Politics is the vision of the real world as if viewed through a mirror. The image it reflects back is dependent on the location and angle of the mirror, and of course any imperfections in its manufactured surface that might distort the object in its reflection as well as the lighting. It also depends on the condition of the viewer who sees that reflection.
With mirrors, different people see things differently. Their perceptions are dependent on their preconditioning, prejudices and emotional and psychological predispositions, to say nothing of the physical condition of the eye and brain of the viewer etc. What one individual sees, another may not. Reflection and distortion are two good metaphors for our view of politics.
Take Jeremy Corbyn for example. Why is it that one group of people see him as one thing and another as something entirely different? Is it all down to subjective self interest or is there something else that makes all the difference? In my case it is a sense of history – English history – that illuminates the image of Jeremy Corbyn. I tend to see him reflected in the mirror of politics in the candlelight of history, in the same way that I saw the image of Margaret Hilda Thatcher. In the wider view of things, despite the ‘plain as a pike staff’, Daily Mail, ‘bloody obvious’, political differences between them, Corbyn and Thatcher have some things in common.
They both come from the dissenting, rather puritanical, radical side of English historical politics – not the established side. I recall telling a bewildered looking stockbroker at the bar in the City of London Club – just after Margaret Hilda had surprisingly been voted the unprecedented and unpredicted leader of the Conservative Party – that we had seen no one like her since Oliver Cromwell. I meant simply that she was an obvious revolutionary who would not normally have been considered and certainly not chosen to lead a comfortably, class based, club centric Conservative party.
That in essential respects is true of J. Corbyn. The ironic things that Thatcher and Corbyn share in common are the facts that above all, they were elected as unthinkable leaders of their respective political parties and that both came from the same dissenting voice in English politics that dates back to the English Reformation of Henry VIII and the formative years of the 17th century English Revolution. Thatcher genuinely was an English east coast, non-conforming, seemingly somewhat puritanical Methodist.
Corbyn may have no particular religious beliefs, being an international socialist by conviction, but he does in his personal demeanour and pacifist leanings look the very picture of a plain speaking English Quaker of old: happy with the simpler things in life; wishing to deceive and short change none; and non-conforming to the previous politics of his party’s own New Labour policy and leadership. He rides a bike not as a photo opportunity, like B. Johnson and (in the early days) J. Cameron but as his chosen means of transportation. He is and looks a serious urban cyclist.
Like Margaret Thatcher, another serious person, he does not seem to find much pleasure in frivolity or have an obvious sense of humour. Like the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who quit the position of Emperor in order to grow cabbages on the Dalmatian coast, Jeremy Corbyn has an allotment in East Finchley, which is oddly another area with strong English Civil War connections. Oliver’s son Richard Cromwell lived in a small house on old East Finchley Common when his father was Lord Protector of England. Moreover, co-incidentally, it is also the territory where Margaret Thatcher first became a Member of Parliament. And cosily, just down the road from Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate cemetery. Coincidence is another thing that Jeremy Corbyn and Margaret Thatcher seem to have in common.
They may have little in common in terms of political dogma but they do seem indicatively alike in temperament: serious, no frills, non establishment, unstuffy and willing to turn the world upside down for principle. She had the hectoring Cromwell streak; he does not. You can imagine both of them, had they been around, as members of the Civil War parliamentary side whereas David Cameron, a true conservative, would have been an energetic, pleasure loving, pink cheeked King’s cavalier, bending the knee to the exiled King in Oxford.
They obviously also share a belief in Parliament and the parliamentary system – something that no communist would entertain. Corbyn may have been a left-wing rebel against his own party leadership but he has always remained a member of the House of Commons.
They are both people of the hour as in that old saying: ‘cometh the hour cometh the man’ – or woman. They were and are the unthinkable answers to no longer tolerable things. In the case of Jeremy Corbyn it is the stifling, stagey conformity of modern professional politics and the feeling that many on his side of life have been unrepresented in political leadership. Thank God for politics! It is always better than the non-parliamentary paramilitary solution where the disenfranchised feel they have no alternative but to take to the streets and generals mutiny if the electorate dare to elect people they do not care for.
Will Jeremy Corbyn encounter his much prophesied fate? Probably, but it’s too early to know. People have the habit of adapting. David Cameron in a party conference spasm excoriated him with words about never let letting ‘that man’ into power. The two iron laws of politics are ‘never say never’ and ‘a week is a long time’. Corbyn seems likeable and liked and a refreshing relief to the spun, ultra professional politicians of our times who people do not believe or trust as their representatives. Being a contrarian value investor myself, I think that Jeremy Corbyn’s stock has more value than the market thinks.