This year has been tough for Labour Party members and supporters. There was no let-up in campaigning from January to September: first, with the local and mayoral elections; second, with the EU Referendum; and, finally, with an unnecessary leadership election. And then, we find that – after all that work – we are left with a post-Brexit culture of xenophobia and economic uncertainty, topped off with the election of Donald Trump as US President. It’s hard to take. Now that winter has arrived, we really need something to cheer us up.
The Jeremy Corbyn Christmas single, ‘JC4PM for me’ was thought up as a means of brightening up the end of the year and also raising money for foodbanks (through the Trussell Trust). Robb Johnson’s original lyrics had been a highlight of the ‘#KeepCorbyn’ tour dates in September. The chorus about voting Jeremy Corbyn was so catchy that I was singing it most of the way home from gigs. And it was at that time that I was thinking how a Christmas single would be a novel way of countering negative media about Jeremy Corbyn. It seemed incredible that Robb Johnson had written this song at a time I was thinking about it.
Robb was enthusiastic about the idea of putting together a Christmas single. I had no idea how this worked but I was willing to help with getting it off the ground. Robb adapted the lyrics to include a Yuletide theme and as many seasonal musical references as were palatable were added (sleigh bells, xylophone, children singing, a big chorus). We decided to make the single overly tacky as that is what the whole Christmas single genre is about. But, having said that, we also wanted to pass on a message of support for Jeremy Corbyn and include some policy references.
The most uplifting aspect of the past year has been Jeremy Corbyn’s courage in the face of the plot against him. He has shown great leadership in keeping the Labour Party together and everyone agrees that he has really found his feet with the media and in the House of Commons. His behaviour throughout has been inspirational. If anyone deserves a tribute single this year, it is the Labour Party leader.
We decided that the Christmas single should centre on Robb Johnson. That he should front it. He didn’t like the idea and he took some persuading as he thought it was a collective effort. That’s what makes Robb such a fantastic focal point: like JC himself, he’s a lovely man with no ego. We also needed to acknowledge the other people who contributed to the single (Attila the Stockbroker, Fae Simon, Joe Solo, Maxine Peake and about ten singers in the chorus) so we needed a band name. The word ‘Corbynista’ is often used as a kind of insult. However, if we adopt it, then it loses its power.
Along with the incredibly methodical graphic designer Jason Harris, I worked on the artwork. We decided we wouldn’t use a real image of Jeremy Corbyn but would show something that represented him instead. The Jeremy Corbyn Doll/Alternative Xmas tree topper by SnorkersImaginarium was perfect. We wanted to make it clear that the tackiness of the single was not related to the real Jeremy Corbyn. Jason also enjoyed finding an outlandish typeface!
We made the video about Robb. So the scenes are all shot in places that he is familiar with in Hove: his house, the roads around it and his local pub. We mobilised a group of Jeremy Corbyn supporters to appear in the final scene, shot in the Laines in Brighton and I was tasked with distributing santa hats and dropping the fake snow. Roland Denning has made an hilarious video that is due for release at the end of the month and Liam Scully filmed a video of the video being made and this was to be our teaser for when we announced that a single was to be released.
The reaction to the short teaser video for the single was unexpected. It had over 50,000 views on Facebook and 500 retweets within only a few days. This was greater than any video I had released for the ‘JC4PM tour’ (including exclusive footage of Jeremy Corbyn himself). Soon enough, BBC Radio 5 Live, The Wright Stuff, and The Daily Politics all asked for an interview with Robb.
The Daily Politics asked Robb to appear to discuss the single with former DJ Mike Read. Robb was against this and wanted to pull out as he wasn’t prepared to share the same studio as a man who had spoken up for the xenophobic policies of UKIP. I told the producer that he wouldn’t appear unless someone else replaced him and they agreed (Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick took his place).
There have been negative comments about the single. I expected that. Mostly it has been from people who don’t support Jeremy Corbyn, but there have also been people who do support him who have said it is a bad idea. There have been comments that it is ’embarrassing’ or ‘cringeworthy’. I’d say this is a response to Christmas itself: a time of the year when people gaudily light up their houses, wear silly jumpers and blow up inflatable snowmen in their front gardens. There have also been comments suggesting ‘this will backfire’. I imagine this is referring to the very pro-Corbyn media, who will suddenly turn on him for a Christmas single released by his own supporters (I’m being sarcastic by the way).
One of the performers on the single, Joe Solo, is also releasing a Christmas single, ‘Merry Christmas from Hatfield Main’, which raises money for independent foodbanks that cover shortages in the Doncaster area. We are working with Joe and the team behind him to push for two Christmas chart toppers and both Robb and Joe will be appearing at a #JC4PM gig in Wakefield next week (tickets are available here).
Some newspapers have said that they think ‘JC4PM for me’ could do well in the Christmas charts. The Guardian wrote: ‘It’s as cheery a political campaign song as you’re likely to find’. And now bookmakers are offering odds of 80/1 on the single becoming the Christmas number one.
Does anyone remember the odds on Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader in 2015?
‘JC4PM for me’ is available for download on 9 December. CD and vinyl versions are also available.
There is a launch party at the Kingsway Banqueting Restaurant in west London on 9 December. Tickets for a three-course curry costing £20/£12 (concessions) can be bought here.