Straight-faced Shorten recites the ‘plausible truth’

Straight-faced Shorten recites the ‘plausible truth’, by Nick Cater.

The look of sincerity on a leader’s face trumps the force of argument. Leaders don’t need to be authentic, they just need to possess authenticity. They should be the kind of person you’d be happy to wear as a wrist band if they had been unfortunate enough to be born as one.

Such a man is Jeremy Corbyn, who until recently was just a dowdy old Trot who said nice things about communist Cuba and mourned the death of Hugo Chavez by tweeting “he made massive contributions to Vene­zuela & a very wide world”. Now he’s an idol who gets mobbed at rock festivals.

Corbyn, like Donald Trump, understands the politics of grievance: I may be quirky but I’m listening; if a wrong needs righting, then I’m your man.

His pitch makes perfect sense to a debt-laden, smashed-avocado muncher with first-class honours in victimology from the Uni­­versity of La-La Land trying to get a foot in the Shoreditch property market.

“I’ll be honest, when I first read Labour’s 2017 manifesto, I thought it was an actual f..king miracle,” a disillusioned graduate wrote in the New Musical Express. “Those who thought they’d never be able to afford a flat were given hope. Anyone thinking university would be pointless was given reason to think otherwise.”

Age is the new dividing line in British politics, as it is increasingly becoming here.

Two-thirds of voters aged under 30 voted Labour in last month’s election. For older voters the picture was reversed. Corbyn received less than a quarter of votes from the over-60s, a generation that remembers socialism as it actually was.

Shorten has not declared himself a socialist, but that is what he is, as he revealed in a remarkable speech last Friday. He wants to punish the filthy rich with taxes to service the poor, to improve education and safeguard health. Like Corbyn, he opposes cuts to company taxes, supports the expansion of the state and believes — against the evidence of history — that governments spend money more wisely than people.

Which is marvellous news for the Coalition, which faces a contest of ideas it should know it can win. The gap on political fundamentals has seldom been wider; the Hawke-Keating-Howard consensus has been entirely repudiated by an opposition that has lost all economic reason.