This was not a good result for the Left. The unalloyed ecstasy will last for about 20 minutes, and then natural events will take their course. On the extreme Left, that natural course is for victory to produce, first, factional argument over who actually lays claim to power, rapidly followed by accusations of betrayal and ideological impurity, and ending with purges, coups and counter-coups. And that's what happens when something small is at stake: the editorship of a Trotskyist publication, or the running of a protest organisation. Given that we are talking about the fate of the country's main opposition party, the bloodletting should be awesome.
The best possible outcome for the Corbynistas would have been for their man to have been defeated by a small margin. Then he could have become the Great Lost Leader, the martyred saint who might have led his people to their true destination had he not been cheated by a cabal of... Well, you get the picture. As it is, one of two things will happen. Either the Parliamentary Labour Party will go momentarily quiescent while it regroups, refusing co-operation and advice to the leadership clique. In that case, Jeremy Corbyn will be isolated and vulnerable in his inexperience, and likely to be surprisingly cautious. This will hasten the tendency of the naive "idealists" who believed in him to become disappointed - which will happen inevitably at any rate, since no mortal man could possibly maintain the purity that idealised Leftism demands.
Or else the Corbyn crew will be brought down within months by a Labour assassination squad. This will result in a decade of division within the party, but the hard Left will be particularly scarred by the viciousness of its fight to the death. So this ends with Corbyn looking like either a "sell-out" in the eyes of his own fanatical army, or like a desperate, divisive figure who ruins the party's chances. Better to have lost and remained the unblemished hero. (It's no wonder that Len McClusky said last week that Corbyn had already won even if he loses: the moral victory was always more valuable than the electoral one.)
But in truth, it would not have mattered whether Corbyn had won or lost. His campaign has allowed the Left to install itself into the heart of the party's mechanisms. And it was able to do this because Labour is dying as a national force. The Corbyn phenomenon did not represent a resurgence of interest in the Labour Party: it represented a collapse of interest in it. Almost no one was involved in this or even taking it seriously - apart from the hard-core Old Left (some from within, but mostly from outside the party), a handful of extremely well-organised, self-serving trade union leaders, and a cohort of very young enthusiasts who know almost nothing about grown-up life.
The great mass of real people (especially working-class people) has fallen away, and it is their absence that has allowed these tiny activist minorities to take control of the abandoned entity formerly known as the Labour Party. That is why the real story of this leadership election has not been the triumphal march of Corbynism - which simply rushed in to fill a vacuum - but the uninspiring mediocrity of all the other candidates. Here is the puzzle: why couldn't a party that had so recently performed an electoral miracle of historic proportions come up with a more impressive stable of aspirants?
Only a decade or so ago, Labour people were among the brightest and best politicians in the field. In my personal experience, meeting up with a Labour minister was far livelier and more rewarding than a dispiriting hour or two with a politically exhausted Tory. Intellectually adventurous, engaged with ideas, open to argument - the New Labour generation had invigorated public discourse in a way that was truly exciting. (They seemed to enjoy genuine, robust disagreement - much as Margaret Thatcher did, in fact.) Many of those New Labour people, fed up with being demonised and hounded, have simply drifted away. Those who did not - like Tessa Jowell, who has just been defeated by Sadiq Khan for the London mayoral nomination - have been insultingly sidelined. All that openness and vitality is gone, displaced by evangelical intolerance and a narrow, rabid certainty that admits no doubt. And the dogma that is espoused has been discredited everywhere it has been tried: the insistence on purity of principle quickly degenerating into either totalitarianism (the Soviet model) or a shambolic failure to come to terms with reality (as more recently in Greece).
Labour is closing down and voluntarily relinquishing the arena where the important matters of a modern democracy are up for discussion. How should we regulate free markets? How can public services be delivered most fairly and efficiently? What is the proper role of government intervention? Instead of dealing with these questions in ways that most adults know they must be addressed, Labour will be pushed into presenting a prospectus of state control, punitive taxation and a command economy that would scarcely appeal to anyone outside the enclaves of the far Left. Most voters will now discount Labour and its internal struggle as a sideshow. They will stand back while the party fights itself to a bloody standstill, believing its strife to be largely irrelevant to their lives. This is not necessarily true, but the belief will stick.
All this was inevitable - with or without Corbyn - so long as the Old Left persisted in its tireless struggle to take back what it still sees as its party, which began with the trade unions' triumphal elevation of Ed Miliband to the leadership. Their revenge for Tony Blair's Clause Four moment - which is far more important to them than his wars - is reaching its apotheosis. Without a commitment to the basic Marxist creed - taking the means of production into national ownership - there was no identifiable centre to the movement. Corbyn and his campaign were not the cause of Labour's existential crisis: they were the result of it. Whoever had been elected as leader would have had to deal with this question: what is the party for?
To judge from what much of the Old Left has been saying, its purpose is certainly not for getting elected. Democracy, in the great Marxist tradition, can simply be dismissed as a bourgeois deception. That is why contempt for public opinion comes so easily. The people are benighted, having been seduced by "consumerism" (otherwise known as prosperity) and the Tory press. Marxism is, you must understand, a religion. One of the sacred mysteries that must be accepted is that "the people" are the justification for all action, but their opinions at any given moment may be ignored. This was a political philosophy that grew out of the industrial revolution when workers were genuine economic fodder, largely uneducated and politically powerless. Trade unionism and the co-operative movements provided the only organised route to mutual protection and collective influence.
Those were the deeply honourable roots of the early Labour movement, which must now - in a world with the universal franchise, post-industrial employment and global economics - decide what it stands for and for whom it speaks. Its biggest mistake would be to assume that the people are not only stupid but wicked. Voters who support centre-Right parties are not amoral: they believe that people should generally get out of life what they put in; that it is virtuous to be responsible for yourself and your family, and that you should be rewarded for hard work and making sensible life choices. This is as worthy a moral viewpoint as the Left's collectivism. Until Labour accepts that once more, it will remain outside the only political conversation worth having.