Who is Jeremy? What is he,
that all our swains commend him?
Holy, fair and wise is he;
The heaven such grace did lend him,
that he might admired be.
The Jeremy standing in for the Bard’s Sylvia is Corbyn, putative leader of the British Labour Party, a devoted espouser – though hardly of the firebrand variety – of every celebrated leftist cause, from Apartheid and nuclear disarmament in the 1970s, to Palestine independence and state-ownership of railways and energy companies in the present.
That’s the politician, and so far, so predictable. What about the man behind the politician?
To borrow from another eminently quotable Englishman, Corbyn may qualify as the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
I’ve been googling him for an hour this morning, trying to find out not what he’s done or what he stands for – both are as plain as daylight – but what actually makes him tick. So far I’ve found very little to enlighten me.
Outside the political world, he’s been married three times, twice to South American women (which may or may not offer a clue to his character). He’s an Arsenal fan (though as Member of Parliament for Islington North that’s almost mandatory, I’d say). And that seems to be that, the extent of intelligence about his life outside politics. I’m sure he adored his wives, he may scream himself hoarse at Emirates Stadium every other Saturday, but I can’t help feeling that his passions are largely confined to political causes.
Does he have a sense of humour? Not that I can discern, neither from anything he has said, nor from anything various colleagues have said about him. Even in that land of the dourly sincere inhabited only by politicians, he seems not to be a beacon of jollity.
My views on his views have been published in this space before: I don’t disagree with many of them, but I think he’s trying to flog a political manifesto so out of tune with public sentiment that, barring some kind of global catastrophic financial crisis, it will bring about his downfall within two years. And if Len McCluskey (head of the Unite union) keeps loudly singing his praises, I might make that one year.
What I’m missing, then, is a sense of the man, the human being, whether as husband and father or just as dinner companion. He can’t, I suspect, be an ideal dinner party guest: he doesn’t drink and he’s a vegetarian. He seems, in short, to be a political automaton. And that perception, rather than his radical politics, or his dodgy union friends, or his grizzled un-ministerial appearance, may be what takes him down.
Meanwhile, I’m going to carry on googling. There must, surely, be something endearing about the fellow.