I last voted Labour in the election before Tony Blair became leader in 1994. Since then I have voted Green or Lib Dem. But this week I signed up as a Labour supporter to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as he promises a serious debate about progressive policies and offers hope of reform that might just make the party electable.
When Corbyn made it onto the ballot I did not think he was a potential prime minister. I still don’t. But then, none of the other contenders look like potential PMs and seem to be campaigning in a strange, policy-free way with their messages boiling down to “I want to lead the Labour Party.” Where they want to lead the party, I have no idea.
They seem to have learned nothing from annihilation in Scotland or failure in most of England. Under threat their campaigns have turned nastily negative. When Alastair Campbell talked about a car crash my reaction was to register as a Labour supporter. Blair’s outburst in the Guardian today – “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below.” – validated my decision.
If Corbyn wanted to bring back Clause 4 (ownership of the means of production), which I don’t think is what he said, he would not be able to. He would have to work with the parliamentary party to reach a policy consensus.
This goes for much of what he has been saying. What we have is a clear direction of travel with a lot of things that command wide support. Renationalising the railways and not renewing Trident (also SNP policy) would be popular.
When you look at a lot of what he is saying it is more nuanced than the headlines. For example, on coal mining he was talking about the possibility, if prices rose, of getting high quality coal from South Wales again. The Daily Mirror had a fair report on his energy ideas which centred on developing the green energy economy to create jobs.
Some of those who nominated Corbyn said they wanted to widen the debate. He has tried to do that by presenting a raft of policies but the other contenders have refused to join the debate. They could have said they disagreed, why they disagreed and the alternative policies they would espouse. They have not and so show they are unfit to be leaders.
The Labour Party needs to debate all these issues and that would certainly happen under a Corbyn leadership. I still don’t think he is the man to take the party into the next election but I have a feeling that he would be happy to stand down well before that time.
He would also make his party look more like the opposition to Government, a role which has been largely conceded to the SNP since the election.
I will be voting in the hope that will again feel able to vote Labour as I have done for most of my life.