Jeremy Corbyn’s Rise From Hapless Loser to Potential Leader

So, not surprisingly, Mr. Corbyn has a smile on his famously bearded face these days.

“He’d been moldering away in musty old rooms for 20 or 30 years, talking to very small audiences,,” said Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at Nottingham University. “And now this is someone who could be the next prime minister, and whose supporters think he would introduce the most transformative program since 1945.”

“Yes, he’s going to be enjoying that,” he added.

While Mr. Corbyn’s journey from zero to hero has been remarkable, Professor Fielding says, the party conference in Brighton, England, will bring a new question into focus: whether Labour can shift from a defensive strategy primarily intended to keep control of his party to an offensive one that could take Labour to power.

To do so, Mr. Corbyn may need to evolve from the leader of an insurgent left-wing social movement to the head of a party that can garner broad support.

Since his election triumph, there has been an upturn in his image as a down-to-earth politician who rides a bike, makes his own jam and is a multiple winner of Parliament’s beard of the year competition. When he spoke at the Glastonbury rock festival this summer, the young people in the crowd chanted his name.

While many of Britain’s predominantly right-wing newspapers remain hostile to Mr. Corbyn’s agenda, their tone has changed. Where the news media once pointed to his failure to sing the national anthem as evidence of his unsuitability for high office, recent articles have debated things like whether Mr. Corbyn is turning from vegetarianism to veganism (apparently he is not, though he is eating more vegan food).

The news media “were so amazed that the election did not turn out in the way they expected, and that Corbyn did better than predicted, Professor Fielding said, “that they have been slightly falling over themselves” and into a “perspective which has gone slightly beyond reality.”

After all, Mr. Corbyn did not win the election, even when up against an opponent, Mrs. May, who proved to be one of the worst top-level campaigners in years.

To win a general election, he will have to reach out to new voters, and “whether he is in a position to go and win a majority in Parliament is an open question,” said Mark Wickham-Jones, professor of political science at the University of Bristol. “We know that the party can mobilize at election time, but…

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