Theresa May is now Britain’s prime minister in name only. Leading a government that may collapse within days, propped up (she hopes) by the homophobes of the Democratic Unionist Party, it is clear her time is nearly up.
So while May is in office but not in power, who has stepped into the vacuum of leadership she has left? Jeremy Corbyn.
Much has already been written about Labour’s election results and the surge in support from young people. Fun as it is to keep repeating that in the faces of the former doubters, the point here is simpler: Corbyn now not only looks like a future prime minister, he has started acting like one.
While May hides away, the country turns to Corbyn in its hours of need.
Take the Grenfell fire. May refused to meet victims for days, before finally being chased out of Kensington by a crowd shouting “coward!” Corbyn could do nothing but go there and comfort those affected.
This is not political calculation. It is not done for party gain. It is simply Corbyn doing what he has always done — running to those who are suffering and trying to help.
Corbyn’s demand for former Grenfell residents to be given requisitioned homes — much-mocked by the right at first —became government policy on June 21. This would not have happened without the street movements calling for justice, and Corbyn’s Labour fashioning it into a pointed demand.
Then look at the racist terror attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque. Once again Corbyn was welcomed, standing with the people and comforting them. Again May kept her distance and was heckled.
Corbyn no longer looks like the leader of the opposition. An important gauge is the way ordinary people treat him wherever he goes.
Despite not yet holding the official title, he has become the People’s Prime Minister. May can barely go out of her own front door without being confronted by protesters, Corbyn will appear at the Glastonbury Festival on June 24.
This is not about personality – it’s about policy. Corbyn is the one with the policies that people want to see after a near-decade of killer austerity. The Labour Party’s manifesto has the popular answers that would help millions of people if they were implemented.
And the weakness of the Conservatives creates an opening to start implementing pieces of it now.
In parliament on June 21, in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, Corbyn pledged to “use every opportunity to win support for our program”.
“Labour is not merely an opposition,” he said. “We are a government in waiting, with a policy programme that enthused and engaged millions of people in this election.”
However long it takes for this zombie Tory government to finally fall, the people have chosen their leader.
[Abridged from Red Pepper.]