Channel hopping last night we hit upon Adele’s Glastonbury performance, just as it started.
I’m not an Adele fan, but the wife likes her, so we stayed tuned in. How amazing to watch her make such a personal connection with the huge live audience, and even the thousands watching on TV. Her London accent (I’d never heard her speak before last night, only sing, so it came as a shock to me), her swearing, her sweaty top lip and, most of all, her air of somebody everyday who was thrilled and amazed to find herself in the incredible position of performing in the headline slot at the world’s most famous music festival, it all reduced the distance between performer and audience to nothing.
How fitting that performance should come on the weekend that Corbyn’s tenuous grasp on the Labour leadership starts to crumble, because Adele delivered exactly what we needed from Corbyn.
A huge percentage of those watching were probably, like me, doing so because their partners wanted to watch, or there was nothing better on, or through some sort of belief that they should still be young enough to enjoy the festival and, like me, came away feeling that Adele was an incredible performer and an act they’d genuinely like to see.
Imagine if Corbyn could have done that. If he could have found a way to make that personal connection, to make himself the ordinary person amongst the unreachable elite, somebody who was just thrilled to be given the chance to represent those who opposed the government. Instead he’s always been distant, relying on his greatest hits (which, really, only his hardcore fans know) and muttering into his mic about how this is the best town in the world to play.
The other difference, of course, is that when the time came to stop being friends with the audience and do what she was there for, Adele could deliver. The moment when she stopped a song seconds in because she was out of breath made her completely human, not a superstar, one of “us”, not one of “them”…but it was one song, moments in. Everything else was flawless.
Corbyn, having failed to connect, has also failed to deliver the politics. He’s followed meekly where he should have led, cowered when he should have roared, been honest when he should have lied and failed to bury his personal opinions when they conflicted with those of his supporters and his party.
By the end of her set last night Adele could have asked the crowd to form an opposition movement, tear into a divided Tory party, storm the gates of Downing Street and burn down Buckingham palace, and they’d have done it all. Corbyn would still be on stage, writing down in long-hand any questions they shouted out for the next PMQs.
It seems that we’re about to plunge into another Labour leadership contest. Let’s hope that all involved remember that this time the debate doesn’t need to be widened, it needs to be focussed – like a laser – on the weakened Tories, it needs to have passion rather than ideology and, more than anything else, it needs charisma.
And maybe, just maybe, “Someone like you” as an encore.