Tom Gordon

Scottish Political Editor

JEREMY Corbyn has barely stepped out his taxi at the Old Fruitmarket on Friday before a man strides across the street to clasp his hand and have his photograph taken with him.

After his cheerfully disorganised minders steer him through the wrong door into a gallery of bars and restaurants, there are more snaps amid beery shouts of “Good luck, Jeremy!”

A woman in a red dress jumps up from her table and bearhugs him.

“Oh, this has made my night,” she says. “Welcome to Glasgow!”

Corbynmania may have started as an ironic term for the Islington North MP’s effect on the Labour leadership contest, but it’s real - at least among the faithful. And there are now lots of those.

The 66-year-old's surprise surge from no-hoper to frontrunner has electrified his support and terrified others in the party.

Tony Blair, Alistair Darling and Alan Johnston have warned he would be electoral poison, claiming his outdated ideas would mean a generation in the wilderness for Labour.

Gordon Brown is expected to join the refrain today.

Corbyn’s opponents, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, have tried to halt the bandwagon with blunter language still, but to no avail.

Corbyn politely shrugs it all off and refuses to engage with what he calls “personal abuse”, while his numbers just get better and better.

If it keeps up like this, he could romp home on September 12, becoming the most left-wing leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition since Michael Foot’s catastrophic turn over 30 years ago.

On Friday he launched a ten-point plan that includes printing money to invest in infrastructure and housebuilding, renationalised railways and energy companies, a more generous welfare system, free university tuition, the scrapping of Trident, and “no more illegal wars”.

There are no price-tags attached; his rivals say it’s unaffordable fantasy.

On Scotland, he’s opposed to another referendum but open to working with the SNP.

Asked what went so badly wrong with Scottish Labour at the general election, he doesn’t name Jim Murphy, but is clear that Murphy’s prospectus didn’t cut it with voters.

“We were offering austerity lite when we should have been opposed to it,” he says.

“We were promising to renew Trident when the people of Scotland didn’t want it renewed and many felt let down by Labour and so our vote went down to about 25 per cent.

“We’ve got a long way to go, I accept. But if Labour relates to the issues of poverty, health and inequality in Scotland, relates to the privatisation of Calmac [the SNP government may pay Serco to run some ferry services] and issues like that, then I think the support is there.”

So was Murphy the wrong person to lead Scottish Labour at the election?

“I’m not one who goes into the politics of condemnation or otherwise,” he says curtly.

“Jim is no longer the leader of the party. A new leader is being elected. Let’s move on.”

He conspicuously makes no effort to praise Murphy either. If anything, he seems better disposed towards the First Minister. Does Nicola Sturgeon impress you?

“I think she’s an impressive politician, yeah. Do I agree with her on everything? Absolutely not. Do I respect people that have different views? Yes, I do. Because I think politics should be

conducted in an adult way, which is why our campaign doesn’t do personal abuse.”

Do you think she’s authentic when she talks about an anti-austerity agenda, or is that just a pose to get votes?

“Well, I think there are problems there, because the Scottish Government is at the moment cutting college places. There is a great deal of privatisation going on.”

But while he has reservations about the SNP, he doesn’t view them as automatic enemies.

The decades of tribal hostility between Labour and the SNP ought to end, he says.

“It should be about policies and politics. That is how we win people over. The [the SNP] have a different agenda. They have an agenda of Nationalism. But in the House of Commons, with the arithmetic that goes on there, there’s got to be cooperation between all the opposition parties on issues. It’s not an alliance, it’s not a coalition. It’s cooperation on issues.

“I will vote against Trident renewal in 2016. I hope by that time the Labour Party has had time to change direction and its policies on this. Clearly that is something on which the SNP will also be voting.”

Talking of voting, how will he approach next May’s Holyrood election if he’s leader? Is there a crack plan to save Labour MSPs? Apparently not.

“We’ll be standing. We’ll be fighting those elections,” he rambles.

“I hope we’ll be fighting those elections with determination, with people who have joined into this campaign, and putting forward an agenda which is about doing something about the ghastly levels of poverty and inequality that exist in many parts of Scotland, and the possibilities I’m putting forward - a national investment bank which will help to rebuild infrastructure all across the UK.”

What about taking votes off the SNP?

“Well if you win votes, you either win votes from people who don’t vote, people who’ve never voted, people who weren’t old enough to vote, or from other parties. Or you can win them from all sources. We’ll go to all sources. I don’t have a secret formula. Campaigning with people all the time is really important. That’s what we’re going to be doing.”

