Change and the Corbynistas

3 minute read


Jeremy Corbyn has definitely started something.

Love or loathe him, he has already changed the face of British politics. What I find fascinating is how he is doing it.

Whether consciously or not, Corbyn has shown how you build a movement – businesses of all sizes should take note.

Instead of seeing change as a ‘process’ or a ’programme’, change should be viewed as an opportunity to build and sustain a movement.

So how do you do it? Let’s look at Corbyn.

Instead of focusing on what he wants to ‘do’ (and the policies he intends to implement), Corbyn has focused on the ‘Why?’ – Corbyn has built a following because his people perceive him (most don’t ‘know’ him) as a man with a political purpose. Corbyn has stated that he wants a new kind of politics, one that seeks to address inequality and end austerity. Many people are unhappy with the political pragmatism that defines our politics – in a landscape bereft of political vision, he is offering them a purpose driven alternative.

Corbyn has also achieved cut through because he has refused to play by the old rules. He has shown by his actions that it’s ok to be different he has spoken plainly and in many instances refused to follow the established political rules. He may not have helped the ‘remain’ campaign when he admitted he was ‘7/10’ in favour of staying ‘in’ but he probably articulated what a lot of people were thinking. He is seen (by his followers) as an authentic and principled politician.

He has also mobilised his base. How many change programmes fail because the CEO chooses to focus (often unsuccessfully) solely on engaging and energising the middle tier? Corbyn has realised that to achieve real change you have to mobilise the base of your support. He has bypassed the established middle tier (in this case the Parliamentary Labour Party) and sought a direct connection with the broader party membership. He has calculated that real change won’t be achieved via the PLP (too many vested interests), he is mobilising the base to demand change and provide himself with a direct mandate.

Just as interestingly, behind the scenes the Corbynistas are engaged (or at least it looks like they are) in a radical plan to cement their authority and rewire the way the party is controlled and managed. They have established a fifth column – ‘Momentum’ to exert direct pressure on labour MP’s, build a sympathetic base and if necessary work to deselect individual MP’s.

The Corbynistas know that they can’t just rely on purpose and posture, they are working to embed the movement and change the party from inside.

Whatever you think about Corbyn (his leadership skills and his practices), he and his supporters know how you start and sustain movement. You need a purpose, clear principles, a mobilised base and a ruthless commitment to changing the organisation from within.

The PLP might not have much confidence in Jeremy’s ability to lead the party – but this is missing the point – he doesn’t really care what they think – (for better or worse) he’s seeking to change the very essence of the labour party – win or lose the leadership contest, he has already succeeded in moving the political discourse to the left.

So businesses, take note, if you want to achieve change inside your organisation, don’t focus on a ‘change programme’ focus instead on a ‘programme for change’. You don’t need to use all of the tactics from the Corbynistas Playbook (!) but you do need engage the whole organisation.

Create a clear purpose and build a movement.

Image © Shutterstock


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Simon Bailey

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