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Why is this man on the brink of one of the greatest upsets in political history?

Jeremy Corbyn’s success may lie in the fact that he is quite simply different, writes Neale Richmond.

Neale Richmond Senator and Chairman of the Seanad Brexit Committee

AS A MONTH, August is a slow one for those of us working in politics and especially those who follow politics as the Dáil is in recess and councils don’t meet.

This gives ministers, TDs, senators and indeed councillors a chance to take a short break or more likely to chase up on outstanding representations and clear the administrative backlog.

For political watchers, these activities are pretty mundane and fail to fill column inches so instead we must chase half stories of a slightly more quirky nature or indeed look to politics elsewhere to fill the void.

In the UK, the Labour Party is in the process of choosing a new leader following its disastrous outing in May’s general election that saw Ed Milliband step down as leader and grow a beard.

The story of the leadership contest, however, has been the rise of rank outsider and perceived protest candidate, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is an old fashioned hard left Socialist.

First elected an MP in 1983, he was a card-carrying member of the militant movement and he has consistently rebelled against more centre leaning Labour leaders, particularly Tony Blair, who has intervened on number of occasions over the course of this election.

Many pollsters and more importantly the bookmakers are predicting that Corbyn will at the very least top the poll on first preference votes if not win the Leadership outright which has left many people asking why?

What is the attraction of a 66-year-old career backbencher whose politics are to the very left of the Labour Party and unlikely to transfer into votes in a general election?

Some people, particularly his supporters, have argued that Corbyn is reaching to the soul of the Labour Party, to its Socialist roots in the British labour movement.

Others have noted that Corbyn has easily outshone his other three rivals over the course of their leadership debates and on the hustings.

While the more fanciful have said that his rise is due to Tory supporters joining the Labour Party in an attempt to skew the election in favour of the candidate perceived to be the least likely to mount a serious challenge in a future General Election.

Labour leadership contest Source: Danny Lawson

One reason for his success, I would argue, is that Corbyn, quite simply is different.

Over the course of the election campaign last May, I remarked, to the few that would listen, that in terms of style, delivery and image, the leaders of the three main parties in the UK were fairly interchangeable.

All three had the same standard meticulous images and campaigned in largely the same manner with the most riveting event of the campaign being the sight of Miliband struggling to eat a bacon sandwich.

Therefore it was no surprise that the media focused first on Nigel Farage and then on the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon as they were saying different things, in a different manner, running different campaigns.

The rise of Tony Blair, driven by his spin doctor Alastair Campbell and close confidant Peter Mandelson, changed the way many people in the UK looked at their political leaders.

Blair’s image was carefully crafted and driven by the ever changing shape of media in the UK. This change of tact was perhaps responsible for the lampooning of William Hague for wearing a baseball cap, the mocking of Gordon Brown for his inability to smile and ultimately for the three main party leaders presenting themselves in an identikit manner last May.

So we come to Corbyn, the gruff anti-establishment candidate on the verge of a spectacular upset victory.

Is his popularity down to a search for the soul of the Labour Party or rather more simply a rebellion against the focus group driven generation of political leaders whose every word spoken, tie worn and choice of beverage has been analysed to death?

Whatever the reason for Corbyn’s success so far, it has breathed life into what is generally a listless month for politics watchers.

Perhaps it might serve as a lesson to our political leaders that being a bit more natural, a bit more to the point and a little less reliant on the perceived image of what a leader should be might restore some level of interest and maybe even trust in politics.

Neale Richmond is a Fine Gael councillor and member of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council

Read: Tony Blair stuck his oar into the Labour leadership race – and some people are livid

Read: Disaster of a reunited Ireland may come one step closer this summer

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About the author:

Neale Richmond  / Senator and Chairman of the Seanad Brexit Committee

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