Could the NHS save Jeremy Corbyn’s political life? Until he brandished the 451 pages of documents which he says prove that “the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale” in a Conservative-brokered UK-US trade deal, his chances of national leadership were looking slim to probably unthinkable.
It’s a body blow to Boris Johnson, who only last week in the televised leaders’ debate repeatedly denied that such talks had taken place, even though Mr Corbyn produced a selection of redacted pages he had obtained in response to a Freedom of Information request.
Why now, you might ask? Has he been keeping them up his anorak sleeve for an occasion when his back was seriously against the wall – immediately after his grilling by Andrew Neil and his refusal to admit to charges of alleged anti-semitism in the Labour party levied by no less than the Chief Rabbi himself perhaps - or was it always the plan to reveal them at his speech on the NHS in Westminster?
I don’t suppose we will ever know the absolute truth - such is the dissembling nature of today’s politics – but what is clear is that the threat of Donald Trump laying a single chubby finger on the doctors and nurses of our cherished NHS is one which could well prove a game-changer for Mr Corbyn.
The question is, what kind of game will this be? The short game, in which he scores amazingly over Boris Johnson, destroys his opponent’s trust with the public and even eventually ends up spending Christmas in Downing Street? Or the long game, in which he ends up as the catalyst, lighting the fuse then retreating to watch the rockets go up in coming months and years?
Bear with me on this. Here’s another conundrum for you. Let’s put aside these startling NHS claims for just one second. Entertain this for a thought. Did Jeremy Corbyn, and his close acolytes, including John McDonnell, realise months ago that their higher purpose was not going to be the keys to number 10, but a far nobler aim? I’m using ‘noble’ in the widest, most altruistic sense here, by the way.
True class war, in which the Tories and their duplicitious leader are shown up for the untrustworthy scoundrels many of us suspect they have always been? In which case, do we have to accept that this General Election is but the first battle in a long campaign?
If this is the case, then we have to get used to a very different way of doing politics. To help us prepare for this, I’ll direct you to the words of Tony Blair.
Mr Corbyn and Mr Blair, who led his party to three successive General Election victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005, could hardly be more different.
The former’s antipathy towards the latter is well-publicised and I’ve often heard it shared by left-wingers here in Yorkshire, who never trusted Mr Blair and his ‘New Labour’ which severed historic links with trade unions.
It would take a miracle for him to become Labour leader again. However, perhaps we should all heed his words: “I’ve said why I’ve got to vote Labour because for one thing, by the way, there will be an enormous debate coming, I feel, in the Labour Party at a certain point.”
He might be interested to know that this debate has already started, way ahead of the outcome of December 12.
I was talking to a couple of Labour party members about this very thing as we stood waiting to see Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage arrive at Highstone Road working men’s club in Worsbrough Common, Barnsley earlier this week.
It’s not every day we have a national political leader in our midst. We were there to witness a significant event in our community’s political history, Labour for as long as anyone can remember.
Half my family are from Worsbrough Common, and I live in the shadow of its hill. I know only too well what brought Farage here and also, the frustration that people in communities like mine share with Tony Blair’s own. So many voters feel ‘politically homeless’. All the old certainties are being dismantled and in their place, rancour and division are laying root.
Mr Farage is capitalising on this. I stood in the rain outside, straining to hear the speeches inside, a sad sense of disappointment and dislocation in my heart. He told his 250-strong audience that Labour had betrayed them, keying into the sense that they - like so many other Northerners - have become the forgotten people.
Yet what Farage doesn’t get and perhaps Corbyn does understand is that people do still want something bigger than themselves to believe in.
Not everyone wants to pull up the drawbridge and turn Margaret Thatcher’s mantra, that there is “no such thing as society… and people must look after themselves first” into a permanent guiding moral principle.
To make a change however, we must be brave. We have to look beyond the man who leads Labour and see not just him, with his all his faults and failings, but what lies beyond and in front.