Jeremy Corbyn has allowed numerous words and phrases to creep back into sentences also containing the phrase 'the Labour Party' that thought they would never be welcome there again without the supervision of a firm 'not' or 'never'. 'Hope' is one, 'exciting' and 'a genuine alternative' are others, with 'worth bothering with' a possible contender too. As I have previously argued, Corbyn's self-styled 'straight-talking politics' that lends a refreshing break from the economically illiterate mantra of deficit reduction and immigrant bashing is exactly what Labour and the country needs. His bid for Labour leadership is a fight I desperately hope he wins, but it is a fight I also recognise is not mine.
When you start criticising election rules mid-way through an election, five years after they were decided upon, particularly if polls keep revealing that your favoured candidate is losing, you're probably not being entirely genuine. I, however, am going to take the rather more unconventional (but hopefully more honest) move of criticising the rules that just might see my favourite winning.
As much as I want Corbyn to win, this is only because it would signal to me that Labour as a whole has begun to turn back into a viable Opposition once more. If a load of non-Labour members pay 3 quid and vote in a leader Labour members don't want, not only is it unfair to the party members, but it also tells us nothing about what Labour is. As brilliant as he is, Corbyn, even as leader, is but one man. Allowing Labour to vote on their leader without interference would give us as good an idea as we can get as to the intentions and opinions of the whole Labour Party, but with anyone voting we learn nothing about Labour and run the risk of many people come 2020 opting for the party they think Labour is, rather than what it actually is.
Then there's the broader questions. Why stop at electing the leader? Why not pay a fiver to vote on policy too? Tell you what, buy a vote on Labour's health and education policies and I'll chuck in a miniaturised stone tablet pledge, a la Miliband for free. But why stop at just Labour Party policy? Why not Conservative Party policy, Liberal Democrat policy and all the others too? But hang on- if the public is deciding the policy and leaders of all the different parties, then will we not suddenly end up with an awful lot of parties resembling each other? Isn't that the very thing people despise about politics in the first place? Of course, if people want to move away from the party political system and into a form of more direct democracy then that's an important and interesting debate to have, but let's at least be honest about the trajectory we find ourselves upon.
For all the talk of the 'entryism' of other party members, the quiet infiltration of non-Tory members who are really conservative (or liberal, or green or whatever) in their hearts and have no intention of voting Labour at all is the real problem in this leadership election. So are those that have no real commitment to the Labour Party but are jumping on Corbyn's rather attractive bandwagon, but would just as quickly jump ship if things didn't go their way. Some could claim that this could still be a problem if we allowed only members to vote (these infiltrators could still just join as members) but, funnily enough, it never seems to have been a problem until now. Of course, there's no research been done into how these new supporters would feel about joining as a fully-fledged member instead, but I suspect my friend that has voted Conservative for decades who is rushing to 'support' Labour by voting Liz Kendall as their leader is rather unlikely to rush to become a fully-fledged member too. People clearly make a psychological distinction in their minds between being a supporter and being a member, so why doesn't this leadership election?
Do we not though, as many have argued, all have a stake in the next Labour leader, as they'll also be the next leader of the Opposition? True, but we already voted on that in May: we put Labour into the position of Opposition by collectively giving them enough votes to secure a solid second place (knowingly full well that if Ed lost there'd be a leadership election straight after): we've had our say on that matter. The decisions of the Labour leader may affect more than Labour members, but that doesn't mean we should all get a vote in it. Should all the residents of the other EU countries get to vote in our EU referendum next year, because a Brexit would affect them too? Should my partner be allowed to veto my decision to leave them because it will impact them as well?
Ultimately a political party exists to bring a collection of like-minded individuals together to decide upon the vision they think best for society, and to then campaign together to bring that vision about. If you don't share a number of the values of the Labour Party and do not intend to support them in any way beyond voting on their leadership, you have no place deciding their leader. If you do share many values that Labour do, then you should be prepared to join them, regardless of who their next leader is. Even if Corbyn wins, one man would not (and should not) be able to change an entire party.
Of course, this does not mean the Left cannot support Corbyn in other ways. Talk to your Labour friends and lay out the argument for why he'd be a brilliant leader for Labour to have. Defend his policy stances whilst they're being debated for the first time in a long time in the media. Put renewed energy into the struggles you are involved with locally that may be being bolstered by Corbynmania. But leave the actual voting to the Labour Party members, otherwise this leadership contest will be meaningless.