Only Jeremy Corbyn could speak at Glastonbury and think he was addressing the oppressed proletariat. Glastonbury, he said, while introducing an unintelligible US rapper on the Pyramid Stage, shows ‘that another world is possible if we come together’.
To most observers, rather, it shows what is possible when the middle classes pay £228 a head and drive down to Somerset in their VWs, packed with glamping tents and Cath Kidston wellies. As Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden put it a couple of years ago, Glastonbury has become ‘the most bourgeois thing on the planet’.
What would happen to Glastonbury if Jeremy Corbyn really did win a general election rather than just think he did? Don’t count on it continuing to exist at all. You might still get a few big acts flying in for a few days to perform there, but they certainly wouldn’t be living in Britain any more. They would do as the Rolling Stones and countless others did in the 1970s: decamp to a tax haven, quick. How many of those cheering young Corbynistas know the story behind the Rolling Stones’ album Exile on Main Street, which was completed in the South of France after the Stones had fled the Inland Revenue?
Whether the festival could bear the cost of Corbyn’s minimum wage and the banning of zero-hours contracts is another matter. How would the contractors who put on Glasto afford the caterers and the security staff with a minimum wage of £10 and no flexibility in how they employ staff? How would the lesser bands afford the roadies if they had to be employed on permanent contracts guaranteeing them so many hours work a week even when the band wasn’t touring? A Corbyn government would presumably want to introduce pay ratios for bands, as he does for public sector contractors – so Thom Yorke’s pay would be pegged to that of the guy who lumps around the amplifiers for Radiohead. I think he might just go and play Las Vegas instead.
A Corbyn government might like to look at the ticket prices, too, which have increased from £1 in 1970 to £238 this year – that’s a 20-fold increase even allowing for inflation. Perhaps they will be capped, to stop the festival becoming even more middle class. If Corbyn really wants to emulate his socialist heroes, Michael Eavis will find himself having Worthy Farm nationalised beneath his nose, turned into state farm number 101.
It probably won’t get quite that far, though. I can imagine the chants at Glastonbury the year after Corbyn became Prime Minister, with the public finances ruined and Britain’s creditors demanding genuine public spending cuts – not the non-cuts (in other words, rises) in public expenditure which George Osborne visited on the nation. You would be able to hear it in Bath, Exeter, Salisbury: ‘Jeremy Corbyn. Out, out, out!’