Truthdiggers of the Week: All Involved in Britain’s #JC4PM Tour
Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.
The #JC4PM tour first came to my attention when I ran into an article published by The Independent in which Crispin Flintoff rebuked the media for its unwillingness to cover the show after many papers he contacted called it “not newsworthy.” #JC4PM, with its social media-geared abbreviation of “Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister,” is a cabaret-style show that features comedians, musicians, poets, activists and politicians, among other public figures, all showing their support for the progressive Labour Party leader to run in 2020.
As Flintoff explained in his piece, most of the mainstream media in the United Kingdom seem hellbent on spreading the narrative that no public figure worth his or her salt is interested in Corbyn or the progressive plans he’s promoting; so when their screed is interrupted by something like #JC4PM, the way they deal with it seems to be by ignoring its existence. Glenn Greenwald recently wrote a wonderful piece for The Intercept outlining the ways in which establishment politicians and media have responded to Corbyn and the U.S. candidate Bernie Sanders in an effort to discredit progressives.
READ ALSO: Chris Hedges: Where Is Our Jeremy Corbyn?
My interest was piqued; and with almost no expectations as to what the three-hour event would be like, I booked tickets to attend the show at the O2 Forum in London on Thursday night. As I took my seat in the crowded concert hall, I looked around at the attendees and was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of age, gender and race. Though probably also representative of London’s demographics, the audience indicated to me the types of people supporting Corbyn: all types.
The same seemed true of the talent lineup. As the performers took the stage one by one, it seemed they appeared they came from various backgrounds: Jen Brister, a Spanish-British lesbian; Francesca Martinez, one of the tour organizers, with a disability that she comically explained made her “wobbly”; Ava Vidal, a black private-school graduate disgusted by inequality; and Michael Rosen, a previous U.K. children’s laureate who somewhat resembled Corbyn in some lighting (or perhaps just when I took off my glasses). Even former mayor of London Ken Livingstone was in attendance. The list went on and on and got no less diverse.
As Brister, who hosted the night’s event, said at the opening, what brought together all the people on the stage and in the audience was that they had something to be excited about in politics, a rarity worth celebrating.
The performers took turns making the audience laugh, cheer, boo (when Tory names came up) and reflect on the type of nation they want the U.K. to become.
Martinez delivered a message about inclusion and self-love despite social exclusion, bringing tears to many eyes. Rosen used his talents as a bard to poke fun at Jeremy Hunt, the conservative head of the U.K.’s National Health Services, for his ridiculous statements regarding health care, as well as to recite a brilliant poem about how educational systems often dull the brightest minds by ingraining them with conformity. Livingstone, a Labour Party legislator who has served about as long as Corbyn has, gave a rousing speech about why people all over the U.K. and United States are turning away from establishment politicians toward the hope represented by such figures as Sanders and Corbyn. Lindsey German, a convener from Britain’s “Stop the War” movement, marveled at how good it felt to see the man who’d stood beside so many activists in protest after protest over the years be elected to a position with the potential to make a significant difference in world politics. And Grace Petrie, a gay singer/songwriter whose songs contain powerful political lyrics, moved the crowd with her empowering music about welfare and the Spanish Civil War. (See clips below.)
The surprise guest of the night was the Labour Party leader himself. Corbyn unexpectedly joined the performers to thank his supporters, as well as outline the work ahead of them all as they pedal uphill toward the 2020 elections with hostile media and a conservative establishment to overcome. His fiery speech, part of which you can watch below, caused an already excited crowd to fill the room with cheering.
I left the concert hall inspired by an event that reiterated for me many of the reasons I, like so many others, have chosen to identify with the political left: Progressives’ main goals are to unite, care for and encourage people from all walks of life; to remind us that, to paraphrase Petrie, the suffering of our fellow humans is certainly our concern; and, in the case of #JC4PM, to support and honor those fighting for a better, more inclusive future, even in the face of ridicule and adversity.
The next day, eager to read opinions on the show, I scanned the Internet for media coverage. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to find barely a mention of #JC4PM, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to contribute to the silence. For this reason and the many outlined above, the organizers, participants and supporters of the #JC4PM tour are our Truthdiggers of the Week.