The Impact of Jeremy Corbyn on a "Waster" Who Was Once Trapped in a Drugs Den


Rewind to 2003. 

I was staying with my mate in his uncle's council flat. It was basically a drugs den and my last resort, having found myself with nowhere else to go, again. The place was foul with resin-coated walls and a smell that would not shift, no matter how much Febreze you sprayed. Buckets were lying everywhere. Picture the movie Trainspotting and you're getting there. I made the mistake of walking barefoot to the toilet one night and got a minging fungal infection. 

We tried cleaning the place from top to bottom when we first moved in, even painted one of the rooms with a tin of pastel blue paint given by my mate's mother. We were trying to make the place habitable, but my mate's uncle, who I shall call Nobhead, told us he'd moved in with his girlfriend and would honestly not be staying there, yet Nobhead kept coming back and trashing the place. He only wanted us there to guard his stuff, not that he had much. 

We lived in absolute squalor. It was nightmarish. We'd go days without food, depending on handouts, but my mate had cannabis and that got us through our toughest spot.

I wasn't even a drug user, but anyone would be a drug user in that situation, with that level of depression and anxiety, so we'd sit on a foul, battered couch and get stoned. It was self-medication. We had nothing to do, apart from listen to gangsta rap and play Metroid Prime on the Nintendo GameCube inside a smoke-filled living room; I Made You Look by Nas blaring from the hi-fi speakers. 

If you've never played Metroid Prime, you really should. It's fucking amazing. That and weed got us through those grey and miserable days.

I remember walking through the streets of Seghill at midnight once. A fiver blew into my mate's hand like a gift from God. A minute later, a lad approached and asked if we had seen a fiver. My mate said "No" and we shrugged and ran to the local garage to buy food. We were fucking starving. I still feel bad about that poor lad though. He was probably just as hungry as we were, his belly aching just as badly, but we were desperate on a level you could never understand unless you've lived it. And we were living in a world that didn't give a crap about us. This is one of the reasons I'm so passionate about helping people now. The world should care.

Weeks we were living like this, while our Jobseeker's Allowance claim was being processed, and honestly, I had friends in prison back then who had things easier, but still we had fun.

Between our games of the mercilessly tough Metroid Prime, we'd rummage through the ash tray and the minging carpet for any crumbs of tac so we could make one last joint. And more often than not, we would talk about politics. Not from a party political perspective though. We knew nothing about that nonsense. We never gave a crap about it. But we did give a crap about our situation. Our marginalisation. 

We wanted radical change but didn't know we were socialists. I knew nothing about socialism, other than loony lefties were bad. I was a Sun reader then. Don't judge me!

This was back in the Blair days and we'd been so badly let down by Blair. That's why it makes me laugh when centrists tell me centrism is what we should aspire to, even be grateful for. Can they even hear themselves?

We had a six week wait for Jobseeker's Allowance under Tony Blair, and without occasional handouts and trips to Cash Converters, we would've starved. Centrists love to get outraged about the six week wait for Universal Credit under the Tories, but they never gave a fuck when people like me were waiting that long under New Labour. They had their preferred brand of Tory in charge so they could sip their lattes and pretend everything was okay. 

I would watch these people walk into coffee shops and think I'll never be in a position where I can just walk in there and spend £4.00 on a coffee whose name I can't even pronounce! The thought was insane to me. The thought of having a permanent minimum wage job was insane to me. I drifted between working temporary jobs where supervisors spoke to me like shit and offering my body for medical research. I was literally a guinea pig, locked away in a medical facility for weeks at a time as nurses injected untested drugs into my arm and wired me up to a cardiograph, just so I could eat. 

It was fun though. It was like participating in Big Brother. I made some good mates, met some nice girls. Some of my favourite memories are from my guinea pig days!

So anyways, back to the drugs den. 

Me and my mate and his teenage brother would get stoned and we'd talk about politics from our perspective, which revolved around lack of jobs and lack of education opportunities as rich people hoarded all the country's money. 

When you're at the bottom, it's plain as day the system is broken because you know that no matter how negatively others judge you, that if you were born into a different set of circumstances, life would've been so different for you. But it's so much easier for the comfortable middle class to look down on you. I'm utterly convinced about 50% of them actually need people to look down on. It's like a psychological craving they have and it's responsible for much of the evil in the world. The other 50% are well-meaning but utterly detached and so could never really understand you.

It's so easy to write people like us off, just assume we were wasters. Nothing could be further from the truth though. 

I was the most gifted kid in my school. My teachers would tell me so. Other parents would say I'd be the one to get out this shit hole and make something of myself. I swear I was a beacon of hope to some until I became homeless and dropped out of college! My mate was a super-talented chef who worked for an agency but nothing was available for him at that point. We were super-creative. We'd draw amazing anime pictures, write hip hop songs, and we'd apply for literally every crappy job in the JobCentre. We wanted to be constructive and creative. We had talents that could be put to use by society, but where we lived, hardly anyone's talents were put to use. You were either a drone or you were unemployed.

When we spoke of politics, one line often came up: All politicians are the same.

The politicians didn't give a fuck about people like us. They wanted their hierarchy. They wanted their lives of privilege to be propped up by our misery. And they had absolutely no desire whatsoever to change the system in a way that would give lads like us a fighting chance. We were beneath them. And that's the way they liked it.

Sometimes, we'd talk about how let down we felt by Tony Blair, about how we genuinely believed for a while that he would change things for us. But any changes where we lived (and there were some) were minimal, and we never saw the benefit ourselves. Things never changed for the overwhelming majority of us. We lived in a different universe to the middle class centrists who love to say "socialism can't work" like capitalism ever did.

