An extraordinary turn of events seems to be happening in the Labour leadership contest. The line-up appeared to be settling down with 4 names (though now just reduced to 3), but nobody from a recognisably Left position. Late in the day however – since nominations close at midday tomorrow (Monday) – Jeremy Corbyn entered the ring, but was given little chance of reaching the threshold number of nominations, 35, required to enter the hustings and have his name on the ballot paper. Nevertheless in the last few days the position is rapidly changing, and with assured nominations in the high twenties there is now a very good chance that Jeremy will get the number needed just in time.
Very significantly the Daily Mirror has carried out its own Labour Leadership poll among the public with some very striking results. It found that Jeremy was backed by 54% of the public while Andy Burnham had 17% support (though 60 MP nominations), Liz Kendall had 14% (but 37 nominations), Yvette Cooper Had 11% (but 43 nominations), and Mary Creagh had 4% but has since withdrawn. It is a reasonable interpretation of these figures that a majority of the public now want a figure who will take the fight to the Tories over austerity and champion other radical causes which have been either neglected or too timidly pursued.
Jeremy Corbyn has made his name in the House as a strongly anti-war candidate, by his opposition to Trident renewal, and his championing of civil liberties and social justice in all its forms. He has integrity and conviction, a strong campaigning style, and a doughty defender of the oppressed in every guise.
The central issue in this Leadership contest should be the rejection of austerity. It has been used by Osborne to shrink the State, squeeze the public sector, and to marginalise the public realm back to its dimensions in the 1930s. As a policy ostensibly to reduce the budget deficit, it has been a comprehensive failure: the deficit is still a monstrous £92bn and growth, after a very short-lived surge in 2013-4 has now deflated like a punctured balloon. Labour needs a Leader who will discard austerity as the Tory ideology it is, and will promulgate the alternative expansion of the economy through public investment not only to end the pauperising of large sections of the population, but also to pay down the deficit far more quickly. The new Leader should also destroy the Tory lie that the 2008-9 financial crisis was caused by Labour over-spending when the record shows that Blair-Brown never ran a deficit higher than 3.3% of GDP whereas Thatcher-Major did for 10 out of their 18 years. At last we may have a Left voice to tell the truth.