The stratospheric rise of the Labour Party over the past few months has posed great possibilities for the Party but also great challenges. The election campaign was all about presenting a powerful, idealistic vision, which worked in the vote winning sense. But with the real possibility of a Corbyn Government now on the horizon, the next step for Labour is to ensure that they are genuinely grounded and ready to govern if such an eventuality arises.
Part of this process involves slyly dropping some of the more unrealistic policies that were presented during the idealism phase. Cue Angela Rayner admitting that the Party has “no plans” to cancel historic student debt, and even going so far as to claim that such a policy had never been suggested in the first place… (it had.) Inspiring optimism, particularly among the young, is a very dangerous game if you can’t deliver what you say you will. Just ask poor old Nick Clegg. It seems that Labour may have learnt these lessons.
But the challenges for Labour in becoming a potential Party of Government don’t stop with education. Brexit, for example, was an area where Corbyn was able to get away with being non-committal, ultimately because no one believed that he was really going to be the person doing the negotiating with Brussels. But if there was an election tomorrow, that would all be very different. He would be expected to give detail, would be pushed for specifics on questions of single market membership and immigration control, and would find it much harder to continue to appeal to both ardent brexiteers and remainers.
We now know that Corbyn can do the campaigning. He can do the inspiring, he can do the idealism. But how will he fare with the responsibilities that come with mainstream popularity? A trickier task for Mr. Corbyn, but he has surprised us before, so it would be a mistake to underestimate him now…