Mr Corbyn’s victory over Mr Smith in the Labour leadership on Saturday, by approximately 62% to 38% of the vote, was very remarkable. Most opposition leaders faced with a rebellion of their shadow cabinet, front bench, and 80% of the Parliamentary party, not to mention the hostility of the press and the biased reporting – by its own admission – of the BBC, would have thrown in the towel long ago. Yet Mr Corbyn seemed to be entirely unfazed by any of this, and not only has he survived, he has increased his popular vote. Surely his position is now unassailable for the rest of this Parliament.
It seems to me that Mr Corbyn shares a quality with an unlikely and disparate group of contemporary political figures that includes Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and Boris Johnson. He is at ease with himself; he is comfortable in his own skin. He is authentic, the real deal. He does not put on an act and he has no need for spin doctors and “special advisers”. If he makes a gaffe, it hardly seems to matter. Neither of his predecessors were like that. Mr Brown only looked at ease north of the border. Mr Miliband incurred political damage simply by eating a bacon sandwich. Mr Corbyn could be photographed dribbling a chicken vindaloo down his beard and it would matter not one whit. Similarly Mr Johnson can be stuck in mid-air in the harness of a flying fox and still look happy. Mr Farage is entirely himself with a cigarette and a pint outside an English pub. Mr Trump can be as outrageous as he likes and it never seems to do him any political harm. No matter what you think of their policies, these people have an ability to connect with the electorate simply because they look as if they are having the time of their lives. Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon also possess this quality; interestingly enough, so I think does Ruth Davidson. All of the recent Scottish Labour leaders on the other hand have looked as if they are fighting toothache. It’s hardly surprising. When Joanne Lamont resigned the leadership she said that Scottish Labour were merely a “branch office” of the Westminster PLP. I think that did Scottish Labour immense damage.
It’s odd to me that the PLP should consider Mr Corbyn to be a loser. He is polite and mild mannered. He would never have threatened to “smash” (sic) Mrs May back on her heels, as Mr Smith did. While Mrs May is beginning to look and sound more and more like Mrs Thatcher, I think Mr Corbyn, if you can hear him above the absurd ya-boo taunts and jeers, performs rather well at PMQs. Last week, Mrs May more or less said goodbye to him over the dispatch box. Well, she was a little premature with that.
But the oddest thing of all has been the hostility of the right wing press. If Mr Corbyn is as deluded and feckless as they make out, why do they bother to attack him? If his continued presence as leader is going to ensure a Tory government for a generation, why are they so intent on unseating him?
It’s because they are frightened. They are frightened of the unknown. Mr Blair they understood, and tolerated. But they can’t understand why somebody as alien to them as Mr Corbyn could have risen to the position of leader in the first place, and now, against all the odds, strengthened his leadership. It’s intolerable to them. Maybe Mr Corbyn will be Britain’s next Prime Minister. And he’s a socialist. Shock horror.