The celebrations have subsided somewhat; it is now possible to walk past Downing Street without the hazard of being struck by a misdirected firework rocket or tripping over an empty champagne bottle. And despite the damaging publication of Lord Ashcroft’s biography of the Prime Minister, the festive mood remains, the celebratory narrative maintaining that, since Labour has out-clowned Michael Foot by bringing Jeremy Corbyn centre-stage, David Cameron and George Osborne have inherited the earth – at least until it pleases them to quit the political arena and embrace some congenial sinecures in merchant banking or the European Union (if there is still a European Union by that date).
The revelry has had an ecumenical dimension to it: fireworks have been as evident in the skies over Islington as over Whitehall, as the Old Believers hail the advent of their saviour Jeremy. For it is he, the Awaited One, who will lead them out of the dark valley of Thatcherism into the Utopian uplands of Marxist nirvana, while erstwhile doubters and revisionists suffer reproach: was not all foretold, in the canons of Ilyich that proclaimed the doctrine of Historical Inevitability?
It is an irony, however, that the advent of Jeremy Corbyn is actually a potent contradiction of the Marxist contention that history is directed by impersonal economic forces rather than individuals. Indeed, that thesis is not only discredited by the careers of such driven personalities as Lenin himself, Bonaparte, Hitler or Mao, but by the influence of trivial coincidences upon human destiny. If Andrew Smith, MP had not acted one minute before the close of nominations to give Corbyn the final signature he needed to contest the Labour leadership, all would have been different.
Clearly the young Cameron’s nanny never cautioned him with the old admonition: “Be careful what you wish for.” Or quite possibly she did and was treated with disregard by a man who is so often reluctant to take advice, despite being surrounded by more advisers than any previous prime minister. Arguably the Conservatives are dancing on their own grave.
That is not to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn is some kind of political genius who will revitalise Labour into a winning force. On the contrary, he is more likely to split his party before himself crashing and burning. But there is much more to it than that. Corbyn is not so much an agent as a portent. He is a symptom of a seismic change that is now engulfing politics and which could destroy the Conservatives and very likely the other legacy parties as well. Labour is already fracturing under the shock and the Tories are enjoying the spectacle, while failing to detect the fault lines opening beneath the ground they stand on.
There are two aspects to the Corbyn phenomenon. The first is its significance in terms of conventional political analysis. The second, far more important, is what it may portend in the rapidly evolving Zeitgeist that is fast changing Europe’s political landscape beyond recognition.
In conventional terms, it is worth considering, for example, how the Joker in the pack – Scotland – will be played. What if grievance-hugging Scottish lefties take to Corbyn? The SNP has been in power for eight years, it has lost a referendum on its flagship issue of independence and subsequently benefited from an emotional spasm to secure 56 out of 59 Scottish seats at Westminster. It has nowhere to go but down. Next year sees the next Scottish elections, contested under a system that prevents a repeat of the clean-sweep Westminster result.
The SNP majority at Holyrood is nine; that means it only has to lose five seats to generate the toxic headline “SNP loses majority”. The impetus and aura of invincible advance would be lost: in politics, impressions and trends are crucially important. If – and it is a big ‘if’ – that happened, the credit accruing to the “Corbyn effect” would make him virtually irremovable by internal Labour coup before 2020. Labour longs to recover its lost Scottish fiefdom, as India and Pakistan covet Kashmir. Even a minor recovery there would save Corbyn.
But in reality the consequences of Corbyn’s leadership are incalculable because none of the current political software is capable of analysing the tsunami that is fast overwhelming the political class. It is impossible to exaggerate the significance of the immigration crisis that is inundating Europe, or the fear it is creating, or the intensity of the mounting hatred of the politicians and bureaucrats who irresponsibly, arrogantly and needlessly provoked it. Europe is now in a pre-revolutionary situation.
In a few short weeks we have moved from the latest stage of the euro currency crisis to the prospect of the European Union itself collapsing. With Schengen unilaterally suspended by two nations overnight, when the EU “leaders” are running around like wet hens, when the usual suspects, with purblind arrogance, are insanely demanding more open frontiers, it is clear the old order is on the brink of extinction. Its delusory state recalls the insouciance prevailing in the Oeil-de-Boeuf at Versailles, circa June 1789.
The disconnection between governors and governed is now absolute. Europe is heading for a massive conflagration. Seventy years ago Germany devastated Europe; it is doing so again, ironically in a grandstanding attempt to advertise its repudiation of the Third Reich. Its supposedly statesmanlike leader has been exposed as the posturing pantomime dame she is, divorced from reality and haughtily attempting to dictate to a continent.
Against the flaming backcloth of this incipient Gotterdammerung, the Corbyn chronicle seems irrelevant. But, despite his party’s support for increased immigration, his sheer anti-establishment credentials could win him votes. He is untainted by power. So is UKIP. The electorate may soon be looking for someone – anyone – who is not part of the hated consensus. As on mainland Europe, the beneficiaries could be contradictory and conflicting, left and right.
The Cameron Tory Party is wholly unequipped to confront this new reality. The Prime Minister’s inner circle refers to Tony Blair, the most discredited and toxic brand in politics, as “the Master”. That is how out of date and out of touch they are. Not content with breaking his pledge to reduce immigration and admitting a record 636,000 incomers in the year to March, Cameron is now inviting in 20,000 more, of whom only 3,000 will be Syrian Christians.
The consensus parties have gone too far. As used to be said of effete Chinese dynasties, they have exhausted the mandate of Heaven. Forget the opinion polls, the focus groups, the triangulation and decapitation strategies. Throw away the playbook – playtime is over.