Jeremy Corbyn was predictably attacked by the Daily Heil for looking ‘scruffy and disrespectful’ at the Cenotaph this year. When the ruling class fear the possibility of a Left Labour government any line of attack is legitimate.
Thirty seven years ago the MSM carried out an almost identical attack on the then Labour leader Michael Foot.
Foot was accused of wearing a donkey jacket to the Remembrance Day service in 1981. A right wing Labour MP said he was, “disgusted to see that the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition looked more like an Irish navvy than a party leader”.
Years later the Telegraph admitted that the attack on Foot had been unfair. According to Foot’s official biographer, Lord Morgan, the coat was not a donkey jacket – which would have leather shoulders – but a “a short, blue-green overcoat” bought for Mr Foot by his wife, Jill at considerable expense.
It was no accident the Tories and the Labour Right-wing through their kept press accused Foot of wearing a donkey jacket and looking like an Irish navvy. Thatcher was low in the polls and they needed to undermine Foot, so any means was necessary. It was also significant that they tried to link Foot to the way working class people dressed at the time, as a couple of years previously thousands of local authority workers, many in donkey jackets had been striking for decent pay. The Tories hated Foot’s opposition to nuclear weapons but they hate the working class more.
Ex-political editor of the Guardian Michael White @michaelwhite first attacked Corbyn’s sartorial choices in 2015 when he asked the question, Jeremy Corbyn: is the world ready for his socks and sandals? In a bizarre article White mused: “I woke this morning after a good night’s sleep to face a nagging question in my head. Did Jeremy Corbyn use to wear open-toed sandals around Westminster in hot weather? Does he still? They’re comfy (I wear them myself), but ridiculous. If memory serves, he wore them with socks, white socks even”.
What is this obsession with the clothing of Left-wing Labour politicians? As Michael Rosen wrote in his poem, The War of Corbyn’s Coat
It’s not his coat they hate.
That’s not really their cause
What gets up all their noses?
He opposes all their wars.
The photo of Corbyn next to Theresa May is telling. Behind them are three former PMs in almost identical coats. Being members of the establishment like Major, Blair and Brown certainly are, brings a certain responsibility to ‘look the part, be the part’ as Proposition Joe said to Avon in The Wire.
The expensive clothes and formal, almost identical way most UK politicians dress expresses their consensus on the big issues of supporting capitalism and keeping the working class down. The look is meant to covey the power and uniformity of the elite. Jeremy Corbyn does not conform politically and is certainly not part of the political elite, so why would he turn up at the Cenotaph looking exactly like Major, Blair and Brown?
The ruling class have a long history of using clothes to differentiate themselves from the great unwashed. Look at the uniforms in the armed services and the rows of undeserved medals on the chests of Charles Windsor and his family.
Over one hundred years ago, Keir Hardie, the first Labour MP caused outrage when he turned up to the Gasworks (as he called Parliament) without a Top Hat! Hardie was clear that a Labour representative should not ape ruling class dress rules.
But it is not only the UK where clothes play a part in politics. When PODEMOS made their electoral breakthrough the young deputies turned up to parliament without ties and some of the men even had pony tails!
The establishment parties were outraged. The morning TV magazine programmes spewed out attacks on the PODEMOS ‘hippies’. A conservative PP deputy Villalobos even expressed a fear she could catch fleas from a PODEMOS deputy who had rastas!
When it comes to clothes socialists and the Left can never please the establishment. A couple of years after Michael Foot was unfairly criticised for what he wore at the Cenotaph, a majority of socialist councillors were elected in Liverpool. The struggle of the City that Dared to Fight Thatcher is still a reference for those who want to implement Left-wing policies at a local level.
Militant leaders of Liverpool Council like Derek Hatton and Tony Mulhearn were accused of being ‘too flashy’ and wearing sharp suits. So, Michael Foot and Jeremy Corbyn are too scruffy and Derek Hatton and Tony Mulhearn were too smart…..
Maybe it is not really about the clothes and it is all about the socialist ideas…..