Jeremy Corbyn's (rather late) announcement that he will be standing for the Labour leadership is entirely welcome. To say the fare so far on offer is uninspiring conjures images of popes and woods. While all of the candidates seem keen to run away from the record and policies they loyally followed these last five years, and one in particular who has a mind blank where an awareness of the character of the party she aspires to lead should be, tens of thousands of members up and down the country have felt annoyed and effectively disenfranchised. As the candidates tilt to the right, ignore the popularity of Labour's "left-er" policies, stay in their immigrant and benefit-bashing comfort zone, and pay the causes of Labour's defeat no mind at all, the debate needs opening up.
This is why Corbyn's announcement is a good thing. He's not a perfect figure by any means, but you take your breaks as you find them.
First and foremost, he's an anti-austerity figure. The cuts past and the cuts to come have caused needless stress and suffering. They've destroyed infrastructure, thrown millions into precarious lives, delayed the economic recovery - you know the arguments. There has to be someone in the Labour leadership contest make those arguments and taking that fight to the Tories, because if Corbyn doesn't the mantle of opposition - especially after Osborne's "emergency" budget this summer - could well pass to the SNP, Greens, and even the LibDems for a time. After the SNP tore up Scottish Labour's lawn and used it to turf their back yard, do we really want them to that again to the party in the rest of the UK? Might I suggest the answer to that is no.
Second, and in answer to those who don't think Jeremy would win even if he makes the ballot threshold, the point of his candidacy is to do two things. One, to try and shift the terms of political debate. The welcome stress Ed Miliband placed on inequality needs preserving, and the case against austerity cannot be broadcast enough, especially when it has been accepted and passively supported by so many "ordinary" people. And second, it's about political education. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think public political debate is served by obsessions over Andy Burnham's panda eyes or Liz Kendall's preternaturally white teeth and whether this endears them to voters. A massive job has to be done about raising the level of discussion, because a poorly informed public and party memberships do not a healthy democracy make. It can lead to situations where, for argument's sake, a party can win elections by scaremongering about never-going-to-happen lash ups between its opponents.
A Corbyn candidacy could work a small but appreciable shift in our politics. If any of the three frontrunners ask their "surplus" MPs to lend their nominations to Jeremy, as David Miliband did to make sure Diane Abbott got on the ballot paper in 2010, it shows a willingness to confront ideas and arguments outside of, that phrase again, comfort zone; as well as confidence in their own approaches. Surely none of our three frontrunners want to be seen shutting down debate and fighting shy of a little bit of leftism?