Much has been said about the need to re-evaluate the purpose that the Labour Party is to serve in today's society. The right wing of the party emphasises, quite rightly, the importance of being a party of government. You are unlikely greatly to improve the lot of the people without being in power. Yet it's equally true that the empty rhetoric and endless fudge of so-called "centrist" politics have got us to where we are now: scarce trust from the public, diminishing hope for a better future, and unremitting cynicism. Politics should be more than just a utilitarian exercise. It should aspire to rise above finding the right pork with which to chase a few thousand swing votes in marginal constituencies. Victories matter. But so do people's lives.
Another route to victory is to persuade - to set out a compelling vision, to inspire. The Labour Party is weak when voters do not know what we stand for, when they struggle to differentiate between Labour and the Conservatives. To some extent this is about presentation: contrast the effective sound bites of the 2015 Conservative election campaign ("clearing up the mess Labour left behind"; "longterm economic plan"; "Vote Labour, get SNP") with the inadequate communication of Ed Miliband's campaign. Miliband's basic diagnoses of the travails of modern Britain were spot on. He was right to argue that this is now a country where the young have fewer life chances than their parents did. Yet sadly, although the building blocks for an inspiring narrative were there, the focus of Labour's 2015 policy platform was transactional.
The Labour Party is at its strongest not when dabbling in the cynical triangulations of "centrism", but when it offers people real hope. Although most people may not be interested in traditional notions of "left" and "right", they respond to principled, credible, trustworthy leadership.
Is there a leader among Labour's ranks who can fit this bill?
I write as someone who, in Tony Blair's day, was a Blairite - and as someone who approached the current Labour leadership contest dispassionately. I happen also to be a lawyer, paying income tax at 40%. I am someone who, if stories in the press are to be believed, would stand to lose out financially due to "socialist" policies. Yet after listening carefully to all four candidates, it is clear to me that Jeremy Corbyn's policy platform is not on the "loony left". There is nothing loony about saying that building more council houses will reduce the housing benefit bill. There is nothing loony about advocating borrowing to fund investment in major capital projects and infrastructure. That is just orthodox Keynesian economics, championed in the modern day by Nobel Prize-winning economists such as Paul Krugman, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz. Nor is there anything loony about arguing that modest increases in tax receipts, as people earn more in wages, are a better way forward than shutting local libraries and attacking the working poor. In short, there is nothing loony about opposing austerity. Most economists around the world agree that it simply does not work. It only slows down recovery from recession.
But if Corbyn's sensible proposals are considered loony in today's Britain, then we need to recalibrate our political spectrum. Just as George Osborne is attempting to do now, we need to draw the political centre closer to our beliefs - rather than abandoning our beliefs to occupy the right-leaning "centre". Labour will not win as an impostor.
If 2015's general election result has taught us anything, surely it is to take with a barrelful of salt the prognostications and prophecies of pundits and pollsters. Ordinary people do not think like politicos. There is a good reason why the pejorative cliché du jour is the "Westminster bubble".
As an open-minded Labour supporter, I have found three compelling reasons to conclude that Jeremy Corbyn is the best candidate for these times.
First, clarity of vision. Corbyn will not try to out-Tory the Tories; he will set out clear and workable alternatives to austerity. To win, Labour has to frame the debate in its own terms. We must reject the insidious notion that "fiscal responsibility" and "financial credibility" must only equate to a Tory agenda. In the real world, a "credible" politician is one who stands up for the values that he or she actually believes in. A politician who is not credible is one who will say anything, whatever it takes, in order to win. The time for grey compromise and opaque fudge has passed. Corbyn would inaugurate the era of persuasion and inspiration in British politics.
Second, sincerity. Without sincerity, there is no hope of winning the trust of a public jaded by the cynicism of politics-as-usual. Corbyn is the most genuine potential leader we have seen in years - not an immaculately groomed, photogenic poster boy, but an articulate, persuasive and relatable advocate. It is no wonder that we have seen thousands in recent weeks (re-)join the Labour Party because of the Corbyn factor. Now there is something to hope for - and something worth fighting for.
Third, authenticity. Corbyn does not "look the part". He does not look like an inhabitant of the "Westminster bubble". He even dares to have a beard. But he is for real - and people relate to that. Embarrassing as he may find this, the good folk of Mumsnet even find his beard sexy.
I do not mean to disparage the other candidates. Both Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham would make fine leaders. Burnham, especially, has an invaluable flair for communicating clearly, answering the question and speaking English (rather than politico). But it is Corbyn who can truly give the country hope and a much needed fresh start. Just as he has inspired thousands to flock to the Labour Party, so he can inspire the country by shining a light on a brighter and fairer way forward.
If Labour elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader, it could be the start of an exciting new chapter in the story of the Labour Party - and the country.
The views expressed here are the author's and do not reflect those of any organisation with which he is professionally associated.Suggest a correction