A while ago in Parliament, when Corbyn was still leader, he accused Boris of being a "phoney outsider" - an odd, Westminster-bubble insult as we noted at the time. Goes to show, though, how much of an advantage being an insurgent is nowadays deemed to be. Corbs, of course, had been told that being a genuine outsider was his USP, and he wanted to see off any pretenders to this crown.
This was brought to mind as I found myself pondering how to vote in next week's local referendum on whether Croydon should switch from the Leader/Cabinet system of local government to the Elected Mayor variant instead. (Sadly, the old Committee System is no longer on offer.)
How does this referendum arise? Well, enough people signed a petition: but why?
Because the local Conservatives, who always used to hold the borough council (and, at one time, all 4 parliamentary seats, as we had in them days**). But demographics have worked against us and it's been Labour for nearly 8 years (and they also have two out of three MPs now). But the popular vote is still majority Conservative across the borough as a whole, the ward boundary arrangements not favouring us at all. So the Elected Mayor wheeze is designed to keep Labour out of power, because they may still command a majority of council seats after the next elections in 2022.
Given that in their 8 years of control Labour have literally bankrupted the town with their self-aggrandising Toytown politics, you might might think that's a bit pessimistic about the good sense of the Croydon electorate; and maybe it is - though fewer people seem to care about the bankruptcy, the blatant corruption++ and even the squalor of the council properties than you'd imagine.
But equally there's huge, sluggish apathy in all directions. So the push for a mayoral putsch, which has aroused passions amongst those in favour but barely any other reaction at all, seems quite exciting and, well, insurgent. I can easily see it succeeding: probably a low turnout with 80% in favour of a mayor, or something bizarre like that.
This is what the left hates about the Tories: endless flexibility when it comes to policies & ways & means. They hate Boris, too, but seem unable to do anything about him. They wish they were the populist revolutionaries but in many senses the permanent revolution is on the right.
More Croydon Referendum news in due course.
** To be fair, it was a bit aberrational: Croydon Central has been a genuine marginal for 60 years, and the two northern constituencies were natural Labour territory, more akin to neighbouring Lambeth and Lewisham. But they were held by strong Tory personalities: a much loved local worthy (a hanger-and-flogger); and the saintly Bernard Weatherill (who, as an old India hand, could converse with his electorate in their own tongues). It was never going to last - and it didn't.
++ Space doesn't permit me to recount the stories, but the redoubtable Inside Croydon is chock full of them, as is Private Eye.