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Fringe Interview

Fringe 2022: In Conversation With … Jeremy Corbyn Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This Fringe, The Stand Comedy Club is home to a series of discussions with various well known faces; from Deborah Meaden to the University of Edinburgh’s own Professor Devi Sridhar, from Nicola Sturgeon to Ian Rankin. 

Taking the stage today was Jeremy Corbyn: jam enthusiast and former leader of the Labour Party. I thought it was surprising that a comedy club would be hosting political events, but on reflection I think it’s important to note that so much of popular comedy has its basis in politics and that there is certainly an intersection between the two.

Renowned sports journalist Graeme MacPherson was leading the discussion. He opened the show with the very broad question: “How different would Britain be right now if Labour had won the 2019 election?” Immediately the audience laughed, all in collective agreement that things would indeed be very different. Corbyn echoed this, launching into a passionate speech about the cost of living crisis and the need to tax the profits of utilities companies which have, he argued, stolen billions of pounds from the pockets of ordinary, working people. 

Corbyn had many fascinating and colourful anecdotes from his time in politics. He focused on the industrial action recently taken by the RMT – and industrial action planned over the coming months by other trade unions – reflecting on similar action that took place in the 80s under Thatcherism and how the public mood has since changed.

He recalled standing on the picket lines and facing anger and frustration from the public around the inconvenience brought upon them by strikes. Yet, during the most recent industrial action by the RMT, Corbyn felt an astounding wave of solidarity from the general public who, despite having their journeys and plans disrupted, supported the notion of strikes because ‘they’re fighting for everyone’s rights’.

MacPherson then tried to contrast Corbyn’s stance on picketing with current Labour leader Keir Starmer, who recently sacked Sam Tarry – junior shadow transport minister – for joining striking rail workers on a picket line. When asked what he would have done in that situation, Corbyn admitted he didn’t want to get involved with ‘personal politics’, but noted that when he was Labour leader he told others that he would be joining the picket line, and that anyone else was ‘free to join if they wished to do so’.

More than anything, Corbyn seemed excited for change; and that was a key word throughout this conversation. He was eager to see the impact of campaigns such as Don’t Pay and Enough is Enough as they come into full force later in the year. He pointed out that it was rare to see so many organisations rallying together to demand change, and he truly believed that change would come.

Talking about the next general election, Corbyn believed that in order to win, Labour would need to provide a credible radical alternative to the current government, rather than pandering to them and simply ‘making do’. It’s not about managing the economy, he said, it’s about changing it. 

And what about Scottish independence? Corbyn stressed how important he felt it was for there to be a Labour government in power in a union, but he firmly asserted that it was not up to him or Westminster to determine whether or not there should be a second referendum; this was up to the Scottish people, and if the people demand it then there is no mandate for refusing it.

I left the theatre feeling hopeful about the future of politics, and whilst there were certainly failures within the Corbyn administration, it was refreshing to hear from a man who is so genuinely invested in improving the lives of communities and working people. I recently learned that Corbyn has defied the Labour whip more than six-hundred times in order to do what he felt was right; and after hearing from him, it makes perfect sense.

‘In Conversation With…’ continues at The Stand’s New Town Theatre with various special guests. Dates and times vary. Find out more here.

Image ’Jeremy Corbyn’ by PES Communications is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.