So obviously I was a waste of space, even though I did get myself back on my feet, working for one of the world's biggest banks for the best part of a decade. I did pretty well there too, ended up coaching their complaints staff, among other things. My wages were still shit though. I was still living on the breadline. You see, when dickheads like Tony Blair talk about "aspiration", they don't mention that most can aspire to no more than making a stupidly rich person richer while we remain on the breadline, even if we're bloody good at our job, like I was. 

Neoliberalism is a lie. And all politicians are the same.

And then Jeremy Corbyn came along. 

Corbyn had been around for decades, of course. But he arrived in my life at a time when I'd given up on UK politics. I'd never had anyone I could vote for because no party offered anything to people like me. I was more interested in US politics. I was a massive Obama fan until he let me down too. My politics at that point was anyone who won't bomb the shit out the middle east = good, and Obama couldn't even meet that low bar. But then a funny talking old guy named Bernie Sanders started making waves and I had the internet at my fingertips so I began fact checking. It was eye opening. 

I had no idea countries were making a real success of left-wing ideas and their governments were actually representing their people. Suddenly, a new world of possibility was opening up and the arrival of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader brought that hope to the UK. Suddenly, we had a choice between more than neoliberalism or neoliberalism. We had the option of meaningful change, of more than poverty.

I was more politically clued-up at this point, but on another level, still rather naive. I honestly assumed, for example, the Labour Party would unite behind their new leader, that whatever their political differences, their ultimate goal of a Labour government would bring them together. Seems hilarious now.

I actually felt like I had something to fight for. I'd married an immigrant and had a baby and we'd been put through hell by the Tory government and their bullshit immigration policies. I was driven to activism and went from having no one to vote for, to joining a political party. A party which had returned to its socialist roots. Labour.

It seemed self-evident to me that 40 years of Thatcherism had failed us. A devastating recession and grotesque levels of inequality meant this was surely undeniable. It never occurred to me that people, the media, politicians, would cling so spitefully to this system that was such a failure. How could any decent person not want change at this point? It never occurred the media would launch such a grotesque smear campaign to maintain their power and privilege. It never occurred the establishment would close ranks so effectively to snuff out any chance of meaningful change.

When they came for Jeremy Corbyn, they came for me and people like me. When they smeared him, they kicked me, stamped on me. They told the working class to get back in our box. They told us we weren't supposed to have a voice. We weren't allowed change. We could have poverty and unemployment, or we could work on the breadline to make them even richer and be fucking well grateful. 

We were being so selfish. We were Generation Me. Fucking laughable.

The problem was the cat was out the bag. The internet not only meant I was fact checking, but we all were. We were developing our political literacy. We young 'uns were learning the older Tories who hate "Generation Me," climbed the ladder of socialism, took advantage of their free university tuition, bought up all our housing stock, including council houses, and when they found themselves in privilege, they voted to deny the same opportunities to us. We watched in horror as they ignored the climate crisis and destroyed our planet, safe in the knowledge they won't be around to see the damage. We saw them acting so utterly selfishly while calling us "Generation Me".

But now we had a figure head. 

We weren't a "cult". We were an entire class of people who badly needed representation. And that's why so many rallied behind Jeremy Corbyn. Crowds of thousands came out in the rain because he showed us so emphatically a better world is possible. He came to within a whisker of power in 2017. And the establishment vilified him for offering something so terrifyingly radical, northern Europe calls it normal. And northern Europe enjoys the highest living standards in the world.

But the young understand this. And by the young, I don't mean a bunch of sixth formers. I mean people of working age. If only people of working age voted, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour would have won in both 2017 and 2019. Fact check it. You have Google.

The reason is simple: Corbyn understands we deserve a living wage. He understands we deserve stable employment with guaranteed hours. He understands education is a right and not a privilege. He understands homelessness is a stain on this country. He understands aspiration in a way the Blairites never could, because he offered the opportunities they would deny us. Corbyn understands society.

We refuse to settle for neoliberal "centrism". Even if Sir Keir Starmer becomes Prime Minister, we will still fight on. They won't silence us again. Two thirds of the British public want nationalisation. We want our green new deal. We want radical change. As far as I'm concerned, the beige Sir Keir can fuck off just as badly as Boris Johnson can.

Socialism is not only electable, but it's coming. It's just a matter of when. The only thing that can stop its arrival now is fascism. And we'll fight that to the death.

We have social media. The alternative media. We are ignoring the mainstream. We are informing each other. And even if Jeremy Corbyn's political career ends tomorrow, his legacy will live on. The thing is, we love Jeremy, but it was never about him, it was always about us. He just helped ignite the fire in our bellies. We will not give up the fight for socialism because our lives, and our children's lives, depend on it. The planet depends on it. And we know a better future is possible.

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Comments

  1. I admire your idealism and commitment for change. Having been a lifelong Socialist joining the Labour Party in 1974 I came to the conclusion 26 years ago that it is not a force for progressive change. It embraced neo liberalism and militarism and in my view if you compare the last Labour Government is wirsevthan the Tories. Corbyns leadership of the Party will just be a footnote in history. He was leader in name only. The Party post Blair/Brown was toxic and it needed a leader to detoxify the brand which was Corbyn. He had very little influence on policy. This was still a Blairite Party with a pro Nuclear weapons policy, support for a neo liberal EU, and a pro zionist policy. Corbyn may believe in public ownership of our public services and industry but whilst we remain in the EU Single Market this would never happen. Democratic Socialism has been set back in the UK. However there is a movement away from the establishment Parties of Labour and Tory. Check out Chris Williamson or Democratic Socialist sites

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    1. Much more than I can express, I thank you and celebrate you, Council Estate Voices. I really needed to read your blogs.

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