Whatever happens in this week’s general election, nothing will ever be the same again. Already, the 2017 election is completely different to any I have experienced in my lifetime. An out-of-her-depth prime minister tried and failed to prove to the electorate that she was “strong and stable”, running a campaign based upon soundbites and no policies. I still expect Theresa May to be returned to Downing Street on Friday morning but the alternative offered by Labour in general and Jeremy Corbyn, at least in terms of offering something very different to the Tories, has made a lot of people that things don’t have to be like this. Corbyn, who I rate as the worst Labour leader of my lifetime, may have come up with something really big.

There is a great deal of apathy in the country, a feeling that politicians are in it for themselves, they pay no attention to working people and they are all the same. This, I suspect, was part of the movement, as well as hating foreign people, which saw so many people vote to leave the EU last year. Even though the EU was never part of the problems in Britain, people lashed out. From feeling helpless, people rose up and did what they regarded the establishment didn’t want them to do. Put to one side the coming disaster that will unfold with Brexit and Corbyn’s support for May’s hard version of it; Labour’s campaign and, yes, Corbyn himself gave many people hope.

Theresa May’s offer to the people, such as it is, means more of the same. More cuts to frontline services, deepening inequality, no pay rise for millions of workers, millions of others on poverty wages, more cuts in working benefits, more attacks on the sick and disabled. But May miscalculated in a number of areas.

First, her limitations have been ruthlessly exposed, largely by herself. A poor speaker who can’t think on her feet, an autocrat who has excluded almost every other Tory big hitter from TV screens and, in arrogantly assuming entitlement to the top job, she chose to attack the very group who always support the Tories: the old. May’s dementia tax will clean out the estates of those who work hard and play by the rules. She thought her lead was so big, she could get away with presenting a virtually blank canvas in the belief that she could get away with the bad stuff.

Second, politics by soundbite, by slogan, by name-calling has not worked as well as May, and her organ grinder Lynton Crosby, had believed. May was not addressing the “just about managing” whose lives she pretended to understand. It was just words. “Strong and stable” might resonate well with people who had but a threadbare understanding of politics but people who had seen their living standards fall and their prospects diminish did not fall for it. May was found out very quickly and, whatever happens now, she will not recover fully from this disastrous campaign. She is damaged goods and deserves to be.

Corbyn, by contrast, has had a good campaign. No way is he up to the job of PM, but then neither is May, but where May offers platitudes, Corbyn makes an offer of substantial change and, yes, hope. Whether Labour’s costings add up or not – and I am not going to pretend I don’t have major doubts – is almost, but not quite, beside the point because people can see something different and much better than what they currently have. May drones on about the “magic money tree” but it existed to enable the governments to which she belonged to allow huge hand outs to the super rich and big corporations. Labour’s offer is one of hope, even if it is probably also economically illiterate. May’s is simply hopeless.

Where I believe things have changed is in the art of the possible. Ed Miliband went to the country with a confused and muddled manifesto and no one, not even his supporters, saw any kind of vision of what Miliband’s Labour would look like. Corbyn’s Labour has given us a clear choice and whilst I do not expect to see the old boy walking along Downing Street this coming Friday, his successor will surely have to set his or her sights higher than tinkering at the edges.

Much to my surprise, the Corbyn experiment, disastrous from the moment of his election in 2015 right up to the start of this campaign, has firstly given many voters hope that things can be different and better, that we can have a fairer, more equal country if we want it and secondly allowed Labour to build a post Corbyn vision that encompasses all of Labour’s broad church of opinion by the time of the next election.

It is still more likely than not that Labour will repeat its result from 2015 when Cameron defeated Miliband, probably I suspect with May having an increased parliamentary majority. If that is the case, no one should pretend the result was good for Labour. If Labour loses, it’s a bad result however you look at it. The people Labour professes to represent will not benefit from five years of Mayhem.

One of my main regrets about the Blair wins of 1997, 2001 and 2005 was that Labour did not consolidate its changes to the country. I would return to that type of government in less than a heartbeat but now I would urge the Labour PM to go far further towards equality of opportunity and fairness, to begin to entrench them as our values, to finally shake off the poisonous legacy of Margaret Thatcher. The next Labour opposition must begin to work towards that.

And Labour needs to ensure its big hitters are on the front bench. Corbyn’s feeble front bench, including the likes of Emily Thornberry, Richard Burgon. John McDonnell and worst of all Diane Abbott, is a joke when you think about all that talent on the backbenches. But when and if the real big hitters return to the shadow cabinet, which will probably be after Corbyn resigns, Labour cannot continue with business as usual.

The electorate never saw Corbyn as a potential prime minister from the very start but now they know that May has been oversold, mainly by herself. The rise of Corbyn and the fall of May has been one of the stories of the election and the fact that ideas still matter to voters.

As long as Corbyn exits stage left after the election and leaders with big ideas and a clear vision for the future step forward, maybe reports of Labour’s death – by people like me – have been exaggerated. I’m minded now to hold my nose and vote for a Corbynista this Thursday and a few weeks ago this was something I never even contemplated.

My advice to everyone else is simple: vote tactically for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservative. If May wins, as I expect her to do, her majority needs to be as small as possible. She has done nothing to deserve to win on Thursday, but she richly deserves to lose.

For Labour, maybe things can only get better. Again.