprietors nervous.

It's striking how Irish people follow British politics and it would seem that Irish people living in the UK are more inclined to vote Labour than Conservative. It is probably accurate to say that a large number of Irish people were pleased to see the Tories get a bloody nose.

And I have to be honest and come out with my hands up and admit that I was both flabbergasted and delighted when I saw the early exit polls announcing that the Conservatives were not going to get an overall majority. Suddenly it was appearing that Jeremy was not going to end up in the bin.

The election result and its aftermath has reminded me of the election Harold Wilson won as Labour leader back in 1964. He won by a small majority and then went on to win with a comfortable majority in 1966. Eight years later in 1974 Wilson was returned to power again but this time as leader of a minority government. In 1964 I was 15 but I can still remember my enthusiasm for Wilson and his team. Ten years later in 1974 and living in Rome I was still a Wilson fan. Wilson gave people a sense of hope. Labour gave the impression they were hell-bent on improving the lot of poorer people.

Last week a BBC programme did an analysis of the June 8 election campaign. They interviewed a number of people, who supported the different parties. One aspect came across loud and clear and that was that young Labour supporters believed that Jeremy Corbyn offered hope. Every young Labour supporter who came to camera said that word 'hope'. You know what, Corbyn did precisely that. He kept talking about change and hope and making things better. And something else: observing him on television he came across as a person who was not talking down to people. Compare his television persona to that of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, David Davis, Michael Fallon, and of course the person in charge, Theresa May.

Jeremy Corbyn sounds and acts like a man of the people and offers hope. All those television shots of him leaving his modest London home, drinking his coffee in the local restaurant. But above all the language he uses and the ideas he is expressing impress and inspire people. He offers hope. And God knows we all need to hope.

It set me thinking about the Irish Catholic Church. Why is it that the church always seems to lean towards the right? Are there any Irish bishops today who have a Corbynista touch to them? How many of them offer a tangible or exciting hope? Is it a daft thing to say or ask? Not sure about that. After all didn't Jesus spend his life railing against the establishment and offering hope?

Wexford People

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