The night Jeremy Corbyn's socialist dream died

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK

The contrast with 2017 could not have been more stark.

That day, two-and-a-half years ago, Jeremy Corbyn was welcomed to Sobell Leisure Centre as a prime minister in waiting. Grinning ear to ear, he joked with reporters as he slowly made his way through the media scrum.

There were no jokes as he entered the same leisure centre in the early hours of Friday morning. Walking briskly past reporters, he issued one breathless sentence: “Hi thank you very much nice to see you all nice to see you all here thank you.”

Mr Corbyn’s election disaster was such that Emily Thornberry, his fellow Islington MP who is likely to be one of the candidates to replace him as Labour leader, was greeted by a sole reporter when she entered a couple of minutes afterwards.

In the sports hall, there were no tears among local activists who stood surrounding their leader, only proud applause.

Jeremy Corbyn, with wife Laura Alvarez, react to the early poll as Labour's disappointing night unfolds. (Getty Images)

There was a brutal clue of what was to come in Ms Thornberry’s victory speech for Islington South and Finsbury. She spoke of her friend in the past tense. “We will fight with the same courage that Jeremy showed.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks after the results was given at Sobell Leisure Centre for the Islington North constituency for the 2019 General Election.

Next up was the Islington North results. There was a wistful smile from Mr Corbyn as he approached the podium, about to be elected for the 10th time. He cut a distracted figure as he swapped his glasses, and there was no reaction when his 34,603-vote victory was announced.

When he became Labour leader in 2015, Mr Corbyn’s first engagement was not to appear on one of the Sunday political shows, but to attend a constituency event put on by his local NHS trust. True to form, it was his constituents who he thanked first in his speech on Friday, in one of his last acts as leader.

He then launched one of his most blistering attacks yet on the media. “I want to thank my wife, Laura Alvarez, for all she puts up with because of the way in which the media behaved towards me, towards her and indeed towards my party during this election campaign.”

Jeremy Corbyn at Sobell Leisure Centre (Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn at the Islington North count (Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

He blamed Brexit as he defended Labour’s radical manifesto: “All of those polices were extremely popular during the election campaign and remain polices that have huge popular support across this country. However, Brexit has so polarised and divided debate in this country and has overridden so much of a normal political debate.”

And then the big announcement: “I will not lead the party in any future general election campaign.”

But though his personal dream is over, Mr Corbyn’s ideology will remain in the party.

In what sounded like a warning to his enemies within Labour, Mr Corbyn ended his speech by saying: “We will forever continue the cause for socialism, for social justice and for a society based on the needs of all rather than the greed of the few.

Jeremy Corbyn leaves Sobell Leisure Centre early on Friday morning (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

“That is what makes our party what it is, and I am very proud of the achievements of our party and the development of its manifesto and its ideas. And I tell you what, those ideas and those principles are eternal and they will be there for all time.”

As he left the hall, he stopped for a friendly conversation with Brexit Party candidate Yosef David. A nearby Labour activist was furious. “He has no right to be stopping Jeremy,” she huffed.

Eventually, Mr Corbyn made his exit and was greeted with a familiar tune. “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn,” a group of activists yelled. And with a wave, he jumped into his car and was gone.