Glastonbury is notorious for being one of the most irritating spectacles in the British calendar, so it is hardly surprising that, when combined with a smattering of Jeremy Corbyn fanaticism, it has gone down badly. There is obviously something repellent about watching 100,000 yuppies – who had paid £238 for the privilege of standing in a field, listening to Ed Sheeran – chanting Corbyn’s name and extolling the virtues of a socialist utopia. But, beyond this, there is something more telling to the newspaper headlines and editorials: the right simply doesn’t have a clue what’s going on with the left.
Take, for example, the so-called ‘Day of Rage’ last week (where angry youths were expected to mob Parliament, but, instead, just basked peaceably in the sunshine). In anticipation, the Sun published a leader depicting pro-Corbyn activists as descending upon London ‘an iPhone in one hand, a £3 coffee in the other’. This, apparently, has become the favoured trick of the right: to dismiss Labour’s success as a middle-class phenomenon, which holds the working classes in dispossessed contempt.
Class, however, is no longer a good indicator of voting intention. YouGov data had the public split, fairly evenly, in every social bracket. A better predictor is education: people with less education were more likely to vote Tory, people with more education were more likely to vote Labour. There has been some scoffing at that trend on the right – more laughter at the expense of the Stepford Students and their tuition fee obsession – but it ought to worry them. Education is not synonymous with wealth or privilege, rose gold iPhones or flat whites. It is, however, synonymous with knowledge, and the ability to make informed decisions at the ballot box. So why is there this cartoonish insistence on depicting Corbyn-supporters as petulant children, half-clone, half-drone?
It is perfectly reasonable for people to buy takeaway coffee (it rarely costs £3) and own an iPhone. Indeed, thanks to the progress of technology in one direction and the property market in the other, ownership of a mobile phone, tablet or laptop has been redrawn as the baseline of capitalism, with home-ownership now lodged at the other end of the spectrum. This is a total reversal of life in the 1980s, when most newspaper editors were growing up, but this trend ought to be recognised and weighted for in coverage. After the shock of the Brexit result, there was an attempt made by people on the left to smear Leave voters as port-swilling, flag-waving nationalists (or even racists), rather than to try to understand how it actually happened. And even though this response was met with anger from Brexiteers, the right is allowing itself to fall into exactly the same trap with its diminution of the Corbyn movement to banal stereotypes.
We are in a period where the right-wing analysis of the left is all laughable caricature (which ended so well in Theresa May’s attempt to turn Corbyn into your mad granddad…) and the left-wing analysis of the right is non-existent, such is the navel gazing tendency within the movement. This is a deeply unhealthy situation. So even though it’s painful to watch Radiohead leading a chorus of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn!’, it is important to remember that this doesn’t represent the reality of a movement that snagged 40 per cent of the popular vote just a few weeks ago. Tempting as the cheaper shots might be, something is happening on the left that cannot be explained away by lattes and avocado toast.