ANALYSIS: Why Jeremy Corbyn is having the time of his life

Posted On: 
18th May 2017

Yesterday afternoon, staff at Labour's ram-packed central London HQ received a very important guest.

Jeremy Corbyn is enjoying the general election campaign.
PA Images

Jeremy Corbyn - for it was he - turned up for a look round. His appearance was notable for one very good reason - he looked like a man reborn.

Before the election was called, the chatter at Westminster was how the Labour leader would never be able to handle the rigours of the campaign planned for 2020.

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The Tories would eat him alive, we were told. Just wait till they dredged up all the IRA and Hamas stuff from his past, the voters would run a mile and Corbyn himself would crumble.

Indeed, the strong rumour - before Theresa May shocked us all by calling a snap election - was that he planned to stand down next year to avoid leading Labour into the 2020 election. He could then go back to his allotment and his protest marches, where he secretly always wanted to be.

Except it hasn't turned out like that. More than halfway through the campaign and it's clear that Corbyn is in his element. 

The spring in his step can be partly explained by the latest opinion polls, which suggest Corbyn-led Labour could get a higher share of the vote than it did under Ed Miliband in 2015.

But even if those polls are correct, the vagaries of the Westminster voting system mean the Tories are on course to comfortably increase their majority. Surely, in those circumstances, any Labour leader would be feeling the strain.

According to one Labour staffer who saw him yesterday, nothing could be further from the truth.

"Jeremy looked completely relaxed and like a man who was thoroughly enjoying himself - not like someone who was staying up thinking we were facing losing 80 to 90 colleagues," they told PoliticsHome. "It was extraordinary, he looked better than he did when the general election was called."

Another insider says optimism - despite all the available evidence - among Team Corbyn remains sky-high: "They genuinely think they are going to win. 100%."

But if the polls are right, Labour is on course for its third election defeat in a row. For any leader, that is surely a prospect to be dreaded?

If you look closely, however, the concept of what constitutes success for Labour is being re-crafted by Corbyn's closest allies.

Len McCluskey let the cat out of the bag on Wednesday when he said that getting 200 MPs elected - around 30 less than they have now - would be a good night for Labour. Just 24 hours later, the Unite boss sought to distance himself from himself, but the damage was already done.

Former Corbyn staffers known to still have close links to the Labour leadership also openly admit on Twitter that beating Miliband's 30.4% share of the vote would be a victory of sorts, even if it meant the jettisoning of dozens of MPs.

That's why this morning's poll putting Labour on 32% - still 13 points behind the Conservatives, it should be pointed out - has been gleefully leapt upon by the leader's supporters.

Of course, the next three weeks of Tory heavy artillery aimed squarely at Corbyn's face may well see the Labour numbers tumble. But with Lib Dem support continuing to melt away, that is by no means a given.

In the meantime, Jeremy Corbyn is having the time of his life.