by Maurice Mcleod 

Leaders make me nervous. If you believe you are the person who knows the way forward, who should lead your peers and speak for the masses you should probably not be allowed anywhere near power. This nervousness is why I ultimately want direct democracy with people regaining real power over their lives. Technology means that democracy can evolve and power can devolve. While we wait for this to silver spaceship to arrive, we have to make do with the representative democracy we have.

Leadership, and apparently, therefore electability, were the key battlegrounds for Labour’s mismatched and ill-conceived leadership contest. Owen Smith, the man who argued Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable, watched on forlornly as 313,000 Labour members and affiliates re-elected North Islington’s finest with an even larger majority than the landslide he achieved last year.

People are complex. We all have different elements to our personalities and can act inconsistently depending on any number of inputs. Believing in heroic leaders is folly. The notion of someone from outside coming riding in to the rescue just encourages apathy. It’s ironic that it was Barack Obama, the Patron Saint of black false messiahs, who famously cited the old civil rights slogan ‘We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For’:

I prefer to look at the changes I want to see and then decide who is most likely to help us achieve them. I don’t pretend to be an unbiased watcher of the Labour Party, but I am an unashamed supporter of what Jeremy Corbyn is trying to do. This is different though to being a fan of Jeremy Corbyn. I don’t know him. He seems perfectly pleasant but I have no window into his soul. All I can judge him by is his policies and the way he says he wants to lead the Labour Party.

Having said that, we are all human and presentation does matter. In our society suckled on marketing, the message needs to be swaddled in marzipan and broken into easily digestible chunks.

I’ve said before that one definite benefit to this summer’s leadership contest is that Corbyn has improved his presentation – his speech to wrap up this year’s Labour conference was proof of this.

Opening by telling the packed hall that Virgin had called to say there were actually 800 empty seats, he showed an ease of joke telling that Theresa May should learn from. At one stage he quoted legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly on socialism, then bigged up the community spirit in Jamaica before quoting Langston Hughes. It felt like he was pitching directly to me. More important than all this marzipan though was what he actually said.

Corbyn set out a platform that included:

  • Allowing councils to build more council homes, ensuring lifelong secure tenancies and introducing rent controls
  • A £500bn bailout for the people of Britain to fund a public investment bank
  • Stronger employment rights, ending zero-hour contracts and stronger unions
  • A funded secure NHS
  • Universal childcare, gradual restoration of free education and quality apprenticeships
  • A foreign policy based on justice and peace
  • Protection of human rights and action to combat all forms of discrimination
  • Nationalised rail services and possibly other utilities.

All of these are policies that will greatly improve the lives of people in Britain and behaviour abroad.  All of these will be an easy sell for the British public. Whether he can convince those of his fellow MPs, who still doubt his abilities, remains to be seen.

Queen Serena

Not all leaders are in the political arena. There are other ways of influencing culture. I’m just as suspicious of modern society’s alternative leaders – celebrities. If someone is well known for acting, or singing or playing a sport, we should be able to accept them for that skill without assigning extra value to their lifestyle choices.

That’s very different, though, to someone using the elevated platform their fame brings them to highlight issues. If someone in the public eye risks their position in order to highlight an issue it’s at least worth taking note. A good measure of whether a celebrity’s stance should be taken seriously is the impact on their careers. If a fading star suddenly espouses a controversial viewpoint we can be understandably suspicious. But when a star at the top of their trajectory makes a stand we should take more note.

This week, Serena Williams cemented her place in my heart by refusing to be silent about police violence in the USA. For too many celebrities, blackness seems like a jacket that can be put on when the rain falls and thrown in the corner when the sun shines. Serena has always remained connected to the community she came from. Like Colin Kaepernick or Beyonce, it shouldn’t be a surprise that she is willing to take make her views known.

Move or you will be moved

move

I rarely give away the title of hero, though – heroes belong in comics. Fortunately, after stubbornly resisting change for years, the fantasy world of comics finally seems to have noticed that black people exist. I grew up on comics and, although I’m a little bored of the endless superhero production line in today’s film and TV industry, I know this stuff is important for younger, less set, minds than mine. Bringing black creatives and executives into Marvel will make the stories much more relevant to their diverse audience.

Punch and Judy

While I’m talking about comics I can’t help but mention the US election. I feel dirty for how much attention I give the US but with cartoon characters and wall-to-wall coverage, it’s hard to ignore.

This week saw the composed Hillary Clinton dismantle an ill-prepared and weirdly sniffing Donald Trump in the first of three televised debates. Trump said if he ripped off the US taxpayer by not paying his taxes it was because he was ‘smart’ and claimed that Hillary had been fighting ISIS for her entire adult life.

And still, his vote hasn’t collapsed.

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White Men Dancing is a weekly column. Kiri Kankhwende and Maurice Mcleod keep an eye on Westminster. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.

Maurice Mcleod is a social commentator with Jamaican/Swazi heritage. He is director of his own communications company, Marmoset Media, and writes regularly for The Guardian and The Spectator among other titles. He is also a trustee for campaign group Race on the Agenda. Maurice often appears on Sky News as a talking head and writes about social issues, race or politics. He tweets as @mowords

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