Jeremy Corbyn: The Outsider, Vice’s new fly-on-the-wall documentary, follows the embattled Labour leader in the run-up to the May local elections, and through the anti-Semitism scandal that preceded it. Needless to say, it’s not a cheery watch.
The film begins with presenter and Corbyn-supporter Ben Ferguson talking about his hopes for a new politics within the Labour Party. In the opening scenes, as we follow Corbyn on his constituency rounds, the new leader is presented as approachable, authentic and humble. He’s greeted warmly by his supporters, one of whom slips in a kiss on the cheek.
In sharp contrast are Corbyn’s frosty gatherings in Westminster with his team, with gloomy strategist Seumas Milne always lurking in the background. Much of the media coverage of the film has focused on Milne’s revelation – or, more likely, paranoid delusion – that top Labour staffers are setting Corbyn up for defeat at PMQs by leaking his questions to the Tories. In truth, a palpable sense of defeatism already hangs over every meeting.
The gloom only spreads. Ferguson, who begins as a starry-eyed Corbynista, is disappointed with the local election results, and puts some tough questions to Corbyn over his handling of the anti-Semitism row. Even Corbyn’s events manager muses that the leader’s critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party should ‘let him fail on his own terms’.
In their despair, Corbyn and his team find a scapegoat: the media. First, there’s the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland. ‘He’s obsessed with me’, reckons Corbyn. Later on, it’s the BBC, who he thinks is ‘obsessed beyond belief’ with his leadership woes. Clearly, it’s an obsession that cuts both ways.