Speculation over Jeremy Corbyn’s performance in the Labour leadership race has never been more intense - bookmakers began the race offering 100/1 or even 200/1 on his chances, but his odds have now overtaken Liz Kendall and pulled just about equal with Yvette Cooper. Stephen Bush’s revelation yesterday that private polling shows him with a 15 point lead in the first round has driven things to fever pitch.
All the same, we must not fall victim to wishful thinking. The General Election showed that polls are not always correct, and we don’t know why the mystery owners of those seen by Bush chose to release them now. It may be part of a dastardly effort to scare Labour members off voting for the hirsute radical.
So let’s consider a worst-case scenario. If Corbyn doesn’t seize victory, his story may not be over. If, as seems likely, he gets a sizeable number of votes – and perhaps even makes it into the top two – then whoever beats him surely cannot neglect such a popular competitor.
Send him back to languish on the backbenches and he will be a clear rallying point for the newly emboldened lefties to gather around. You only need to look at the way in which even supposedly mainstream Labourites have responded to Harriet Harman’s position on welfare reform (a closet Tory? Harriet Harman?) to see that rebellions are likely.
So the obvious – indeed, the just – thing to do would be to give him a Shadow Cabinet job. But what could it be?
Foreign Secretary? Calling Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends” might be a bit tricky. Defence? There’s the same problem. Home Secretary? All those incidents of inviting IRA bombers to Parliament could raise a few eyebrows on the national security front. Transport? Only if Labour really does want to nationalise the lot (and they might, who knows). Work and Pensions? He isn’t exactly the person to overcome Labour’s reputation as the party of welfare dependency. Education? Given that he divorced his wife over a dispute about grammar schools, he might not be the coolest head on the topic.
After considering all these difficulties, there is only one natural fit for the great man: Shadow Chancellor. And now Ed Balls is gone, there’s room for a new big beast to enter the field…