Jeremy Corbyn has had a taste of rock stardom and, oh boy, he wants another spoonful, please. The shell suit-loving Labour leader opened up for boisterous hip-hop duo Run the Jewels at Glastonbury last year, telling an effusive audience: “I want to see a world where there is real opportunity for everybody in our society.” Sadly, he didn’t follow up with, “Anyway, here’s ‘Wonderwall.”
But he’s given himself a second chance to whip out a singalong. Yes, today the Labour Party unveiled its upcoming festival Labour Live, a one-day jamboree to be held at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane recreation ground on Saturday June 1. If you’re a Foxtons estate agent with an open tab at The Sugar Hut, may we gently nudge in the direction of V Festival. If you’re a linen suited activist who enjoyed The Voice several years ago, get yourself down to Tottenham this summer.
That’s right: the Labour Live line-up leaves something to be desired. Corbz will deliver a speech, naturally, while charismatic singer-songwriter Rae Morris is also thankfully on the bill. After that, though, things… thin out a bit. London indie-poppers The Magic Numbers had their last hit record in 2006 –and they’re comparative big hitters. Little Jermaine Jackman won The Voice – the talent show that’s guaranteed to give you everything you ever dreamed of, as long as you didn’t dream of a career in music – back in 2014 and we’ve barely heard a peep out of him since.
Admittedly Jackman and the Labour leader go way back. The musician was just 11 when Corbz discovered him at an Islington Arts and Media School talent show; Jackman was asked to perform at the politician’s political rallies in the years that followed. So Corbyn’s booked his old mate who doesn’t mean a great deal to the British public to perform at a festival in 2018. And people say he’s too insular to win over the average person!
What’s baffling about this is the sheer number of musicians who were desperate to align themselves with Corbyn in the run-up to last year’s General Election – which saw a reported rise in youth voter turnout (though there’s been some debate about this) and high-than-expected vote share for Labour that was widely attributed to the so-called ‘youthquake’. Was there really nobody better than Jermain Jackman and The Magic Numbers that Labour could have booked? It’s enough to make you shake your head and mutter, “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn…”
I mean, come on – he could have simply typed ‘#Grime4Corbyn’ into the Twitter search bar. Rappers JME and Novelist urged fans to vote for him in last year’s election, while some cad even added Corbz to the Wikipedia page of JME’s grime collective Boy Better Know. More rappers who’ve thrown their weight behind him: Stormzy (in 2016 he told The Guardian: “My man, Jeremy! Young Jeremy, my guy. I dig what he says”) , AJ Tracey, Akala, P Money, Slix from Ruff Sqwad and more. Last summer saw a series of #Grime4Corbyn events – party political rally, part one-day festival – sweep the country.
Could that energy not have been channeled into Labour Live? If Corbyn really wants to reach young voters, the means are right there in front of him. And it’s not only grime artist the organisers could have contacted. Run the Jewels would surely return the favour for their former support artist, wouldn’t they?
In addition, the Labour leader’s received support from indie bands such as Wolf Alice and Shame (the latter group told NME: “We’re all fucked right now and that’s definitely a catalyst for being more outspoken and political”), who could make for a vital and exciting line-up. What we have, instead, is a missed opportunity, and one that’s about as cool as Corbyn’s shell suits.