It was Jeremy’s turn.
John McDonnell had tried it in 2007 after Tony Blair stepped down and Diane Abbott had come last in the 2010 election after Gordon Brown resigned. Ed Miliband had thrown in the towel after the British Labour Party’s second ignominious defeat in a row and the small band of Labour legislators on the party’s left needed a candidate for the looming leadership contest.
There was some debate as to whether the Labour Party’s left should even stand a candidate at all. What was the point of putting up someone up for ritual humiliation at the hands of the party’s powerful right-wing establishment?
“What about if I stand?” a voice queried.
Silence enveloped the meeting of the Socialist Campaign Group before murmurs of assent were heard.
Jeremy Corbyn would be the left’s standard bearer and Paddy Power gave the veteran Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North a cursory one in 200 chance of becoming the next Labour leader.
He barely made it onto the ballot; he received his 36th and final nomination from a colleague with only ten seconds to go. History hangs on the hinge of small moments like those and had his closest ally, John McDonnell, not gotten on his knees to beg his fellow MPs it could have all been very different.
Now a man almost unknown outside his own constituency would try and take on the party’s establishment; at 66 he had a deserved reputation as an unrepentant champion of socialism and minority causes.
One of those causes was Irish unity, and while the Troubles raged and British MPs were occasionally killed by the Irish Republican Army, he was one of the few legislators to keep in regular contact with IRA’s political wing, Sinn Féin.
For years he attended and spoke at Troops Out rallies that advocated the complete withdrawal of the British Armed Forces from Northern Ireland and he once stood for a minute’s silence for IRA members killed by the military he is now vying to lead. The security services opened a file on him.
Still, no one expected him to win. Although few Labour MPs agreed with his views on Ireland, they were prepared to let him take part for sake of “widening the debate.” But as Corbyn and his crew crisscrossed the country they found support was snowballing behind them.
Thousands of young people joined the Labour Party to vote for him and he was unveiled as the winner at the Labour Party’s annual conference with a whopping 59% of the vote. His nearest opponent, Andy Burnham, received a derisory 19%.
In much the same way that Trump would go on to win the Republican Party’s nomination in 2016, the Labour Party’s grassroots had carefully listened to the establishment’s warnings about fringe candidates and rolled their heads back with laughter. After two election defeats it was time for something new.
Corbyn’s first job as leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition was attending a memorial service for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. With his top button undone, Corbyn stood alongside smart ladies in hats and army officers weighed down with campaign medals and remained with his lips sealed for the singing of 'God Save The Queen.'
A republican (in the British sense), Corbyn’s decision not to sing the National Anthem was greeted with howls of fury from the country’s tabloids and dismay from his MPs. In a country where patriotism and support for the monarchy are usually deeply intertwined, it was a poor start.
The months that followed were not plain sailing for Corbyn and his team. Many Labour MPs openly conspired against him and had no issue leaking stories about the poisonous atmosphere in the party to the press.
Looming on the horizon, however, was a generation-defining referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Corbyn – a patron saint of lost causes – had supported withdrawal the last time the British public had voted on the issue in 1975 and as an MP had voted against further integration at every possible opportunity.
Where once the Labour Party had been split between Inners and Outers, now over nine in ten legislators favored staying in – many passionately so.
With less than a month to go before polling day he even took a short vacation with his wife.
As Corbyn launched the Labour Party’s campaign to remain, he appeared unsure of himself and unenthused by the task at hand – much like an employee summoned into work on their day off without pay.
At London’s Senate House, which had featured in Orwell’s dystopian novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four,' he began his speech by noting, “This building was the Ministry of Truth, let us see.”
For Alan Johnson, the man organizing the Labour Party’s "In" campaign, it was a “knowing little wink” not to take his support seriously.
“I remain very critical of its shortcomings,” Corbyn told the assembled audience and press, before adding that he would back staying in the EU “many warts and all.”
Corbyn supporters point to the huge numbers of rallies and speeches he did, but passionate pro-Europeans in the Labour Party felt let down by the man and his staff.
“We were greatly damaged by Jeremy Corbyn’s stance,” former Labour cabinet minister Peter Mandelson said afterwards. “At times [Labour In] actually felt their efforts were being sabotaged by Jeremy Corbyn and the people around him.”
And as the results began to trickle in, Labour MPs realized that the country was heading towards the EU’s exit door and two thirds of Labour constituencies had voted 'Leave' to boot.
While thousands of europhiles across Britain wept, Corbyn slept soundly. He had gone to bed that night as if nothing out of the ordinary was taking place.
The news that the British Prime Minister was resigning was only the second item in the morning news bulletins when Corbyn unemotionally told the BBC, “Well, the British people have made their decision, we must respect that result and Article 50 [the formal mechanism to leave] must be invoked now.”
80% of his MPs backed a motion of no confidence in him and the scene was set for the Labour Party’s second leadership election in a year.
