After the Labour Party’s electoral defeat in Britain last year, the party’s small left caucus debated whether it should stand a candidate for the leadership at all. Some feared defeat would expose just how small the caucus was. Others insisted that someone needed to at least raise the arguments against anti-austerity and for a progressive foreign policy to counter the narrative that Labour had lost because it was too progressive.
Once the caucus resolved in favor of standing a candidate, the next challenge was to find a candidate. There were few takers. “What about if I stand?” asked Jeremy Corbyn, a consistent socialist standard-bearer over several decades. The question was initially met with silence. But when nobody else came forward, Corbyn got the nod. Then came the final task: getting on the ballot. For that, Corbyn needed 35 members of Parliament to nominate him. With just hours to go before the deadline, he was still several signatures short. With seconds left, his supporters rounded up some parliamentarians who didn’t support him but voted for him anyway, just so the party could have the fullest debate possible.
Nobody—least of all Corbyn—assumed that he would win the debate, let alone the election, with one of the largest majorities of any Labour leader.