After recent events, we should start by asking how long said era is going to last. The genesis of the Corbyn project has been poorer than what I and many others had expected. From the numerous comms gaffes of the last 48 hours, most notably involving shadow cabinet appointments, to the by all accounts tense and subdued meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party yesterday evening, it’s been a tough start for Jeremy. Whatever one thinks of his politics, it was difficult not to feel at least a little sorry for the man as he was besieged by journalists, finally arriving at his car and asking his assistant in a little boy who had scraped his knee voice to save him.
But don’t be fooled. If Jeremy survives the first month without storming off, I still think he could have a honeymoon period. Bear in mind that while all of the machinations I’ve detailed above made a huge impression within the Westminster village, most Britons will still not have formed an opinion, good or bad, of Corbyn at all just yet.
So assuming he sticks around, how will Corbyn affect the Tories? The big thing the arrival of Jeremy as the leader of the opposition could do is exacerbate tensions within the Parliamentary Conservative Party. A feeling that a piece of putty wearing a blue rosette could win the next general election is becoming accepted truth within their ranks. This could make the right of the party think they don’t need Cameron to win again and that a much more right-wing leader could be prime minister now that Labour has committed suicide. While Cameron and Osborne try and use the Corbyn ascent to claim ever more of the centre ground, the tension between the holders of these mutually exclusive aims could become massive.
Where this already leading to is strange alliances across the divide. David Davis speaking in the House against the government’s Trade Union Bill (albeit with caveats) is a good example of the weird sorts of realignments emerging. The vote on bombing Syria, which Cameron has already publicly said he thinks he can get the House to approve on the back of enough Labour MPs defying Corbyn on the matter, is an even more relevant example. The prime minister is partially doing this to jump all over divisions within the Labour Party – without fully realising he is busy doing the same thing to his own party.
We now live in a Britain in which a Eurosceptic leads a predominantly pro-EU party, while on the other side of the Commons we see a man whose seemingly whole reason for remaining prime minister is to save the country’s membership of the European Union from his own Eurosceptic party. Anyone who thinks that the newly minted first element of what I just described won’t have a massive effect on UK politics for the next decade at least, however long Jeremy manages to survive the onslaught that comes with being leader of the opposition, hasn’t been paying enough attention.