Jeremy Corbyn takes delegates’ applause on the final day of the Labour party conference on Wednesday © Getty
Jeremy Corbyn’s week in Brighton was defined by the two songs sounding out as he prepared to address an adoring Labour conference.
The first, inevitably, was the chorus of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”, a reaffirmation that he is at the centre of the most remarkable personality cult in modern British politics.
The second was the artful choice of the organisers to play Taylor Swift’s recent Number 1 “rebrand” single, “Look what you made me do” in which she breathes: “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead.” Mr Corbyn had come to bury the remnants of New Labour.
Mr Corbyn’s 75-minute speech capped a remarkable turnround from the sorry shambles of last year, when he was facing open rebellion from Labour MPs and dismal poll ratings.
This year, the 68-year-old had one simple and increasingly credible message: the “biggest political party in western Europe” is now ready for government.
Business has shuddered at the prospect. The CBI, the employers’ organisation, has warned that if the party carries out its leftwing prospectus, investors will “run for the hills”.
This week has confirmed Mr Corbyn is in total command of a party that he has turned into a vibrant, young and radical movement. One moderate Labour MP, asked if he would sign up for today’s Labour party if he were starting out in politics, replied simply: “No.”
But Mr Corbyn, at the end of his speech, made it clear that he believes his version of socialism is becoming now the mainstream in British politics.
“Today’s centre ground is certainly not where it was 20 or 30 years ago. A new consensus is emerging from the great economic crash and the years of austerity, when people started to find political voice for their hopes for something different and better,” he said.
The only question in Mr Corbyn’s inner circle is whether to move the party even further to the left and there are signs that this is tempting the Labour leader.
Mr Corbyn said he wanted “global corporations” to pay a “little more tax”, to hold boardrooms accountable, to have a “new and dynamic role for the private sector”, and to crack down on property speculators. Higher public spending is planned across the board.
The admission by John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, that he was working out a war game strategy in the event of a run on the pound after a Labour victory suggests the party is aware of how this kind of thinking might be viewed in the capital markets.
But there were clear signs of hubris. Mr Corbyn’s assertion that Labour “didn’t do quite well enough” in the 2017 election was part of a familiar dialogue in Brighton that has reclassified defeat as some kind of moral victory for the party and a belief that one more heave will see it into power.
This glosses over several problems. First, in spite of Theresa May’s leading a divided and feeble government, Labour and Conservatives remain neck-and-neck in opinion polls and Mrs May leads Mr Corbyn in YouGov’s surveys of who would be the “best prime minister”.
The party is still struggling to connect with white working-class voters and the elderly — one Labour frontbencher suggested the creation of some kind of Ministry for the Old to recognise the problem.
Nor does the party have a clear policy on the final outcome of Brexit, a problem reflected by the fact that Labour spent most of the week trying to avoid any mention of it. During the week senior figures such as Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, and Tom Watson, the deputy leader, flouting the official line by suggesting a second referendum on a final exit deal.
Before the next election, Britain will have set its course on Brexit and Mr Corbyn will have to adopt a position, rather than simply postpone the battle.