The Power of Role Models

My seven year old son wants to be Prime Minister. After he has become Mayor of London. This is possibly because he is unfortunate enough to have a mother who is obsessed with politics and has dragged him out campaigning from a young age. But the ambition dates to when he met Sadiq Khan in the street earlier this year. Sadiq Khan made a fuss of Stanley (as you can see from the photo) and shook him by the hand  – this was captured by photographers and local newspapers. Stanley also identified with Sadiq – like our current Mayor, Stanley is quite a small person. A small person with a big personality. So it is no surprise that Stanley has found a role model.

I frequently refer to Sadiq Khan at work as well. Like the students I work with, Sadiq Khan comes from a humble background. His dad was a Pakistani bus driver and Sadiq is one of eight children. I can say to my students ‘work hard and you can be the next Sadiq Khan’ without it sounding completely absurd. He is from a similar social, economic and religious background to many of my students so his success is incredibly inspiring. Let’s face it, I could hardly say ‘work hard and be the next Boris Johnson’. I guess I could if I wanted to raise a cheap laugh.

This has got me thinking about the whole question of politics and identification; we vote for politicians we either identify with or aspire to be. I have a friend who (strange as it may seem) identifies with David Cameron. He lives in a similar part of town and is of a similar social class. So he finds it hard to accept attacks on Cameron – he sees them as personal attacks on him. Likewise, I identified with Ed Miliband. He lives near me, is my age and his two children are the same age as my younger two. We went to the same university and both have academic fathers. My parents were not Marxists (far from it) but there are enough similarities to create an identification. However, I accept that very, very few people would identify with Ed Miliband and that is possibly why he lost the election last year. In addition to this, no one would probably ASPIRE to be Ed Miliband (much as I love him), although I will accept that some people would probably have aspired to be David Cameron. His air of superiority, his upper class sang froid and ability to take down his opponents at PMQs would have a definite appeal to a lot of men. His confidence and obvious wealth would make him attractive to women – Tony Blair was the Islington equivalent.

Which brings me to Jeremy Corbyn. Many people I know LOVE Jeremy. They love him in a way I find slightly scary. Again, I think it is identification. I know a lot of people who have spent their lives on the left and are deeply principled people. They go on marches and sign petitions – I do sometimes, but I am more bourgeois and less committed. Jeremy’s success is incredibly inspiring – here is someone with principles who has made it to the top without any compromises. He probably makes me feel a bit uncomfortable as I have made many, many compromises in my life – where do I even start. I am not consistently principled enough to identify with Jeremy Corbyn, though I have grown to ADMIRE him in recent weeks because he stands up to bullies. I was badly bullied at school (by very posh people not a million miles from David Cameron) so have a lifelong aversion of bullying (and posh people). Maybe on a subconscious level I am identifying with Corbyn – I felt physically sick watching members of the PLP lay into him and nothing but respect for the way he handled it.

Unlike some members of the Labour party, I do not think that Corbyn should be removed. Under his stewardship, the party has grown at an unprecedented rate. However, for Labour to be sure of winning elections, I think they need a leader who is a ROLE MODEL for working class people – and an inspiration to everyone across the country, much as Sadiq Khan is an inspiration to Londoners (and to Stanley). Step forward Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary. Angela left school at 16 and was a single parent. She was written off as as a failure and through sheer determination rose to become a union official. I cannot even begin to think how hard this would be to do – any success I have ever had is the result of privilege and being in the right place (ie London) and the right time (the 1990s). No one can argue that someone like Angela Rayner is anything but an exceptional person and someone we can all look up to. That is the sort of person I want as a future Prime Minister. She is probably not ready yet, but give it time….

This entry was published on July 15, 2016 at 11:37 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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