Fresh from a surprisingly strong performance in the 2017 UK general election, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn capitalized on his popularity with Britain’s youth by appearing at the Glastonbury music festival. Booked in for the famous Pyramid Stage, Corbyn basked in the near-hysterical adulation of the crowd who famously sang, “Ooooh Jeremy Corbyn! Ooooh Jeremy Corbyn!” With no Glastonbury festival planned for this year, party leadership decided to recapture last year’s magic at a summer festival of their own: Labour Live.
With a few weeks to go and ticket sales stagnant, it appears not nearly as many people are willing to pay to listen to Jeremy Corbyn if he’s not preceded by Craid David and followed by the Foo Fighters. Oops.
“JezFest” hitting the skids
Booked for June 16th at the White Hart Lane Recreation Ground (capacity 15,000) the Labour Live festival had only sold 2,500 tickets according to a story that appeared in the Huffington Post last week.
One problem could be the musical acts. The Magic Numbers, listed first on the official festival website, had a top-ten hit on the UK charts in 2005. Rae Morris, the second artist listed, had a track that peaked at number 9 in 2015. The Hookworms, who were announced with much excitement this morning, have never placed on the charts.
Mainstream success is not the same as genuine musical talent, but it is important for selling tickets to a music festival. Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonald, and professional Tory-hater Owen Jones are all “headlining” as political acts, but this is failing to make up for the lack of excitement about the musical acts.
Fearing a public relations disaster and a huge financial loss (the bill for Labour Live is reportedly two to three times what was spent on the recent local elections), Labour’s parliamentarians took to Twitter yesterday to put the hard sell on. Some attempts were predictably comical.
Hugh Gaffney MP will not be going (he will be staying home in Scotland on June 16th), but he still thinks it sounds amazing.
Get your tickets now! pic.twitter.com/fJpXmzKIw7
— Hugh Gaffney MP (@HughGaffneyMP) May 23, 2018
The real problem with Labour Live
Establishing a successful music festival can take years so the decision to hold a one-off event mixing music and politics was certainly brave.
But the real problem may be the assumption that the of “Corbynmania” of 2017 would last until the summer of 2018.
The shine is from Corbyn’s halo has been significantly tarnished in recent months. Corbyn has been accused of being a 1980s communist collaborator, been caught out for his contradictory positions on Brexit, and failed spectacularly to grapple with antisemitism that has been running rampant in some corners of the Labour movement.
Even the supposed “youthquake” that underpinned the unexpectedly strong Labour election results in the 2017 general election have since been exposed as a myth.
Every politician experiences highs and lows, so planning Labour Live on the basis that last year’s high will continue unabated is now looking foolhardy. The summer of 2017 may turn out to have been “Peak Corbyn.”