Tell me a little about the Corbyn and Labour merch you do – how did it all begin? Why did you think it was a good idea to start making it?
I’ve been a huge fan of what Jeremy Corbyn has been doing over the last few years, and even had a dream about him giving me an awesome hug once! But I’ve never met him in person, though. Even though I was purged from the Labour Party in the run-up to the last leadership election, I’m still always keen to back his efforts in other ways.
For me, t-shirts are the perfect medium for doing this sort of thing and a great way to break through bias in the media to “broadcast” one’s own message. Our Labour tees have been massively popular, especially the ‘When Nothing Goes Right, Go Left’ tee, which sums up our current political situation pretty well.
Corbyn has inspired a lot of independently made merchandise. Why do you think that is?
Simply put, there’s not enough of it and I’m not sure if major brands are going to back Corbyn. As Labour and Momentum are people-powered movements, then, of course, the people will push for independently-made merchandise. This is a great sign, because it shows enthusiasm amongst small and medium enterprises who are backing Corbyn’s grassroots movement.
The level of support shows that people are getting involved at a grassroots level by making their own tees, bags, and whatever else they can to back a Corbyn-led government, again, by broadcasting the message using fashion as a medium to voice not just support for Corbyn, but for a government made “for the many and not the few”, as the Labour party puts it.
How do his products sell compared to everything else on the site?
As the owner of a political t-shirt brand, I’ve always had my finger on the pulse of social and political trends, and whilst socialist t-shirts are quite popular, Jeremy Corbyn’s tee hasn’t been doing so well anymore. We normally chalk this up to internal and external reasons: either disappointments on Corbyn’s Brexit positions and accusations being thrown at him from the mainstream media, or that people are focussing on other major, but broader issues such as climate change, women’s rights and, in a way, Brexit fatigue. But it’s quite possible that our Corbyn tees could make a major comeback as the 2019 general elections get closer.
Have there been any change in those sales since the last election?
Yeah, definitely. Corbyn tees used to sell like hot cakes, and we were donating a portion of proceeds to Momentum at the time and putting a lot of people-power behind our political infographics and social media content. Unfortunately, Corbyn tee sales have plummeted over the last year or so, and I think that, in the public eye, the Corbyn bubble has burst; a sad reality.
Are there any other political figures in the UK you would be up for making merch on?
Not sure at the moment. We don’t normally support individual politicians, with Corbyn being a rare exception. Due to the fact that we’re a registered business in the UK, we choose not to fundraise for political candidates in the US like Bernie Sanders, but direct people to his official merchandise stores instead.
What are your personal feelings towards Corbyn?
As before, I’m a massive fan of Corbyn and his policies, but not only his current political career, but also his political history. He’s been a tireless campaigner for the Stop the War Coalition and when the majority of Labour was voting in 2003 to bomb Iraq and Afghanistan under their previous leader, Tony Blair, he was one of a few voting against doing so.
Not only that, but he has managed to create a political platform to transform Britain into a fairer, more equal society capable of getting rid of so many problems such as rough sleeping, wealth inequality, human rights and a lack of investment in the country’s future. He has endured years of abuse for being a man of principle, and we will see more of this as 12 December gets closer.
What do you think is going to happen in this election?
To be honest, this election could be a toss up, because there’s a lot of division across Labour on two fronts, namely between the more left-wing Momentum and right-wing Blairites, in addition to those supporting Leave and Remain.
There’s similar infighting with Conservatives, where some are backing a no-deal and others pushing for a deal, many who are pissed about the 21 Tory ‘rebels’ expelled from the party. This is playing into the hands of the Brexit Party, who has begun campaigning across ‘left-behind’ constituencies in the Midlands, coastal cities and northeast England.
On the other hand, despite the Tories being expected to gain 36 percent or more of the vote, according to IpsosMORI and YouGov polls, they could end up losing out as Boris Johnson has twice refused to make a coalition with the Brexit Party. No matter who wins, there are several ‘kingmakers’ such as the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish Nationals and the Brexit Party.
What Labour needs to do is hit the campaign trail running, secure the constituencies that are already Labour-dominated and fight to keep the Brexit Party or Tories from securing seats there. It’s a challenging, difficult situation for Corbyn because over 5m Labour voters backed Brexit and his party has been attacked for alleged antisemitism, party purging, received endless blame for the Keith Vaz scandal and most recently, Stalinism. You really can’t win them all.