Let us be clear. Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to win the leadership contest, and may not be the potential leader most likely to win a general election. Anyone judging his candidacy on those bases misses the point.
The Labour Party, and the broader labour movement, needs a wide ranging, and evidence based debate about why we lost the last two general elections. Up until now the leadership contest has been dire, with all candidates seeking to occupy similar narrow ground, based upon the political perceptions of those who spend too much time in the Westminster hothouse of Portculis House.
Jon Lansman is exactly right when he says:
Jeremy Corbyn may not win this election but if he gets on the ballot paper, he’ll widen the debate and change [the other candidates’] campaigns. Candidates will talk more about austerity than aspiration. If they mention party “reform”, they’ll be more likely to mean democracy and less likely to mean new ways of excluding trade unions.
When the “left” candidate [Burnham] says he won’t take trade union money and wants to downgrade the role of party members in picking candidates, the contest needs a shake up. I hope that MPs, new or old, won’t rate any commitment they may have made last week to a fellow MP above the right to choose of those that put them there.
Back in the 1980s the left in the party lost sight of the need to adapt as society and the electorate changes, and therefore argued both a programme, and a style of politics that was out of touch, and could not lead to electoral victory. The danger in the current leadership election is that the centre-right of the Labour Party are making a similar mistake, assuming that the policies, campaigning methods and attitudes that led to electoral victory in 1997 could be successfully replicated today.
The changes made in the party’s constitution following the Collins review have consolidated the gatekeeper role of MPs. They must use that power wisely to enable a serious debate. Jeremy Corbyn is a substantial political figure, who will bring into the debate opinions and arguments which would otherwise not be heard. Labour is a coalitional party, and in order to reach a new election winning consensus, the voices of all parts of the party need to be heard in the debate.