Even if Corbyn loses, he will remain a force in his party – and beyond. Those Tories who want to see Britain remain in the EU do not like one bit his hints that he is open to taking on a senior role in the out campaign. And in a broader sense, the sort of Conservatives who think intelligently and strategically – and there are more of them than you think – fret that a bearded 66-year-old socialist has ignited political debate in a way that absolutely nobody in the mainstream predicted. He has stormed through the crash barriers of contemporary politics as if they weren’t there, presenting the ideals of the left as if they were brand new and absolutely tailored to the needs of our age. He has shown that party modernisation of the sort that Blair championed for 13 years is as brittle as balsa. What message does that have for Cameron, whose modernisation strategy has been much less consistent and committed than Blair’s?
The general election result suggests that the conventional rules of politics have not changed: on which basis Labour would – if Corbyn became leader – split, lose, and perhaps do both. The Tories would be the conspicuous beneficiaries.
But what if the rules have changed? What if Corbyn’s moment in the sun is more than an anomaly, a quirk, an exception that proves the rule? The smart politician allows for such possibilities. Which is why smart Tories, far from gloating, are asking themselves if this is the
startof something; and if so, of what?