Why might Jeremy Corbyn be doing so well? A person-centred view and an authentic politics

Hello, it’s been a while since I wrote an entry to the blog. Pressure of work and the demand of finishing one or two projects have meant I simply haven’t had the time required to keep up with writing for the blog. Apologies to those of you that I never replied to when you emailed and asked what’s been going on and where were the blogs – I’m amazed at the capacity for writing some bloggers seem to have that manage to keep a steady trickle of blogs over a period of years; perhaps I need to learn something from them about pacing my life to fit it all in.

Talking of pace of life…how must Jeremy Corbyn be feeling right now? Exhausted I’m sure! Over the last weeks and months he’s been giving countless talks at rallies and hustings and Q&A sessions. I’ve decided to write this quick blog to share a few thoughts about my take on why he might be doing so well in this election race and is now looking like he will be elected the next Leader of the Labour Party. I went to the rally at Derby Roundhouse last weekend to see him for myself. I was impressed, not so much by the policies, they are after all pretty much standard Labour policies that New Labour abandonned. What  I was more struck by was that he really is just as he seems to be when he’s on the television or on the radio. This had been what I suspected and to be honest had hoped. It made me think that people are not necessarily coming back to Labour because of something mysterious; they are coming back because they can see, in Corbyn, a clear, consistent, transparent message being delivered by someone that ‘believes’ the message himself. What we see in Corbyn is an authentic person living in accord with his beliefs and values. His politics are congruent with his person.

It is clear from Corbyn’s policies that he values the freedom and right to self-determination of the individual; their right to be themselves and to fulfill their potential. No matter what their race, gender, sexuality, age, whether disabled or able bodied each person is an equal. He believes in the power and wisdom of the group, the collective, and that the way to release the potential in the group comes about through the empowerment and liberation of individuals, in the trust they will set to work for the development of the group as a whole. He believes in people and their constructive capabilities, he believes in dialogue as a means to bring about change and he has an unwavering desire to engage with all sides of a conflict, and towards the development of a better society and world.

Now, I guess that many involved in politics would say that they too aspire to these values; so why does Corbyn seem to have garnered the support of the majoirty of party members and the wider public so quickly?  One explanation might be that Corbyn has been able to be himself; he is being authentic in all of the things he is saying. He knows himself and what he believes in. He has a hsitory of being authentic and standing by his values and principles even when it will have been dificult for him to do so. He has defied external control when he has needed to vote by concsience. He knows what he believes in and so far he has been able to act in a way that is consistent with these beliefs. He does not wriggle out of questions needing to avoid saying something that will upset others, he says what he believes and what he believes in seems to be resonanting with hundreds of thousands of people sympathetic to Labour and socialist values. He has clear principles that run through his politics and his person.

There is no doubt challenging times lie ahead for Jeremy Corbyn if he does get elected as leader. However, It seems that the power of authenticity is being released through Corbyn and he really does offer a new hope for an ‘authentic politics’ to emerge.

9 comments

  1. sue a

    Hi David,
    You took the words out of my mouth. I was working with people who are on the fringes of this society last month, and all of them believed in Corbyn. As you point out, he is congruent, and is saying what lots of people want to hear.

    • psychotherapyblogger

      Hi Sue. Thanks for this comment. I think he is saying something that he really believes in which is why people want to hear it. They may not even agree with it but it is authentic expression and that’s so refreshing from a politician these days.

  2. Mark McDonnell

    Hi David, I absolutely agree with what you say about Jeremy Corbyn. Genuineness and authenticity might be on the way back into our political life – the performance of the SNP showed it can be rewarded with votes and that slippery image-making is not the only way to persuade people. Your blog prompts 3 reflections:
    1. Congruence in public life is to be admired but is not a measure of the validity of the beliefs of the politician; Blair and Thatcher really believed in their ‘truth’ and acted upon it pretty consistently. Blair still seems to believe the invasion of Iraq was right. Luckily, as you say, Corbyn’s view of life is inclusive and attractive. I worry that leaders are not allowed to be inconsistent and change their stance.
    2. Is there an authentic, unchanging self or are we all presenting the self we sense is required by the social environment? Are we all ‘spin doctors’, at least a little bit, in each relationship we engage in?
    3. Do leaders really get to be known for who they really are or is part of their role to become a screen for the projection of the hopes and aspirations of their followers? So the significance of the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon might be less in the way he is (or appears to be), more in that he allows people who are currently excluded to project onto him a real yearning for a different kind of politics. This is a message to all parties that something is badly out of kilter in our political life.
    All the best,
    Mark (McDonnell)

    • psychotherapyblogger

      Hi Mark, thanks for these thoughts. I have tried to answer them from my own understanding which as you will know leans heavily on the theory of the person-centred approach to personality.
      In response to the first point you make, I don’t think that Blair and Thatcher were being AS congruent in their living as say Corbyn is being. This is because, within the person-centred conceptualization, a part of the congruence of the person contains their empathic understanding of and unconditional regard for the other. You seem to be equating congruence with simply being whatever I believe in that moment regardless of the effect and impact on others (e.g. innocents in Iraq). To me this involves quite a lot of distortion if those beliefs an actions cause a great deal of harm to others. For example you may similarly say that Hitler was being congruent to his belief in his actions but this also misses the point from the person-centred conceptualization; clearly Hitler had zero unconditional positive regard for Jews, the disabled, or countless others not matching his ideal. So whilst I am sure many leaders act in accord to their beliefs I don’t equate this to truly being congruent/authentic.
      In response to the second point I agree we are all changing, we are all moving towards something and creating ourselves on a moment by moment basis. I am sure too their is always some degree of ‘spin’ or self-deception in our self conceptualisations. However, I’d also say that this is less likely to be present as we move towards greater congruence and authentic living. So yes, I agree there is always likely to be a some degree of incongruence/inauthentic being.
      Finally, the point about really knowing leaders…well what can I say? maybe, if the leader gives nothing of themselves then we don’t get to know them; but that’s a very particular style of leadership and one I feel quite uncomfortable with.

      • Mark McDonnell

        Only to ask; can’t you have empathy and congruence without positive regard? That would explain manipulation and con artists. And could you have empathy, congruence and some measure at least of positive regard and yet do harm out of ignorance and misjudgement?
        My last point was that one role of leaders is to become icons for the aspirations of the followers ( something we do to them). The image of them in people’s minds may become more important than who they really are, although related to it, of course (which is why meeting one of your heroes can be disappointing!). Nice to throw some ideas about. Thanks for the blog.

  3. Donna

    I enjoyed reading your blog post David. There is something refreshing in seeing a politician who feels able to be authentic. A great antidote to the current UK political sphere.

  4. Billy

    Yes! I think you nailed it – he is authentic and he contrasts so sharply with… well, every other contemporary politician I can think of, who seem like slippery, manipulative liars. It’s quite shocking to me that I can’t think of one who isn’t. Our system, perhaps especially the media, seems to want them all to wear masks of convention and to not be who they are, authentic.

    • psychotherapyblogger

      Thanks Billy, that’s right. Most of our politicians tend to hind their personal views and seem to always be trotting out ‘soundbites’ that will fit the image of themselves they are trying to manage. Corbyn seems to buck this trend and that’s what is so refreshing.

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