I recently had lunch with the chief executive of a global industrial company. He was raised in America and has a background in banking. None of the above would indicate a natural follower of Jeremy Corbyn.
He did, however, have a sneaking admiration for the Labour leader, and his handling of his first Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
If I were a Tory, or indeed, anyone who hoped to continue to live in this country much beyond the 2020 election, I would be a little worried by now. Time after time the electorate has made it clear they do not like the aggressive, point-scoring politics, the cheap jibes and abuse passing for political debate, practised in Westminster.
There was a vox pop on the Today programme this week making just this point. PMQs are a particular turn-off.
They particularly hate the baying and howling that accompanies any debate in the Commons, on however serious a subject. People do not conduct their everyday conversations like this. They simply cannot understand why their elected leaders have to sound like an out of control primary school class. (You do not have to know much about the psychology of crowds to realise why it is thus.)
Corbyn appeared at the dispatch box and spoke quietly and dispassionately. He produced a series of fair and reasonable questions from ordinary members of the public which he delivered in measured tones, and then listened politely to the answers.
Much of the commentariat, not greatly inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt anyway, thought it was a mistake, or a missed opportunity, or quirky eccentricity. Step outside the bubble and the reaction is likely to be rather different.
Don’t get me wrong. Corbyn and his acolytes do not have the core skills to run a political party, let alone the country, and they will continue to make terrible mistakes. But consider my chief executive. (Who, incidentally, said he would be on the first plane home after a Corbyn victory.)
A combination of the appearance of sweet reasonableness on his part, tooth-grinding attacks from that commentariat, and a few Tory blunders on the economy, not implausible, and the landscape may look a little different a couple of years hence. (Note John McDonnell’s apology re the IRA on Question Time yesterday, again couched in tones of sweet reasonableness.) People are not quite as horrible as their elected representatives think.