“The World Transformed” was the name of the grassroots festival held this weekend alongside the Labour conference. It was run primarily by Momentum, the group that helped propel Jeremy Corbyn to power in his own party. The phrase also sums up what has happened to the wider scene in a tumultuous year.
A few months ago, Labour seemed set for terminal decline, and wasn’t short of people within its own ranks shouting as much. No longer. “We have left our divisions behind,” Mr Corbyn told his followers, and it is certainly true that his critics – inside and outside his party – have been confounded and subdued, if not exactly silenced.
From the devastation in Dominica to beauty therapy training to climate change and a well-worded rebuke to Donald Trump, Mr Corbyn offered a prime-ministerial tour d’horizon. So confident is the Labour leader these days that he can even make a cheeky jibe about the editor of the Daily Mail, who many might consider to be the most feared man in Britain.
Natural, witty and relaxed, here is a leader transformed.
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Mr Corbyn makes a bold boast. For he goes so far as to claim that his movement has shifted the centre of gravity of British politics to the left. It is hard to argue that he has not, though there are plenty of other factors at work. After all, even Theresa May’s Conservatives now pay lip service to dealing with corporate greed, workers’ rights and the struggles of the “just about managing”. Thatcherism is firmly out of fashion, in any party. “We are now the political mainstream,” Mr Corbyn declared, and on the “threshold of power”.
This sunny optimism from their leader was greeted with comradely rapture and communal chanting of his name: Brighton meets Glasto. Mr Corbyn finds himself at the centre of a cult of personality – whoever would have put Gordon Brown on a T-shirt? – and is enjoying the affection. He deserves to. Mr Corbyn has won seats previously thought unwinnable, resurrected socialism, and finessed, as best he can, his party’s stance on Brexit.
So Mr Corbyn has reason to be proud of his record, and Labour is proud again of its socialism. A world transformed indeed.
However, while Labour is partying like it’s 1945, the long march of the British left is far from over. First, despite all the stunning achievements, Labour did, after all, lose the election, and…