Jeremy Corbyn bowed out from front bench politics last week in the only way a man of his character could; with a steely, determined vow that his voice would not be stilled.
A rare ‘ism’ in the annals of opposition politicians, even Boris Johnson was forced to concede that no one could doubt his “sincerity and determination to build a better society”.
“I believe in a decent, socially just society and he was talking as though this was an obituary,” Corbyn retorted.
“Just to let him know, my voice will not be stilled, I will be around, I’ll be campaigning, I’ll be arguing and I’ll be demanding justice for the people of this country and indeed the rest of the world.”
But it would be remiss not to look back on all the outgoing Labour leader has achieved over his four and a half years at the helm.
Elected with the largest mandate ever won by a party leader in September 2015 he created a movement that sought to redress the societal ills inflicted on the country by years of austerity.
He was a “Labour leader like no other”, Ken Loach noted this week, who put the working class first.
As Chris Renwick wrote in 2017, he visibly shook the Establishment.
After years of people bemoaning the “bloody bankers and their bonuses” and the “bloody politicians with their lying and second homes”, they suddenly had a leader who looked out for them, who had their interests at heart and who would not be corrupted or curtailed in doing so.
And people believed him
And people believed him.
On June 5th, 2017, John Prescott posted a picture from the banks of the River Tyne of Jeremy Corbyn addressing a jam-packed rally.
Not even in ’97, the former Deputy Prime Minister said, did Labour pull crowds like this.
The fan frenzy Resembled Beetlemania with a palpable sense of optimism and hope in the air.
Weeks later as crowds piled in to Glastonbury there was only one act who made the headlines on a bright Saturday afternoon.
Appearing on the main Pyramid stage next to Michael Eavis he recited Shelley’s poem on the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 to rapturous applause.
“Shake your chains to earth like dew/Which in sleep had fallen on you: Ye are many—they are few!”, he said.
“Oh Jeremy Corbyn”, the crowd chanted back in response.
Yet media hostility to the Labour leader was never far away.
In July 2016, a study and analysis by academics from the London School of Economics of months of eight national newspaper articles about Corbyn in the first months of his leadership of Labour showed that 75 per cent of them either distorted or failed to represent his actual views on subjects.
In the last election, researchers at Loughborough University found that press hostility towards doubled in relation to Labour and halved in relation to the Conservatives.
When the Daily Mail completed its purchase of the i newspaper at the end of November the picture had become clear; two billionaire press barons now own half of the UK’s top 10 daily newspapers, neither of whom are likely to support a progressive, radical government.
Right all along
But even if Corbyn’s manifesto didn’t cut through with the electorate in December it is impossible to deny that most his ideas were on point.
Just weeks into their administration the Conservative government had ripped off vast swathes of his policy ideas, renationalising rail networks and pumping money into local bus services and the NHS.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit those messages became even more deeply entrenched in the nation’s psyche because we “suddenly realised as a society and a community that we need everybody – and everybody has a contribution to make.”
We owe a massive debt of gratitude to Jeremy Corbyn for putting that message back on the agenda.