Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour leadership in the first round with an extraordinary 59.5 per cent of the vote. Andy Burnham came second.
This is the result everyone was expecting: or at least what they had come to expect after initially expecting Corbyn to be at worst the joke candidate and at best the figure who enabled a debate about the ideas of the Left.
We are not surprised today that a backbencher from Islington has won the party leadership, but the party is still trying to work out how it has changed this much, and how its conventional leaders in waiting failed to inspire the membership in the way they had expected. Andy Burnham has been campaigning for this job for nearly five years, giving rousing conference speeches and unnerving his party colleagues with his clear ambition. He was beaten. Yvette Cooper would go mysteriously quiet whenever Ed Miliband was in trouble, as though she didn’t want to be too closely associated with his administration. Her campaign apparatus sprang up so quickly after the party’s election loss that it was difficult to believe it hadn’t been assembled before polling day. She was beaten. Even Liz Kendall, whose supporters were initially aggressively adamant that she would win because she was in the same place as the membership, had been canvassing potential supporters from a colleague’s office before polling day. She conceded defeat even before today’s numbers were read out.
Now Corbyn must appoint a shadow cabinet. Who he chooses as his Shadow Chancellor will of course tell us a great deal. If it is one of his left wing colleagues like John McDonnell, then the new leader clearly wants to push the party as far left as possible before leaving the leadership in a blaze of glory. Even once he has left, the party will have s long way to travel back to the centre ground. But if Corbyn appoints a more moderate figure, like Lisa Nandy, then he will be giving a signal that he plans to stick around for a good while, even up to the next election, or at least with a team in place that will stick around to the next election.
But it’s not just how the leadership that behaves that’s important. Corbyn wants to give policymaking power to the membership. He may try to convert those £3 registered supporters who signed up in droves to full membership. This sounds very democratic. But given the membership is clearly on the left, it will make it much easier for Corbyn to get his preferred policies on paper, as he can accuse any member of the Parliamentary Labour Party of opposing the grassroots. Will his opponents launch a fightback by signing up moderate members? Will they even find enough people to do that?
So Corbyn winning isn’t a surprise. But what happens next is totally unpredictable.