On Friday 15th July, I went to a conversation between Ben Okri and Jeremy Corbyn at the Southbank.

The auditorium was packed. The majority were young. They clapped, whistled and cheered. Most of the rest of us got infected and began to do likewise – I can’t whistle or I would have done. It was wonderful to be in that packed, huge auditorium, listening to these two men in such sane, intelligent, loving, respectful and profound conversation about the things that most matter.

 

The two of them expressed much of what I stand for, profoundly believe in and hope for. The event restored my sanity, hope, and belief that things can be better and humanity is on a long walk to a better world despite all the fallings to the wayside and almost daily horror of mass killings.

 

But I often lose my self-belief. I get knocked down by all the “bad news” from a traditional media that is too often sensational, cynical and hostile to what is fresh, hopeful and progressive. Basically it is too challenging for them. Like some of Jeremy’s opponents, “they don’t get it”.

 

It showed Jeremy at his best. It gave me a fresh insight as to who he is. He is a thought leader, one of the pioneers who generally meet with a hostile reception because they are disruptive. He is not a dangerous old “lefty” whatever that means. People like Jeremy are often decried as unrealistic. But it is people Ben and Jeremy who change the world. That is the lesson of history: idealists transform the world – people like Mary Wolstenholme, Wilberforce, the Suffragettes, Martin Luther King and Keir Hardy who started the Labour party. But it also requires people like Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee.

 

Jeremy is one of these “progressive or crusading forces”. But is Jeremy able to lead a deeply divided and diverse Labour party that is currently split in so many ways – like the Tory party? Thought leaders are not necessarily: transformative, enabling leaders who can unite people in their diversity. Diversity needs to be welcomed; “restraining forces” or “opposing forces” must be respected and valued. There is a useful phrase: “I go in with one view; I come out with a different one”. Collaboration and consensus needs to be built. That is the task of leadership. Reconciling those two forces is the big issue for Labour – and the nation. Can Jeremy do that that within his own party? That is the challenge confronting him. Also the party must reconcile the difference between its MPs and its members. In the past 48 hours Labour has received more than some 183,541 applications to vote in the party’s forthcoming leadership election.

 

As I have said elsewhere, progressive politicians need to put aside their party interests and collaborate to bring about a better Britain, a better Europe and a better world.

 

Bruce Nixon is the author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness Published by Acorn Independent Publishing.

 

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