Do you worry you might be a fad?

“I’ve been around a long time to be a fad. This is a very interesting phenomenon - people have risen to be active in optimistic politics. It’s not about individuals. It’s about people coming together and being excited and optimistic together. That isn’t just in Britain. It’s also in Europe. It’s also in the USA. It’s a kind of feeling all around. And don’t underestimate the power of social media to mobilise people.”

Some people have compared the wave of criticism directed at Corbyn with the hectoring ‘Project Fear’ approach of the No campaign in the referendum. Does he see a parallel?

“I think you persuade people by community activism and community action. My whole experience of life has been communities, community action, and you grow up from there. I’ve never found very attractive the idea of everything being done from the top downwards.”

So are his opponents making a mistake with heavy-handed warnings?

“Oh, you’re tempting me to comment on my opponents. I couldn’t possibly comment. They’re perfectly free to make any comment they wish.”

But in general do you think that tactic backfires on those who use it?

“I do think there’s a different way,” he says.

And what about Gordon Brown intervening? Do you think that might inadvertently help you?

“I’ve no idea. I’m more interested in us being able to put forward a positive message of how we can help everybody all across the UK if we as a party put forward a different economic strategy that isn’t accepting austerity. Put forward a strategy of an inclusive, coherent, cohesive democratic society. That’s what’s exciting and what’s bringing a lot of people out.”

One way Corbyn’s critics try to dissuade people from backing him is to ask them to picture how mild-mannered Jez would cope in the bearpit of Prime Minister’s Questions. The implication being that Cameron would flatten him every week. How do you think you’d do at PMQs?

“Others will have to judge that,” he says.

Does it worry you? “No. I’ve been in parliament a long time. I’ve taken part in lots of debates.”

But what about that really aggressive, adversarial environment?

“I don’t do aggressive, adversarial stuff.”

Well quite. How would you cope when it’s thrown at you?

“Well, then, they can throw. I will then return with my calm logical questions about why a million people rely on foodbanks to survive, why so many people haven’t got jobs on decent wages and conditions, why so many people are living in such poverty in what is actually quite a wealthy country. I will return again and again with these very uncomfortable, basic questions.

“I don’t do personal. I never even enjoyed Gladiators on television. I don’t see it like that. “People that are interested in politics are interested in answers to their issues, answers to their questions, answers to their problems. Apart from those people who take a deep interest in these things, they are totally turned off by that kind of theatrical politics. I would want to do things rather differently.”

After we speak, he darts on stage where, as tradition dictates, he’s introduced to the crowd of around 800 as both the next party leader and the next Prime Minister.

There’s a brief standing ovation, as if people love the idea of Corbyn in Number 10, but can’t really see it.

He’s not as bad a speaker as some have reported. There’s even the odd joke among the endless thank-yous to organisers and trade unions. But he’s certainly no orator, and not nearly as good as his warm-up act, the writer and broadcaster Owen Jones.

Corbyn’s 45 minutes is basically a sprawling list of society’s problems and inequalities.

We must do something about this. We must do something about that. Deforestation and desertification crop up next to railway electrification.

It’s like being stuck in a Modern Studies crammer or lectured by a gap-year do-gooder.

But his plans to fix things are hazy and suspiciously painless.

There’s little to appeal to the mercenary floating voter.

As he goes through his ten-point plan, even his fans starts to wilt.

The longer he speaks, the fainter and less frequent the applause gets.

However he rouses the room at the close with a clear principled stand on nuclear weapons, Iraq, the refugee crisis and a call for the world to be run for the good of all not the few.

Despite his shortcomings, the huge support for Corbyn is understandable.

He’s the anti-politics candidate in the race - unpolished, authentic, consistent.

He’s also a rallying point for those who fell out of love with Labour over Iraq.

There are a lot of scores being settled in this contest, and although Corbyn isn’t bloodthirsty, many of his supporters are relishing some payback for New Labour.

In that sense, Corbynmania is a symptom of Labour’s problems, not the solution.

It’s a campaign playing to one part of a deeply divided party.

Yet there is also a sense that by provoking such intense debate, Corbyn is offering Labour a moment of catharsis, a chance for the party to confront its demons and start over.

If he becomes leader, Labour's problems may worsen at first, but he could ultimately prove a necessary phase in a rollercoaster recovery.