If 1997 was all about Oasis and D:Ream, Corbyn's cultural support is both more authentic and less po-facedby Richard Power Sayeed / October 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Only four years after he had come off the dole, the young man pulled up to the gates of Downing Street in a brown and cream Rolls-Royce. Beyond the famous ironwork entrance, the Blairs were hosting a party and he, the occupant of the elegant sedan, was invited. On the other side of his car door window, someone in the crowd of craned necks and hands thrusting autograph books called out “Who’s this guy?,” but no one else needed to be told that Noel Gallagher had arrived.
Twenty years later, Stormzy was standing onstage at the Men of the Year awards, a ceremony hosted by GQ magazine. Moments before, the chart-topping rapper from Croydon had been introduced by Jeremy Corbyn as “one of London’s most inspiring young men.” Now, leaning his tall frame down towards the low mic, the MC laid into the establishment.
“Theresa May is a paigon,” he told the assembled journalists and celebrities, using a slang term meaning someone not to be trusted. A reporter for the Daily Telegraph demonstrated just how down with the kids they were by immediately expressing their astonishment that the country’s emphatically Church of England prime minister had been accused of idolatry. Social media users who were more in the know started posting about Stormzy’s speech, many labeling their posts with the hashtag #Grime4Corbyn.
These are the routes by which two Labour leaders became cool: Tony Blair’s star-studded bash in July 1997, on the one hand, and, on the other, the astonishing popularity of Jeremy Corbyn among artists who make grime music, a British genre that blends a raw electronic sound with broken beats—“London’s answer to hip-hop,” according to writer Dan Hancox. But what does the enormous difference between them tell us about how their party—and the world—have changed in the intervening two decades?
Even in the summer of 1997, at the height of his popularity, the UK’s new prime minister had a significant weakness: he was cut off from his base. Well-spoken and purposefully distant from the unions and nationalized industries that had long linked the left to working class life, Blair gained from his acquaintance with Gallagher an association with the earthy and macho identity that characterized the…