Labour leadership election: Vote for the candidate who doesn't fear honesty

The choice that now presents itself is between substance and the complete lack of it

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The Independent Online

I know we’re not supposed to believe a word that opinion pollsters say these days, but one fact from YouGov last week struck a chord. Buried beneath the sensational finding about the apparent frontrunner in the Labour leadership race was the news that a driving force behind Jeremy Corbyn’s surge is that a third of Labour’s 55,000 new members since the election are under 30, and that most of them are no more than 18.

That, if I might bathe in the lambent glow of youthful activism, would be me. I became an adult three weeks before the general election, and after that particular disaster decided to become a member of the party. Not so much out of tribal loyalty – I’m not, despite my peers’ suggestions, a Milibabe – but because at the next election, I want someone who closely represents my political ideals to be leading the Opposition. And, like most of my contemporaries, I’ll be voting for much the oldest runner in the field.

Paradoxically, but unsurprisingly, it is the candidate who seems least qualified to receive the adoration of the youth vote, who has given us something I’m told resembles “hope”. This is, I’m sure, much to the dismay of the other three candidates who had until recently regarded Corbyn as the joker in the pack with an amiable scorn.

It would be wrong to say that the substance of their messages is being dumbed down for the youth vote, but that’s only because there doesn’t seem to be any substance at all. Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper produce meaningless spin like a break-dancer on molly (a reference for the kidz). To steal a phrase from the wizard-haired comic, Bill Bailey, the speeches and messages of the three reform-Blairites are the aural equivalent of potpourri. After that election in May – when sitting up for 3am results with a near-catatonic father felt like a brutal rite of passage into adulthood – there is now a need for someone to banish the pallor of the party.

 

Corbyn seems to represent the principled left, unsullied by the need to appeal to every voter, and unafraid of honesty in the face of opposition. It would certainly be wrong to say that a Conservative vote is inherently selfish, or that a Labour vote is selfless, but it’s hard to feel that David Cameron is the voice of the impoverished and disabled. George Osborne’s recent Budget speech had the tenor of a high-camp, Hammer horror vampire whipping away a set of human dentures, to reveal two oversized canines dripping with the blood of the politically virginal youth. You do not have to be naïve or politically inexperienced to believe that taking money from the most needy is something worth fighting against.

Corbyn might represent political ideals which are only viable on dramas such as The West Wing and its sitcom counterpart, Parks and Recreation. Ideals, however, are surely what the youth will vote on. And, far be it from me, but ideals are exactly what we should all vote on.

If Corbyn wins, it may well be political suicide for Labour, or it may not. But if he would rather go down with his ship than drown in the morass of Tory-with-a-whiff-of-Labour policies and insinuated promises, then I am happy to go down with him.