THE first column I wrote in this slot, three and a half years ago, was about Jeremy Corbyn. I went to Middlesbrough Town Hall to see him speak, just as he started to taste victory in the Labour leadership contest.

I wanted to hear, first-hand, what the initial underdog of the contest had to say.

He spoke about austerity, equality, about the cruelty of the Government’s welfare bill – and for a time I found myself swept along with it.

The Northern Echo:

RALLY: Jeremy Corbyn on the stage of Middlesbrough Town Hall for a Labour party leadership rally in 2015. Picture: Tom Banks

His vision for a fairer society was my vision.

I have always been something of an idealist and I could see why he had many younger voters, looking for fresh ideas.

Children and youngsters are inherently left wing, unless they have been taught not to be.

They believe in fairness and equality and have a strong sense of right and wrong, before self-interest, economic interest and materialism creeps in and their views start tiptoeing to the right.

And that sense of fairness is the point where many of us started believing in Jeremy.

He had real ideals, principles which he stuck to whether they were fashionable or not. He was initially the joke candidate, the rank outsider. But at some point he became something of a Messiah figure to his followers. And that is where the danger crept in.

I think you can judge a person’s true character by the people they surround themselves with. There is something of the night about the Momentum movement, and the ruthless way they deal with criticism.

A close journalist friend of mine had to have protection officers outside her house when she wrote a factual story which the far left didn’t like. This kind of behaviour has echoes, at best, of Donald Trump’s aggressive approach, and at worst of totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.

Corbyn has also been an enormous disappointment. It has been an advantageous time to be the leader of the opposition with the ruling party in tatters over Brexit. While he is skilled in clever Parliamentary debate, and a rousing orator, his policies have been flimsy and uncoordinated and he has been a poor leader.

Uniting the party, clever leadership was essential. Instead the Labour Party lies in tatters, split down the middle and with a reputation for anti-Semitism and bullying opponents.

Whether the Independent Group offers a solution remains to be seen. Neither main party is representative enough for voters and the Independent Group offers a solution.

We have seen before that middle-ground politics from the main parties seems to work, yet Labour and Conservative are drifting even further away from each other, leaving a void that the Liberal Democrats have not been able to fill. Whatever happens, having more varied representation is good news for democracy.

Talking of getting abuse, last week’s column about Brexit and food shortages certainly got the Brexiteers’ hackles up. I would like to explain one thing to them. This is an opinion column. People having different opinions is a good thing. Healthy debate brings us closer to the truth. But I’d really like a more intelligent argument than a load of poo emojis. Thank you.