Four months ago, a gaunt-looking man who had spent his 32 years in Parliament firing rhetorical questions at Conservatives suddenly appeared in the contest to decide the next leader of his party. No one seemed more surprised than him.
Now that Jeremy Corbyn is Labour leader, we can ask: what does his victory tell us about UK politics?
First, it tells us that many people are crying out for change. Corbyn won three times his closest rival’s share of votes, taking the contest on the first round and sending his opponents to the backbenches from which he himself came. Even Tony Blair did not have so great a mandate when he won Labour a 179-seat majority in 1997.
The supporters’ desire for change implies national desperation, which Corbyn captured well when he declared - minutes after his appointment - that “people are fed up with the injustice and inequality of Britain.”
Corbyn appears to grab the loyalty of young people especially, many joining Labour because of his bracingly idealistic policies. Many want change - change they believe this once-unlikely leader can bring.
People admire integrity. Corbyn’s constituents have taken every chance to return him as their MP since first electing him in 1983 - perhaps because he has voted against Labour more times than David Cameron, always rejecting bills proposing militarism or austerity.
Labour members were drawn not to the careerist candidates’ suits and prepackaged phrases but instead to Corbyn’s knitted jumpers, frugality, mild manners and apparent honesty. It seems people do not want a politician to lead them: they want a human being.
Corbyn’s victory has made the Conservatives ramp up their propaganda. Consider this tweet from David Cameron’s account: “The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security.” Okay, if we disarm ourselves of nuclear warheads and withdraw from NATO, our skeletons will no longer be able to annihilate everything in pointless retaliation, and we will no longer be able to join any imperialist games.
But propaganda, and a video in which the Conservatives make Corbyn out to be Osama Bin Laden’s best friend for supporting the human right to fair trial, are perfect examples of the kind of politics that Corbyn seems to be able to ignore, like the attention he gets when jogging..
Speaking on ITV News, an economist who had been part of Cameron’s government conceded that it was good to see young people engaging with politics, but was adamant that Corbyn would fail. Certain newspapers were quick to propose that he wanted to abolish the UK army, after he reasoned that the UK should have an army proportional to its size.
So the media have generally rallied around to fiercely criticise the new leader. Earlier this week, they made a fuss about Corbyn’s refusing to sing the national anthem at a Battle of Britain ceremony. Tomorrow it will be something else.
One thing is for sure: the next five years of politics aren’t going to be dull.
-- Ben Carpenter is a student at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds.