2015 and its cast of eccentric leaders
Jeremy Corbyn, the British MP for North Islington in London, is the new leader of the Labour Party and the British opposition.
He won the leadership contest with a landslide victory, beating three shadow cabinet ministers with 60 per cent!
Now, to understand Corbyn, you have to go back some years and imagine an extreme of the 1986 Museveni. Corbyn, 66, rides a bicycle to work and does not have a car. He leads a simple life and does not spend a lot of money according to Wikipedia. It is said that he and his second wife divorced over a disagreement over sending his son to a selective school because he opposes that kind of school for young people.
How did he end up as leader of the opposition? Strange indeed! He has been a Labour Party MP of North Islington for 33 years but has never taken up any party position. Instead, he can be described as a true party rebel that actively opposed the Iraq War in 2003 and the Afghanistan War in 2001.
He consistently failed to attend Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meetings and some Labour MPs publically complained that they had never spoken to him. Corbyn won the parliamentary Beard of the Year five times. He has said in the past that his beard is a symbol of dissent against New Labour, which is former prime minister Tony Blair’s brand.
Corbyn expressed disappointment by the lack of a left wing candidate at the beginning of the Labour Party leadership contest. He secured his nomination very late and only managed to collect 36 nominations signatures – the minimum is 35! The highest was 68 nominations.
Some nominated him just as a joke to add variety to the ballot paper. A senior Labour member and ex-adviser to Tony Blair lamented that those who nominated Corbyn just to ‘broaden the debate’ are morons, and a former minister, Margaret Beckett, accepted the accusation. She nominated Corbyn but had no intention of voting for him! Well, he is now the boss.
And he is exciting – similar to the 1986 Museveni! He believes in re-nationalisation especially in the energy and transport sections and wants students’ university fees abolished. He has changed the traditional Prime Minister’s Question Time and introduced a new style of political interviews. He hates silly traditional political routines and ‘kajanja’ in parliament!
Now David Cameron and his Conservative Party are in a dilemma about how to handle him. Initially, they celebrated Corbyn’s win, declaring that Labour had already lost the next election since they now have a loony leader! However, the fact that he garnered such a large vote requires them to tread very carefully.
Of course the Brits were totally unprepared for Corbyn’s leadership! In the USA, the 2008 tough Democratic Party primaries campaign featuring Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that prepared Americans for Obama’s reign, the Democrats were so sure of taking power that they let a black man and a woman contest.
Clinton is back on the campaign trail now and having to work mighty hard. Even if she wins, it is unlikely that there will be another woman after her, or even a black man, becoming president soon. The American presidency is the preserve of old, rich white men!
In Zimbabwe, the once extreme left wing President Robert Mugabe seems to be in some kind of trouble. Last week, he ‘accidentally’ read an old speech in parliament attended by foreign dignitaries, judges and military officers. Surprisingly (or not) members of his party applauded at intervals yet it was clear to all that this was the wrong speech.
Two days later, the right speech was released and distributed in parliament by the vice president. Will Mugabe or his party apologise?
Then there is Donald Trump, the American billionaire leading the field of Republican candidates competing in primaries. Can he really become president of the USA? He says what he feels and many times such thoughts are politically incorrect and sound unacceptable. He has called Mexican immigrants thieves and judges people by their looks, especially women!
Back home, all eyes have been on the very suave Amama Mbabazi versus the abrasive FDC veteran Kizza Besigye and others as they hustled for The Democratic Alliance presidential candidacy. On the other side, the well-resourced NRM’s Yoweri Museveni awaits! We certainly do not have a Jeremy Corbyn here!
The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.