The strange case of the reluctant leader and the reluctant campaigner
By Chelley Ryan
Contact Chelley here on Twitter: @chelleryn99
Anyone who knows me in the real world knows I’m not the pushy type.
I’m inherently shy around people I don’t know and don’t yet trust. My grown up children affectionately call me ‘the hermit’. I’m happy within the bubble of my family, and close, life long friends. It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. I have an optimistic view of life, and believe most people are good, honest and caring. I just enjoy my own company, and that of my husband, and nearest and dearest, and don’t feel a great need to extend my social circle beyond that – in part because I find socialising with anyone I’m not completely at ease with exhausting. I’m one of those people who feel responsible for keeping conversation flowing, yet never feel I have anything of interest to say.
But recently I’ve been forced to come out of my shell. A girl who didn’t like to speak up in the class room for fear of saying something silly, has suddenly become the woman who has recently written three articles, two of which have been published in The Morning Star and one posted on the blog Think Left. I’ve joined several FB groups, and my friends list has tripled. I’ve become a tweeting maniac, helping to organising Twitter storms and petitions. I even volunteered at a phone bank – me, the woman who hates speaking on the phone so much, I frequently pathetically plead with my husband to make any official phone calls.
So what is it that’s forced me out of my comfort zone? I’m sure a lot of you will have already guessed, especially if you’re backing Jeremy Corbyn in the labour leadership campaign.
The thought of Jeremy as leader, turning Labour back into a party that arouses passion, and stands for something again, is what has driven me out of my shell.
My husband, my children’s step dad, is a police officer. I run a little holistic therapy business. We struggle at times, but overall we manage ok. But my children are not managing ok. My son, a support worker, doing one of the most important jobs in the world, caring for vulnerable people, can’t afford to leave home at the age of 25. My daughter, a single mum, lives in terror in case this callous government plus the plug on her financial support before she can find a job, and even after she does. And my youngest is now wondering whether to pursue her dream to go to university. Her brother earned his degree before fees trebled, so for him it wasn’t as scary, but she’s wondering if it’s worth it.
I’ve become the reluctant campaigner for them, and for all the other young people out there whose dreams of a secure home and secure, well paid work, seem a million miles away in this increasingly unequal world we live in. And I’m doing it for those who suffer mental health issues, and who have such an uphill battle to get the support they so badly need. And I’m doing it for everyone who is struggling due to the cuts. And I’m doing it for peace, and for a more environmentally sustainable country, and for equality for all, and I could go on and on and on. My personal comfort comes second when so much is at stake.
When I hear Jeremy Corbyn referred to as a reluctant leader, especially when it’s said as an insult, I allow myself a wry smile. The factors that have driven Jeremy to stand for leader, and then commit to being our leader – if that’s the will of the members – are probably not a million miles from what’s driven me to campaign so hard for him.
He’s not driven by personal ambition, or glory. He’s driven by love. His love and care for others. For all of us.
Now that’s the sort of leader I want. What about you?
See also from Chelley: Corbyn’s Calling us Home