This is perhaps a touch unfair as the two respectively denote principles and detail. It's the latter, not the former that's hazy. Nevertheless, if Corbynism is to have a lasting impact on the party and politics long after the leader's departure from the scene we need detail now. And a bit of detail is what we got with today's first policy speech since the populist turn was mooted. Unfortunately, Corbyn 2.0 didn't get off to a flying start. An about-turn on EU free movement post-Brexit was widely trailed overnight. What? Apparently, Labour is not "wedded" to it. This was immediately spun as a change in Jeremy's long-held and principled views on immigration, while in fact he was just speaking a truth about Labour's position: while his leadership is comfortable with an opposition to immigration controls, the party as a whole has only recently adopted this position and would lurch back to pandering rather than challenging the bullshit said and written about newcomers. In other words, it's a hint that the policy could change at some point even though his views haven't.
As readers know, I'm all for nuanced discussion of issues and policy, but a major announcement is probably not the place for it. I can understand why Jeremy and his team are trying to square the circle. We all know about those "genuine concerns" fanned by assorted papers and politicians for decades, and a large number of people in the party - not just the PLP, not just "the Blairites" - support border controls too, albeit for a number of reasons. This convoluted fuss is about facing both ways, of being principled and trying to manage the party but not satisfying partisans of either camp. Jeremy has repeatedly defined himself as someone who argues for the cultural, social and economic benefits of immigration and he has an opportunity to go all out and challenge received wisdom on this issue. And he should - Labour under his leadership cannot hope to make much headway unless it lances the immigration boil, and in no uncertain terms he must abandon the liberal position and take up a class position, such as attacking anti-immigration rhetoric as a tactic of divide and rule. It's what a good populist would do.
What a mess, eh? Yet Labour still carried the day. The populist turn has given us the high pay cap, and this is exactly the sort of thing Corbyn's leadership needs to do more of. Not just because I agree with it (which I do), but because a) it's eye catching, and b) it puts the government on the back foot. Eye-catching isn't a good in and of itself, after all being noticeable didn't make Nigel Farage anything but repugnant for the vast majority of voters. But it's clear, connotes a system rigged for the rich, taps into a deep sense of unfairness that has hitherto been exploited successfully by the right, and is the sort of thing that might fire the latent Labourist imaginations of voters that have drifted from the party. Or at least cause them to take another look.
Second, as May is making a play for some of Labour's rhetorical ground with the shared society wheeze, Corbyn's counter-stroke immediately puts her on the defensive. How can one be for fairness if she's not willing to tackle a very visible manifestation of inequality? What is also of interest is attaching "progressive" conditions to government contracts, and making sure workers have representation on remuneration committees - an idea so bolshevist that it's common practice on the continent. But again, there was some confusion in the presentation. Is the cap compulsory or voluntary? Is it required of public sector contracts only? How can it be implemented? Yet the populist power of the message is such that these were drowned out by the principle of the thing. On Channel 4 News this evening, for instance, Telegraph deputy editor Allister Heath was forced to indulge a bit of post-truth bullshittery of his own to defend the indefensible salaries and perks of our most handsomely remunerated, predict disaster if it ever came to pass, and so on.
If this is what the new left populism is going to look like, then good. Tilting the centre of political gravity in a socialist direction will later put Labour in a better political place. In fact, we can only hope to win if we make the political weather. Today, however, the leadership got lucky. The high pay cap was the take home and the confusion around it and immigration will be forgotten, but this cannot be counted on again. A clear message demands clear and consistent messaging. If this doesn't get sorted, then the populist experiment is doomed before it properly begins.