British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn gets rock-star treatment at Glastonbury

Revellers cheering Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival last Saturday.
Revellers cheering Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival last Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

GLASTONBURY (England) •Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran were the top-billing acts in the heavyweight Glastonbury Festival, but which act was being spotted the most on fans' T-shirts?

It is politician Jeremy Corbyn.

The 68-year-old Labour Party leader's popularity at Worthy Farm in south-west England could be measured by the number of Corbyn T-shirts and pro-Corbyn banners on display.

They easily outnumbered those for the stellar names on the musical bill and the chant "Oh, Jeremy Corbyn" rang round the world's biggest greenfield festival, whose five-day run ended yesterday.

Last Saturday, the British opposition leader got a rock-star reception at the event, telling a headliner- sized crowd that millions of young people who voted for him would not be silenced or sidelined.

Dismissed as a left-wing no- hoper before elections on June 8, he attracted a surge of support from 18- to 24-year-olds, who helped his Labour Party deny Conservative Party Prime Minister Theresa May a parliamentary majority.

Appearing between British singer-songwriter Craig David and American rap act Run The Jewels, Mr Corbyn - who promised during campaigning to abolish tuition fees - said he was proud to have led Labour into an election that delivered the biggest increase in the party's support since 1945.

"But what was even more inspiring was the number of young people who got involved for the first time because they were fed up with being denigrated, fed up with being told they don't matter (and) fed up with being told they never participate," he said to cheers from the crowd.

Invited to speak on the famous stage by festival founder Michael Eavis, he said Glastonbury was about people coming together in support of causes such as environmentalism.

"There is only one planet - not even Donald Trump believes there is another planet somewhere else," he added, referring to the United States President.

Billy Bragg, the singer, songwriter and activist who runs the Left Field politics and music stage, said Brexit had shocked young people into becoming interested in politics and their influence had been seen a year later.

He said: "If it can be sustained, it's a sea change in British politics because it means that all parties will have to take their views into account."

An undercurrent of politics also swirled around the Other Stage, where former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher ended his set by asking the crowd to join in a rendition of Don't Look Back In Anger in memory of the victims of recent terror attacks in Manchester and London and the Grenfell Tower fire.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'British opposition leader gets rock-star welcome'. Print Edition | Subscribe