ANALYSIS: This was not a great speech from Corbyn - but that doesn't matter any more

Posted On: 
27th September 2017

Barely an hour after Jeremy Corbyn finally reached the end of his keynote speech, William Hill stuck out a press release revealing he is now 5/1 to be Prime Minister by the end of next year's conference season.

Jeremy Corbyn addressing delegates in Brighton today
Credit: 
PA

Presumably, the odds had not been slashed because of a sudden rush of punters wowed by what he had just said.

At an hour and 13 minutes, it was certainly the longest conference address delivered by a party leader for many years, and quite possibly ever.

Without wishing to be unkind to a Labour leader, who has undoubtedly improved immeasurably since shuffling onto the same stage two years ago, it felt much, much longer.

Even the adoring conference hall audience - who had managed to forgive him a tone deaf rendition of Happy Birthday in honour of Diane Abbott - seemed to be getting bored as the speech ticked past the hour mark.

By the end, however, normal service had been resumed. A chorus of 'Oh, Jeremy Corbyn' - a meme which is surely reaching the end of its shelf-life - was only interrupted by the traditional end-of-conference renditions of Jerusalem and the Red Flag.

Anyone looking for new policies, or possibly even some analysis of why Labour lost the election in June, were to be left disappointed.

Support for a change in the organ donation law, plus more rights for social housing tenants to prevent "forced gentrification" of their homes, was as far as we got in terms of fresh thinking.

On Brexit, the economy, education, public sector pay and climate change, he said nothing new.

Online trolls were condemned - but only those on the Right, who Corbyn said were spurred into action by the Tory press.

In the foreign policy section, he condemned Saudi Arabia and America, but remained silent on Russia and Venezuela.

The best bit of the speech was the thoroughly-deserved mocking of the Conservatives, including Theresa May's hopeless campaign slogans.

The Government's sub-optimal performance on the economy and housing, plus its handling of Brexit, were also savaged as Corbyn hit his stride. But there was no attempt to explain how Labour managed to come a distant second behind such a shambolic outfit at the general election.

Instead, the Labour leader told his troops that one more heave will see him and El Gato safely ensconced in 10 Downing Street.

The political centre ground is now on the left, he said. Labour represent the political mainstream. Victory at the next election, whenever it comes, is virtually assured.

At the height of the New Labour era, Gordon Brown would regularly knock it out of the park with his conference speech, only for Tony Blair to go one better 24 hours later.

But the rules have changed. Voters don't look for soaring rhetoric any more. They want authenticity. If that means a 68-year-old man in a crumpled shirt telling them what they want to hear, then so be it.

Jeremy Corbyn's speech will not live long in the memory, but it won't have done him any harm either. I'm not suggesting you lump on what William Hill's are offering, but the new political reality means the prospect of him standing on the steps of Downing Street has never seemed so plausible.