Corbyn at Glastonbury: yes or no?

By George Cook

Whether you agree with his politics or not, there is a wider debate surrounding Jeremy Corbyn and his choice to speak at Glastonbury 2016; an event which coincides with the EU referendum on the 23rd June 2016. It is widely regarded as one of the biggest decisions the UK has made in many years and is likely to be the final say on Britain’s membership of the EU for a generation.

Like myself, I am sure when you think of Glastonbury you are unlikely to think of politicians but there has been a political presence at the festival for some years now. Last year, the Dalai Lama spoke at the event and, in previous years, so too have Green Party leaders Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett. Although, they did not speak at a time when Britain has to decide on their membership of the European Union. This has resulted in criticism of Corbyn and whether this is the best time to be making an appearance at such an event, but is this a new and somewhat clever idea by Mr Corbyn or a distraction from the serious matters facing the country in the near future?

Labour’s John Woodcock was concerned that the party would not be able to capitalise on any problems that arise for the Tory Party post referendum. Others have also criticised him for not being focussed enough on his job as Labour leader. At an event that has such large connotations with music, people are questioning the reasoning behind the idea of mixing politics with music. The message that Corbyn will give at the event, whatever that may be, is unlikely to stay strong in the minds of festival goers who will possibly be thinking about the bigger acts such as Coldplay and Adele. Yet, it is clear that many, especially the younger generation, are feeling increasingly marginalised and disengaged by politics so the decision by Corbyn to speak at the festival may not be such a bad thing after all. The audience of the Glastonbury Festival generally are quite young and the Labour leader may see an opportunity to appeal to a wider audience and get more people interested in politics. Sure, he already has a wide support base among younger generations, but his presence at the venue may increase their political awareness and that surrounding the EU Referendum in particular.

Many have argued that this is a shameless gimmick merely for Corbyn to enhance his popularity and for personal gain. Glastonbury is not the time or place to be talking about politics for a mainstream party leader. However Corbyn is, and will continue to be, a man who will remain true to himself despite the criticism he faces; when has Jeremy Corbyn ever been mainstream? He has defied what is usually seen of politicians with his unorthodox style during Prime Minister’s Questions and his more radical politics that have, to everyone’s original surprise, propelled him to leader of the Labour Party.

It is hard to ignore the fact that Corbyn will not be as focussed on the EU referendum as he should be by attending the festival. I suspect, and I am only guessing, you will not see David Cameron or Nigel Farage speaking at a music festival at a time like this. But, many politicians will do the usual door to door or more general public speeches; Corbyn is likely to be alone in his presence at Glastonbury. I am by no means saying that this a new type of politics, it has been done before by other leaders, but it has not been seen by a leader of a mainstream political party. He may well be onto something.

It doesn’t matter that Corbyn has been accused of being radical or too different before. It doesn’t matter that he will face criticism for participating in events such as this. Corbyn has continued to defy the odds and grow in popularity, but will it carry on after taking such a controversial decision to speak at Glastonbury at a time of great national importance?

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