There is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn has come a long way as a platform speaker since his early days as the Labour Party leader. Whilst he will never be a classic orator, the days when he read out his speaking instructions and couldn’t cope with autocue are long behind him. This was an impassioned and confident address, and he clearly had the bulk of the room eating from the palm of his hands.
But the substance of any Corbyn speech remains a bit of a riddle. On domestic policy, the rhetoric of injustice is fierce. But the policy solutions seem anything but new. Workers on boards, extra taxes on second homes and more free childcare – all policy proposals in today’s speech by the Labour Leader. But would we be that surprised if any or all of them were in Theresa May’s speech in Birmingham next week?
Whilst some of the economic policies announced by John McDonnell are more radical than this, they very much appear to be the Shadow Chancellor’s baby, and we seldom hear from the Labour leader on these themes. He is comfortable talking about nationalisation of course, but bringing industry under state control is hardly the newest idea in the book.
No, the real political passion of Jeremy Corbyn is, and has always been, foreign policy. There can seldom before have been a speech by a Leader of the Opposition that devoted so much time to international subjects. Myanmar, Colombia, Hungary, Russia, Yemen and Syria, as well as of course Israel and Palestine, all got a mention before he got round to talking about the small matter of Brexit. He devoted a whole passage to Aung San Suu Kyi, but there was not one word on schools.
So despite having become a much more proficient orator over the last three years, Jeremy Corbyn will never really change. On his terms, and by his standards, it was a good speech. Does it reach beyond the support base he mustered in 2017? Probably not. But if the Tory Party continues on its present course of political hari-kari, it might not need to.