Jeremy Corbyn’s identity as a politician of the youth was proved in his election success in 2017. From 2015-17 there had been a 20% increase in support for Labour from 18 to 24 year olds. Young people were enamoured with Corbyn and his socialist polices, most prominently the pledge to scrap tuition fees (which he later retracted). In an article from The Guardian, Rhiannon Cosslett stated that Corbyn was inspiring ‘a generation of young people who feel they have never known an honest, decent politician.’ He appeared at Glastonbury, was interviewed by grime artist JME, and became ubiquitous across social media. ‘The Jeremy Corbyn factor’ was in full force.
How does his status fare now?
Labour has been hit with a string of anti-Semitism accusations and Corbyn has become the poster boy of this crisis. He has deleted his private Facebook page after claims he belonged to several supporters’ groups that contained anti-Semitic comments. There has been heavy criticism of his defence of a mural in 2012 that depicted Jewish bankers playing a board game on the backs of broken people.
Corbyn admitted that there had been ‘pockets’ of anti-Semitism within the party. He has been condemned for his handling of insistences, such as Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah after their anti-Semitic comments. Even Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey acknowledged that a zero-tolerance policy to anti-Semitism had not been ‘enforced as effectively as it should have been,’ and many of Corbyn’s own party colleagues joined the demonstration in Parliament Square.
The revelations have been met with concern and anger from the Jewish community. Last weekend I stood outside the Labour Party Headquarters and shouted ‘enough is enough.’ As a young British Jewish student, I feel alienated in the fact that I cannot support a man who has failed to deal with allegations in his own party. Jews know full well what anti-Semitism is, and the calamitous effects that can stem from it. I lit my candle on Holocaust Memorial Day for Elise Cohn, aged two, who perished in Auschwitz in 1942, and am deeply frustrated by Corbyn’s previous inability to immediately suspend a candidate within his party who supported someone that allegedly labelled it a ‘hoax.’
However I remain an anomaly, and many students still have an immense amount of faith in the politician. An article from The Young European News entitled ‘In Defence of Jeremy Corbyn’, states that the ‘blame thrown on Corbyn is confusedly misplaced, anachronistic and inflated.’
‘For the many, not the few’ seems to still be the music to the ears of students across the country facing large debts, and worrying employment and housing prospects. Corbyn’s announcement to introduce free bus travel for under 25s (which could save students around £1,000 a year) is further proof of this appeal, and feels like a last-minute attempt to regain support that may be dwindling in light of the recent revelations.
There is an expression of disillusionment in the man who so strongly labelled himself as ‘anti-racist,’ but this seems to be overshadowed by his attractive policies, and an overall belief in Labour:
Josh Groves, Chair of Birmingham Labour Students, told me that that he feels the recent anti-Semitism claims have ‘failed’ to be taken seriously, and said ‘this is the first time I have been worried about Corbyn’s character.’ However he said he was ‘pleased Corbyn had accepted there is an issue’ and is ‘hopeful’ that action will be taken.
Additionally Michael, an Oxford student, said that the scandal had ‘definitely changed my opinion of Corbyn… I’m disheartened by how reluctant he has been to condemn it,’ but does still plan to vote for him and the Party.
Although Jeremy Corbyn may have lost his celebrity status, Labour still holds the student majority, and anti-Semitism allegations appear to have limited extent on support for the party and leader himself. As he further directs policies towards the youth, it is clear that this has become part of his plan to maintain support and arise from the current crisis. Unfortunately no free travel ticket will give me enough reassurance to jump aboard the Corbyn train.