When I was a teenager, I was a devoted fan for several years of the American death metal band known as Slayer. They were loud, they were aggressive sounding, they were sacrilegious – everything I was looking for in a musical act when I was fifteen. They sang about Satan; the lead guitarist had a band of long nails protruding from the leather strap around his arm which made him look like some sort of fantasy Viking warrior.
The thing I remember most about this was the absolute worship other Slayer fans had for the band coupled with a distinct hatred of the group that could be found in anyone who didn’t fall for their charms. In other words, if you were a fan of Slayer, you loved them in a semi-religious fashion. If you weren’t, it just sounded like horrible noise you wanted to shut off or run a mile from.
It may seem odd to compare a gentle seeming older man who tends to his allotment to a band that pioneered the death metal genre. But here’s what they share: their fans love them, but there aren’t many of those fans, and to everyone outside of that small bunch of followers thinks that anyone who likes Slayer/Corbyn must have something wrong with them.
For a rock band to operate this way is perfectly acceptable. So long as your band of followers is sufficiently large enough to keep the group commercially going (and I’m assuming given the band is still performing after 35 years of being together that this is the case), then that’s all right. But if you’re a leader of a political party that has aspirations to be in government, enthusing several hundred thousand people to the point of ecstasy while alienating literally everyone else in the universe that comes into contact with you won’t cut it.
To phrase the analogy a slightly different way, if you’re the Labour leader you need to be The Beatles (or at least The Rolling Stones). You can’t be a niche group that appeals wildly to a group of people the numbers of which are relatively small. Labour would need at least 11 million votes (probably 12, now that I think about it) in order to win a general election. Looked at in this context, half a million members doesn’t seem like all that many.
You will never get a majority of Britons to love death metal, is what it comes down to. If only those who will be manning the Momentum event in Liverpool could understand what that has to do with them.