But just as Trump inspires deep reverence and even love amongst supporters, so too does Corbyn amongst his and he was returned against his opponent, a previously anonymous career politician, with 61% of the vote.
Since then the Labour Party has been dogged by infighting, dire polling and relentless mockery from both the press and even its own supporters.
When Theresa May called an election many thought it would mean curtains for the 'People’s Party.' But Corbyn has run an energetic campaign and to the surprise of most of the right-wing press, the whole Conservative Party, and many colleagues he has improved the party’s position in the polls.
May, once certain of an historic landslide on the backs of her own popularity and Corbyn’s poor personal ratings, is being given a run for her money.
Corbyn clearly relishes campaigning – unless it’s for the EU – and while a number of his recent interviews have been derided as “car crashes” by the right-wing press, May by contrast is seen as having run an uninspiring campaign and has been described as wooden and boring on the stump.
With a poll lead of sometimes over 20 points her party included in its manifesto a raft of measures designed to curtail spending on older people. One proposal would have seen the state fund care for dementia patients by taking a share of the cash raised from the sale of their house was particularly unpopular – quickly dubbed the dementia tax. It produced a screeching u-turn from the Prime Minister touted by her party as “strong and stable”.
Senior citizens vote in huge numbers in British election and as such have long been treated with kid gloves. While young people have seen huge hikes in college fees and benefit programs axed, the elderly have seen increases in their state pensions year on year and other perks maintained.
Corbyn’s manifesto by contrast promises an expansion of state spending paid for by tax rises on the top 5% of earners and corporations; fees for college students will be no more, there will be extra money for pensions, the health service and early years education and cuts to welfare will be reversed.
Labour’s policy on Brexit remains vague; like the Conservatives they have said they wish to leave the single market (that mandates common standards for goods across the bloc) and end the automatic right of EU citizens to live and work in Britain. Instead they will enter negotiations with a “strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union”.
When the campaign started the Labour Party was languishing in the mid to high 20’s, now they are consistently polling in the mid to high 30’s. In one poll they placed only a single point behind the Conservatives who scored 40%.
Such an eventuality would mean a Parliament in which no party has an overall majority and some agreement between parties.
Unionist parties from Northern Ireland would support the Conservatives with no hesitation, the Liberal Democrats have said they will back neither party and the Scottish National Party would opt for Labour.
Sturgeon and the SNP are unpopular in England and Wales; the idea of the party propping up a Labour Government was partially credited with the Conservatives’ surprise victory in 2015 and the May’s team have begun to talk up the prospect again in the media.
Another issue is security; after the London Bridge attack on Saturday Corbyn called for Theresa May to resign for presiding over cuts in police numbers whilst in her previous job as Home Secretary. The Labour manifesto commits the party to 10,000 extra police officers during the lifetime of the next Parliament.
Three terrorist attacks in three months have shattered Britain’s sense that it had escaped the Islamist violence that relentlessly struck the continent last year; May’s credentials on national security are also no longer seen as beyond reproach but few would venture that Corbyn has an advantage on the issue.
Journalists have pressed him again and again on his links to the IRA – the crux of which forms part of the Conservatives’ most viewed attack ad.
“I never met the IRA,” he told the BBC in May.
Opponents disagree and the right-wing political blog Guido Fawkes lists seven occasions they claim he met with IRA or Sinn Féin members.
He has condemned the IRA’s bombing campaign, although he did write for the Labour Briefing magazine whose editorial once praised the Brighton bomb that nearly killed Margaret Thatcher.
“I wrote for the magazine,” he told Sky, “because it’s a magazine that reaches a number of people within the Labour Party… there are many things in many papers and many magazines with which I profoundly disagree, does that mean I don’t engage?... Sometimes listening to people you don’t agree with does you good.
“I wanted to bring about peace in Ireland,” he continued. “You have to talk to people with whom you disagree.”
He added he met loyalists as well.
But the issue has filtered through onto the doorsteps and many Labour canvassers have found Corbyn’s history with the republican movement is doing them no favors.
“Corbyn’s a terrorist lover, and I fought in Ireland, so I want nothing to do with him,” 69 year old veteran Peter Wakesfield told the News Statsman. “I’ve always voted Labour, even when I was in the army.”
Activists also reported finding “visceral hatred” in the key swing seat of Birmingham Edgbaston for Corbyn – many still remember the 1974 IRA pub bombing in the city.
Against the odds, if he does it will be the biggest upset in British history. Forget Brexit, British involvement in European affairs has waxed and waned throughout the centuries but rarely has the nation had much interest in socialism.
To do this he must hope the young people pollsters say support him turn out. Despite Labour’s pledge to spend more on senior citizens than the Conservatives, May has the grey vote wrapped up – a key advantage in any election.
The Sunday Times reported last week that most of the three million new registered voters were mostly signed up in the Labour Party’s safest seats – suggesting that any surge in the youth vote will lead to few if any Conservative seats switching to Labour.
But Corbyn has beaten daunting odds before and many fervently believe he will do so again on.