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Why it has to be Jeremy Corbyn for me

I'm tired of Labour's concilatory opposition. I'm tired of Austerity-Lite. And I'm not alone.

Another general election, another Labour leadership contest. Much like Christmas, it seems to get dishearteningly earlier each time. We’ve bounced from disappointing defeat straight into choosing who will steer the Good Ship Labour without time to lick our wounds and see how the waters are. But here we are and there we go and this rebound election gives us a chance to not only stand outside the electorate’s window weeping that we can change, but to actually do so.

I am tired of Labour’s conciliatory opposition. I am tired of Austery Lite. It’s easy to understand why we didn’t win votes in May, when most of our policies boiled down to what other parties were doing, but with less commitment. The offer of Controls on Immigration was as empty as the mug it arrived printed on. In the next five years, Tory cuts are going to continue to bite and to bite harder. At the next election, Labour will need to offer a credible opponent that doesn’t repeat the same lines we’ve heard since 2010.

And so, to change. To passion in our politics. To our Unique Selling Point. To Jeremy Corbyn.

Every complaint I have made about Labour, that they are mushy and ill-defined, that they have no true ideals, that they print the word socialist on their membership cards as though to hide it away in from sight in our wallets, is answered by Corbyn.

Reclaiming the centre needed to win an election isn’t about chasing the scraps from other parties. Corbyn’s strongly socialist, anti-austerity platform is centrism by stealth, if we only allow him and a party he leads to put it forward on its own terms. If our problem is an electorate of “shy Tories” that worries, not about party politics and ideologies, but about themselves as individuals, then Corbyn’s policies answer those worries. A true living wage (not Osbourne’s rebranded minimums) puts more money in the nation’s pockets. Public ownership brings down prices. A full, unembarrassed, un-eviscerated welfare system protects us all. 

The problem with Miliband was that he was muted, diluted from Red Ed into a sort of inoffensive salmon. Labour needs a fighter, someone with a record of defending his principles in the face of opposition. Corbyn is the only candidate inspiring true passion; his opponents are all credible and competent, but no one is whipping themselves up into a lathered frenzy over Yvette Cooper.

I can’t say I haven’t taken pause over the arguments that he is unelectable, that he is a dangerous threat to the left as we know it. However I find there something uncomfortably patrician and, dare I say it, conservative about the Grand Labour Poobahs handing pronouncements down to the swelling ranks of Corbynites to tell them how wrong and foolish they are. We drift towards Reds Under Bed terror, where socialism equals communism equals Stalinism and that if Corbyn’s elected, we’re mere moments away from John Lewis only being allowed to sell red tablecloths and the sheet music for The Internationale. 

But just as 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong, the support for Corbyn and the numbers joining Labour since the election to truly oppose Tory austerity shows that there is real desire to change. These new members are the people we need at the next election, going out and talking to their fellow voters. If Corbyn loses, we should not be alienating his supporters by belittling their passion and position. Labour should be welcoming this new support with open arms and encouraging the debates it brings, not handing down carved commandments on its dangers. This is not the time for muddling through meekly. This is the time for Labour in all its forms to stand up and be excited and be passionate and make a real change.

Mushy centrism does not work. We cannot continue to back austerity and its false promise of trickle down economics. We need a strong left offering an economic bucket line to all, with Jeremy Corbyn manning the hosepipes.

I love living wages, I love student grants, I love the Independent Living Fund, I love workers’ rights, I love public ownership, I love action on climate change, I love the EMA, I love rent controls, I hate austerity and I don’t like Trident. It’s Corbyn for me.

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Tackling tuition fees may not be the vote-winner the government is hoping for

In theory, Theresa May is right to try to match Labour’s policy. But could it work?

Part of the art of politics is to increase the importance of the issues you win on and to decrease or neutralise the importance of the issues your opponent wins on. That's part of why Labour will continue to major on police cuts, as a device to make the usually Labour-unfriendly territory of security more perilous for the Tories.

One of the advantages the Conservatives have is that they are in government – I know it doesn't always look like it – and so they can do a lot more to decrease the importance of Labour's issues than the Opposition can do to theirs.

So the theory of Theresa May's big speech today on higher education funding and her announcement of a government review into the future of the university system is sound. Tuition fees are an area that Labour win on, so it makes sense to find a way to neutralise the issue.

Except there are a couple of problems with May's approach. The first is that she has managed to find a way to make a simple political question incredibly difficult for herself. The Labour offer is “no tuition fees”, so the Conservatives essentially either need to match that or move on. But the one option that has been left off the table is abolition, the only policy lever that could match Labour electorally.

The second, even bigger problem is that it it turns out that tuition fees might not have been the big election-moving event that we initially thought they were. The British Electoral Survey caused an earthquake of their own by finding that the “youthquake” – the increase in turn-out among 18-24-year-olds – never happened. Younger voters were decisive, both in how they switched to Labour and in the overall increase in turnout among younger voters, but it was in that slightly older 25-35 bracket (and indeed the 35-45 one as well) that the big action occurred.

There is an astonishingly powerful belief among the Conservative grassroots, such as it is, that Jeremy Corbyn's NME interview in which the he said that existing tuition fee debt would be “dealt with” was decisive. That belief, I'm told, extends all the way up to May's press chief, Robbie Gibb. Gibb is the subject of increasing concern among Tory MPs and ministers, who regularly ask journalists what they make of Robbie, if Robbie is doing alright, before revealing that they find his preoccupations – Venezuela, Corbyn's supposed pledge to abolish tuition fee debt – troublingly marginal.

Because the third problem is that any policy action on tuition fees comes at a huge cost to the Treasury, a cost that could be spent easing the pressures on the NHS, which could neutralise a Labour strength, or the financial strains on schools, another area of Labour strength. Both of which are of far greater concern to the average thirtysomething than what anyone says or does about tuition fees.

Small wonder that Team Corbyn are in an ebullient mood as Parliament returns from recess.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.