HALF of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and most of the nation’s press, have been in denial since Jeremy Corbyn stole Theresa May’s majority in the June snap election. How could this superannuated Trot, this loony-tunes, socialist vegetarian, this Hamas-loving, IRA-sympathising, unilateral nuclear disarmer possibly have won 40 per cent of the popular vote?

I mean, come on. Just look at him. He’s got a beard, for heaven’s sake. Some commentators have taken almost personal offence: how could the voters of Britain support this Stalinist only a year after they waved goodbye to the commissars of Brussels. Has England, like Scotland in 2014, gone mad?

Well, reality will finally dawn today on his many detractors as Mr Corbyn tells the Labour Party Conference in Brighton that he is going to be the next Prime Minister – and no one laughs. Even his many Labour enemies realise that this is no longer fantasy. With Mrs May a dead PM walking, the Tory Party tearing itself apart (again) and the Brexit talks going nowhere, it is now just possible that Mr Corbyn, Lenin cap and all, could lead Labour back to government. Never in the history of politics has one so loathed become so popular so fast.

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Admittedly, visualising Mr Corbyn in Number 10 is a bit of a stretch even for me. The eternal back-bench rebel I knew in Westminster back in the day betrayed not the remotest desire to be leader of his party. But times change; and so do people. Mr Corbyn’s very “outsiderness”, his lack of PR grooming, is one of his attractions. He’s not part of the political establishment; doesn’t look or sound like an identikit MP; says things that are unusual and, best of all, is hated by the mainstream media (MSM).

Of course, I am part of the MSM and I’m probably making the classic mistake here of focusing too much on personality. Politics has moved on from the days when it was essentially a beauty contest, or “show business for ugly people” as Jay Leno put it. Mr Corbyn’s personality is actually peripheral to his own success. It’s not who he is, but what he stands for that matters to the movement that created him.

Labour’s success in the General Election was down to two things: the manifesto, which proved to be immensely popular, and the strength of its activist base centred around Momentum. Commentators have sought to portray Momentum as a crowd of far left entryists who’ve enchanted naïve young members with ideological spells. But as anyone who’s been to their conference will tell you, Momentum is more like the Yes campaign than the Socialist Workers Party. Its eclectic, green, anti-authoritarian, gender-conscious politics will be familiar to anyone who watched the 2014 referendum campaign. Commentators laugh at quilt-making and hackathons, but like Yes, Momentum tries to engage people, instead of lecturing them.

It has also been very successful, trebling party membership and turning Labour into the largest mass membership party in western Europe. You need only consider what happened to the once-mighty French Socialist Party in April, reduced to six per cent of the vote, to understand the significance of Corbynism. Labour was headed for what is called “Pasokification” after the defunct Greek socialist PASOK. If social democratic politics has a future, Mr Corbyn is it.

He is accused of being a throwback to the 1970s, and there’s some truth in that. But Labour isn’t adopting those “impossible demands” policies that the supporters of Leon Trotsky hoped would bring down capitalism. Labour is not a revolutionary party in any sense of the word – in fact it is rather conservative. No one seemed to notice, but the Labour manifesto in 2017 was much closer to Tony Blair’s in 1997 than the Communist Manifesto of 1848. It didn’t even promise to increase taxation, except on those earning more than £80,000, the top 2.5 per cent.

This supposedly pacifist leader endorsed the renewal of Trident and spending a full two per cent of GDP on defence. As for rail nationalisation, most of it is already in public hands in the form of Network Rail, and the franchises that currently run the services are decidedly unloved. Even the Tories want to cap energy prices. We’ve reached a bizarre turn when abolishing tuition fees, scrapping the bedroom tax, and keeping the pensions triple lock is seen as extreme. It’s retail politics, perhaps, but in tune with the times.

Hands were thrown up in horror this week when John McDonnell promised to take Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects into state hands. But even the Tory-dominated Treasury Select Committee said in 2011 that the Private Finance Initiative should be brought back on to the state’s balance sheet. PFI contracts, under which the Government pays private consortia to build and run hospitals over a 30-year period, have ratcheted up repayment costs so that the UK now stands to pay some £300 billion, according to Treasury figures, for projects that originally cost around £60bn. The key is in the name: Private. Finance. Initiative. They’re not charities, but the same finance industry that gave us private pensions, 125 per cent mortgages, payment protection insurance, and credit cards with ballooning debt. They’re not bad people: they just want to make some cash, and don’t mind taking it off the government if ministers are stupid enough to hand it to them.

During the financial crash, the financial sector had to be collectively rescued by a bank bail-out that deployed £1.2 trillion of public money, according to the Bank of England. Wages have stagnated ever since, while those who caused the crash just got richer. That experience has destroyed forever the illusion that our degenerate form of capitalism delivers the greatest good for the greatest number. It mobilised the wealth of the many for the welfare of the few, and many people aren’t prepared to stand for it any more.

Labour is now well ahead among voters under 39 – the Millennial generation. For them, Soviet communism and IRA bombs are ancient history. Anyone wanting to understand the appeal of Mr Corbyn’s allotment socialism needs to stop living in the past.