In the light of that, what can we make of the frenzied reaction of the press to him refusing to sing ‘God save the Queen’, and attacking his mode of dress? Three things, it seems to me.
Firstly, his political opponents – including, or perhaps even especially, those in his own party – are deeply uncomfortable with discussing policy. There are probably several reasons for this – including that they’re not used to thinking in terms of policy, and much more accustomed to voting as they’re told, and that they are probably (and rightly) afraid of losing any intelligent argument around policy.
Secondly, it makes for easier headlines. There’s a lot less work involved in writing a press release or tweeting a negative and highly personal attack than there is in preparing a serious response to policy; and what passes for journalism finds it easier to write big screaming headlines in response.
But thirdly, and most importantly, there’s a less obvious effect at play, and that is an attempt to impose, or at least reinforce, the boundaries within which politics is conducted. And that includes preventing or suppressing any serious debate about policy which might expose the fact that there are alternatives. There’s a mindset at work for which ‘being different’ is inherently dangerous, even if the differences are not as great as they're portrayed.
Corbyn could, of course, simply compromise and fall in with convention, which is what I’m sure many of his so-called colleagues will be urging him to do. Hypocritical, of course, but it’s what they seem to want. I doubt that it will make much difference – they’ll only find more and more things to criticise unless and until he’s brought completely back into line. And parts of the media are not averse to making things up if it suits their agenda.
But for me, there’s something very sad about a political culture which would find complete and obvious hypocrisy more acceptable than honesty and consistency. That, though, is the Labour-Tory consensus in which we live.