Andy McSmith's Diary: Jeremy Corbyn's informal style is charming – but can it last?

The Labour leader appeared at the party conference in a blue shirt with no tie, wielding an iPad

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Indy Politics

There is an absence of grandeur about Jeremy Corbyn that his admirers find very appealing. Diners at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant in Brighton on Sunday evening were surprised to see Corbyn arrive with his wife, Laura Alvarez, and take a table in the middle of the room, just like any other customers who had come in off the street. No minders, acolytes or other politicians were anywhere to be seen. It is probably the first time in more 50 years that a Labour leader has dined with so little fuss on the opening day of the annual conference.

Then, as John McDonnell delivered the shadow Chancellor’s big speech to conference, Corbyn was on the platform, in a blue shirt with no tie, using an iPad to snap pictures of his old friend. This informality has its charm. It cannot last.

Corbyn the coffee-seller

And another thing. No Labour leader in living memory has lent his image to a commercial advertising campaign – or so I assumed, until I turned to page 7 of the Morning Star, where there is an advertisement for Revolver coffee, made from beans grown in Colombia, Cuba, Honduras or Guatemala.  Alongside it there is an image of a bearded man in a blue shirt with no tie, holding a polythene mug that presumably contains this delicious brew. That satisfied customer is Jeremy Corbyn. His wife, Laura, runs a different business selling organic coffee beans. Not very anti-capitalist.

There is no list

There have been dark warnings from various directions that a cull of Labour MPs who do not support Corbyn is about to begin. Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, is reported to have said that he has “a little list” of MPs he would like to see removed. Do not expect great dramas. Removing an MP is a dreary job that involves a lot of organising and a lot of time spent in brain-numbing meetings. Life would be uncomfortable for targeted MPs if Unite were to put its organisational muscle behind a deselection campaign, but they flatly deny any such intention. I asked Len McCluskey about this list of his. He grinned and said: “I haven’t got a little list, I haven’t got a big list, I haven’t got any list at all.”

Ashcroft did put boot in “If this was just a revenge job, Lord Ashcroft and I could have published this before the election or over party conference,” said Isabel Oakeshott, co-author of that book. She was refuting the suggestion that Michael Ashcroft was driven by a wish to get his own back because David Cameron did not offer him a senior enough post in government. The book was scheduled to be published the week after the Conservative annual conference, but it was announced that publication had been moved forward to next Monday, the first full day of the Conservative conference. I think we  can now infer that is indeed “a revenge job”.