“Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” is not a chant one hears much these days. It has joined “I agree with Nick” and “Brexit means Brexit” on the scrapheap of rusting political soundbites. Corbyn is still around, of course, and thanks to the anti-Brexit clowning of entitled Tory Remainers he is a possible prime minister-in-waiting. Yet even if Labour were to win a general election, would he become prime minister in anything but name? The prospect that has long hovered over Labour and has recently gained traction is: vote Corbyn, get McDonnell.
John McDonnell has always been the more heavyweight contender of the duo heading Labour. A self-confessed “cultural Catholic” educated in a junior seminary, later a determined autodidact who clawed his way up the ladder from menial employment to graduate status, the contrast between the substance of his life experience and the more dilettante background of Corbyn is significant. Corbyn is a joke figure, McDonnell is formidable.