Sadly, but predictably, the Labour Leadership struggle has been so much mired in bluster and hysteria that its true potential significance has been largely obscured. A contest of this kind should start, not with who it is claimed has the style and presentation to be the most plausible leader, but with what it is argued is currently wrong with the country, what policies are necessary to put those things right, what mechanisms are proposed to achieve that, and how should they be funded and delivered.
Arguably the most pressing problems for Britain at the present time can be summarised as follows. What were the causes of the financial crash and the consequent prolonged downturn, and what lessons need to be learnt to prevent a recurrence? Does the manifest lack of adequate reform of the financial sector make it likely there could be another catastrophic slump again soon? Is austerity the right policy to cut the deficit?
How can living standards rise again sustainably against a background of flat productivity and falling fixed investment which has still not recovered its pre-crash levels, let alone with having to cope with accelerating household debt and widening trade deficits with the rest of the world? How can the extreme imbalance between finance in the South-East and manufacturing in the rest of the country be reversed so that Osborne’s ‘march of the makers’ which never materialised can become a real possibility? How can the extreme and still growing inequality between the top 1% and the squeezed middle and the mercilessly battered bottom 20% be mitigated? And where should the boundaries between the public and private sectors now be drawn, and what should be their relationship, in order to solve all these problems?
Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate in the contest who has steadfastly kept to policy-making and foregone all personal abuse, for which he will be rewarded. But even he now needs to widen the argument to the real fundamentals to transmit his message that this is not just about advocating key individual policies which New Labour suppressed for decades, but rather about installing a fundamentally different ideology that rejects the Tory principles of de-deregulated finance, free-wheeling market capitalism, privatisation of public services, shrinking the State back to the dimensions of the 1930s, and squashing the trade unions as the foundation for Labolur, and instead replacing Tory values by a total commitment to social justice, egalitarianism, the ethos of public service, and full democratic accountability.