Because nothing says ‘real change’ like a grumpy, old white man (Shush, Bernie).

 

As much as we don’t like to admit it, personality matters in politics. In fact, it is increasingly becoming one of the defining factors in the electoral sustainability of political leaders. Are you really going to tell me, for instance, that Trump would have made it this far in the US presidential campaign if he had exhibited the charisma of Ben Carson? The fact is that we are prone to identifying with people that we like on a personable level; it’s an unavoidable part of human nature, despite the troublesome implications of this in a democracy (again, I refer to you Donald Trump as proof of this).

With that in mind, let us turn to recent events surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in the UK. In June, 80 per cent of the party’s MPs voted for a motion of no confidence in Corybn’s leadership. Their grievances have largely been spurred by Corbyn’s recent half-hearted efforts as a campaigner for the Remain vote in the Brexit referendum. His campaign style, however, is merely a symptom emblematic of a much wider problem concerning Corbyn’s leadership style and personality. The man has a serious public image problem.

Corbyn doesn’t come across as indifferent only during campaigning. He has carried this aloof stance ever since he was launched into the wider public’s eye last year. Watch him coldly ignore reporters while walking around Westminster, or grumpily snap at Krishnan Guru-Murthy while being interviewed on Channel 4.

Whenever he appears in the media spotlight, he comes across as someone who doesn’t want to be there, and who thinks very little of the people around him. Granted, interviews aren’t exactly everyone’s hobby of choice, but isn’t that what part of public service is inherently about? Call this evaluation shallow and facetious all you want, it’s hard to deny the fact that Corbyn’s public image doesn’t exactly do him any favours.

And it’s not like this personality trait should be cast off as unimportant to his role as party leader, since it appears to bleed into his management style too. Several Labour MPs have expressed dissatisfaction with how Corbyn has engaged with them, saying their advice and concerns often fall on deaf ears — ears belonging to a man who has historically never wavered from his own beliefs. This may be admirable from a private perspective, but strong leadership is characterized by an ability and willingness to engage in genuine discussion within your party, followed by collaboration and compromise when it’s needed.

Jeremy Corbyn got elected on the strength of his ideas, but — in the world of modern politics — ideas alone aren’t enough to make real change. If the very party which prides itself on championing the cause of the common people is led by someone who is considered elitist and stuck in his own ways, then no wonder that Labour finds itself in the state it is in today.

For the record, Corbyn — who received over 120,000 votes from party members in the leadership election of September 2015 — still ultimately holds the legitimacy to remain Labour leader, even as members of Parliament begin to more actively undermine it. That said, all the Cabinet resignations, votes of no confidence and challenging leadership bids, are a reflection of the fact that this man doesn’t hold the respect of his parliamentary colleagues, which is a significant issue if the party wishes to make any real impact in Government. If Corbyn plans to remain as the frontman for the Labour Party, then he needs to start acting like one.

Stop exercising such disregard for your parliamentary allies, do away with the alienating demeanour and start looking like the face of hope and change that the platform which got you into power was all about.

The reality is that, with the Tories utterly dismantled by the shocking result of the Brexit vote, Labour have a real chance at winning an election should a snap contest be called following David Cameron’s full resignation. Corbyn’s 2015 victory proved to thousands of Labour supporters that the party could now offer a genuine alternative to voters in a general election, but this promise could easily be lost if he doesn’t assume his leadership responsibilities with more visible commitment.