‘Young people have been ignored by politics for too long’: A sit down with Jeremy Corbyn
Here he is
When I first get a glimpse of Jeremy Corbyn, I almost walk past him.
His white hair, casual stroll and air of humbleness could pass him off as a regular middle-aged bloke on his daily commute to work. I’m not sure what I expected – perhaps an intimidating presence which silences the room when he steps in. Of course, he has his “fans” – his press officer actually described them as such – who gaze in awe and follow his every movement. But he manages to simultaneously command a room while maintaining a self-deprecating character.
As he shakes my hand I can’t help but mentally compare him to my own father – that’s the most accurate way to describe his demeanour. It’s not to do with his age or the way he stands, slightly stooped with his hands in his pockets. It’s because he’s someone you respect but don’t fear, and this is, for some, perhaps two distinctive qualities of a successful political leader.
We’re conducting our interview in a community hall in Glasgow. Our table is equipped with cans of Irn-Bru (classic Glasgow) and a plate of ginger snaps, which Corbyn helps himself to after asking me if it was alright – like I’d ever say no. He’s polite, yet stern and unhesitant in his answers, but nevertheless easy to talk to.
This information, however, won’t be new to the nation who now know Corbyn as “a man of the people”. He has been rapidly elevated to a figure of hope and change for young people since this year’s general election, which saw him attend Labour rallies all over the country where he was met by scores of people chanting his name.
The Tab met with Jezza to chat about how young people can continue to be empowered, and, perhaps most importantly, his opinions on the Great British Bake Off.
Straight up – are you going to win the general election in four years’ time?
Hopefully sooner than four years time.
A lot of people believe you heavily implied that you’d write off historic student debt – can you confirm or deny if this will be happening?
I made it very clear that we would end tuition fees for college and university students – I didn’t say we would write off student debt. What I said was we would look at ways of limiting the cost of it and we’re looking at those things now. We didn’t make a commitment on that and it’s wholly wrong that people claim so.
What message do you have for young people who came out and voted for you?
Thank you very much for coming out and voting, thank you very much for your support in the election. It’s very important to stay involved in politics and keep that pressure up for social justice, pressure up for investment in the future and pressure to give young people a real chance. Our whole view is that young people have been ignored by politics for too long, they’ve not been given any opportunities and have been lectured to make their own provision for the future because the State will not support them in education or housing or health or pensions.
Well, sorry – it’s the 21st century, let’s have all those great values that founded our movement brought up-to-date to provide for those things for the future. Our message in the election was, ‘yes, we’re going to raise taxation for the very richest and the big corporations in order to pay for education and health.’
What do you think young people can now do to continue to stay empowered?
Through campaigning work that they do, on health provision, on housing, crucially, but also on the issues that effect us all – why, for example, is Donald Trump trying to walk away from the Paris Climate Change Agreement? Why is the UK Government still imposing Universal Credit on people who are already up against it? Why are wages so depressed that six million in the UK are on less than the Living Wage? It’s wrong. Make those campaigns and things do change. I tell you, they will.
What do you think of Jacob Rees Mogg?
I don’t do personal attacks or assessments of other politicians – I treat people with respect always and everybody else should treat each other with respect. I disagree with the political points some of them put out, including Jacob Rees Mogg. On a personal basis, I’ve never been abusive to him and he never to me.
Are you going to watch the Great British Bake Off?
Yes, I’ve checked out the timing and it works for me.
And if you were on it, what would your signature bake be?
What I like making, but it wouldn’t really work for Bake Off because it takes too long, is Christmas cake. It’s quite a long affair to make. One and a half kilos of fruit, flour, four of five hundred grams of butter – it’s not very healthy – a lot of sugar, eight eggs, and an awful lot of spices.
I do it all myself and it takes quite a while to do. Then I’ll add something that gives it a bit of flavour – whisky, sherry, whisky’s the best – put that in and bake it for at least five hours. I’ll make it in November and come Christmas time, I’ll cut it up and give it to family and friends. I enjoy doing it.
Do people still chant at you like they did at Glastonbury?
Yes, and quite a lot – it was before Glastonbury, it started at Wirral Live during the election campaign. We went to the concert and my job was to go on stage and introduce them – it all got a bit random but it was fun. It was a great concert and I was talking about sport, music and working class culture and people’s involvement in these things and how strong we are because of it. It’s about strength and community. It’s how you change things.