I remained faithful to the Labour Party during the general election for three reasons. Firstly, I enjoy reading books about Labour's history. Secondly, my parents are foolishly loyal and argue pretty convincingly on Labour's behalf. Finally, Ed Miliband, despite the argument from those on the far left, occupied an actual left-wing position. Labour, as you know, lost the election. Immediately I questioned my loyalty. Yesterday, however, I joined the Labour Party.
The reduced membership for those folks that are 26 and under was admittedly enticing - having just reached 26 and always seeking a bargain. The post-election discontent certainly played a role. The most appealing factor, however, was the introduction of Jeremy Corbyn into the leadership contest.
Like most Labour folk, I hoped for an exciting internal debate. The debate thus far has been stagnant - essentially a battle between left-leaning Blairites and Blairites proper. Andy Burnham has emerged as the 'left' alternative. Yet he immediately sullied his campaign by placing 'aspiration' - a term Blair appropriated and Chuka Umunna echoed - at the forefront of his programme. Aspiration is now the buzzword of business-fearing lefties. If Labour genuinely sought to acknowledge aspiration, they should focus on equality of opportunity - supporting those at the bottom that aspire to make it to the top - rather than adopting a silly Blairite catchphrase to attract endorsement from big business. Burnham instantaneously lost my trust. He seems like another careerist appealing to the ever-enigmatic public consensus.
Yvette Cooper occupies a similar ground. She is of the so-called left of the Labour candidates despite having few left-wing credentials. She is popular nonetheless. Clearly a far greater public speaker than Burnham, she has the ability to entice the cameras and perpetuate a clearer message. Her message, however, is stuck in the past. Like Burnham, she wants to beguile those that 'aspire'. And, like Burnham, she offers little to the truly aspirational folks at the bottom of the pile. Her purportedly aspirational message appeals to Blairites, while her actual message has the brutal stench of a slightly more popular Milibandism. The Labour Party needs to move away from Miliband and they certainly need to move away from Blair. Cooper, therefore, isn't the answer. She and Burnham are, however, an essential part of the debate.
Then we have those on the right. Umunna, who left the debate for personal reasons, was the undisputed leader of the Blairites. In his place is Liz Kendall. Kendall is a shy Tory dressed in red. She claims that the privitisation of the NHS is acceptable as long as it 'works' - kind of like how the American system 'works'. She supports a basic neo-liberal agenda. She is the not-so-proud holder of the Blairite mantel - the epitome of the so-called blue Labour movement. The undisputed blue Labour man, Simon Danczuk, has unsurprisingly given his undivided right-wing blessing to Kendall. They stand arm in arm diminishing the relics of a proud history. In my opinion, they sit on the wrong side of the Commons. They are still, nonetheless, an important part of the debate.
The argument for right-wing Labour leaders is valid and it is certainly an argument I am willing to accept. The Labour Party needs a right wing. It has always needed a right wing. They need the right and left to fight, to battle, to kill each other. They need to embrace that inviolable ideal of the dialectic. This ideal stems back to Bevan and Gaitskell, to Benn and Healey. The left and the right have been battling over Labour's voice for a century and the contest has always been well fought. The point, as always, is to find a message that represents true Labour values and ensures that these values somehow represent those of the electorate.
Before Corbyn entered this debate, we didn't have such a contest. Labour had a debate that contained familiar faces making familiar arguments: Blairites calling for Blairism and Milibandites calling for Milibandism. We, as the Labour Party, need a real discussion. Corbyn has provided that discussion. He is ardently anti-war, fervently anti-austerity and an old Labour man through and through. He is the left-wing alternative that we so desperately need - if only for argument's sake.
Now, we need to talk about how we differentiate ourselves from the Tories and how we can attract those voters we lost. Corbyn is the spark that ignites that discussion. What does the Labour Party represent? What are the core Labour values? These are questions that neither I nor Corbyn - nor Burnham, Cooper, Kendall or Creagh, for that matter - can immediately answer. They are, however, questions that the Labour Party, collectively, needs to address. Having a real Labour man that stands for real Labour values has ignited a proper argument. Hopefully, regardless of the leader, the party that I only recently joined will find its true voice.