Jeremy Corbyn is like Marmite. Not in the sense that you love him or hate him. But in that he is almost universally hated, does no real harm, wears brown a lot, and has very few true fans. And it cannot be denied that they both have a pretty strong kick.
However there is one fundamental difference. When I log on to BBC News, I am not bombarded with how much people hate Marmite. When I read The Telegraph, I am not subject to ‘what Marmite has done next’. The Labour leader has been systematically attacked by the media over everything from the way he dresses to what he believes in. He cannot so much as bow at a war memorial without the angle being scrutinised. My question is: why?
From big to small, his actions are ridiculed and scoffed at. He has been criticised as unchanging, too leftwing and even unelectable. So what?
Corbyn is the leader of the opposition, the party that opposes the current rightwing government. Of course he is going to be leftwing. Preferably strongly leftwing, as we face a government more austere than times under Thatcher.
The unchanging nature of his policies is also broadly welcome in an age characterised by selling to the highest bidder, a mercenary political scene more concerned with the type of suit worn by the opposition than their morals. Far from the spineless Tory-groupies of New Labour, Corbyn represents a Labour Party of old: devoted to equality, strongly opposing austerity and standing up for the common people.
And it is the age of this outlook that is often criticised the most. Starting with his own party, there has been a consensus that because something is old it will not work any more. So presumably we should throw out our vintage wines and bulldoze our castles. Part of Corbyn’s appeal lies in his dedication, his firm belief in the spirit of what Labour should be and his unwavering adherence to this ideology.
This brings us to the last common attack against him, the last brick to be thrown: his policies are unelectable. Yet there he is: elected, funnily enough.
He appeals to young voters who feel alienated from the political establishment. He appeals to those who rely on welfare in post-recession Britain. He appeals to those who reject New Labour, seeing it as just another version of the Conservative Party.
The problem with Corbyn is not a problem at all but the way he is ruthlessly hounded by the media. Let the man do his job. We need a strong opposition. We do not need a spin doctor with teeth a bit too white. We do not need a bumbling chancellor who will let the opposition walk into power.
We need a man unafraid to stand up for what he believes in – from renationalising the railways to nuclear disarmament to wearing a vest to work.
We do not have to agree with him. We do not have to support him. We do not even have to like him.
We just need to accept him as he is, keep that option available, and consider that in a political world of sickly sweet jams, maybe what we need is a bit of Marmite.
Image: Garry Knight