Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters and spokespeople are fiercely debating whether or not he told the Independent on Sunday’s Jane Merrick that he wants to bring back clause IV. His quote to the journalist seems pretty clear:
‘I think we should talk about what the objectives of the party are, whether that’s restoring Clause Four as it was originally written or it’s a different one. But we shouldn’t shy away from public participation, public investment in industry and public control of the railways.
‘I’m interested in the idea that we have a more inclusive, clearer set of objectives. I would want us to have a set of objectives which does include public ownership of some necessary things such as rail.’
So Corbyn wants a restoration of Labour’s focus on public ownership, whether or not it means bringing back a clause in the party’s constitution that reads as badly as this:
‘To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’
His spokesperson briefed this afternoon that he wasn’t after ‘a big “moment” such as that’, but his point in the interview is clear: Corbyn wants to change the Labour party in a way that voters will notice. He wants a debate about ‘what the objectives of the party are’ and that will include ‘public participation’.
Corbyn’s supporters will say that this sort of radical thinking is what will attract voters who are fed up with seeing more of the same back to the Labour party, and possibly attract some people to vote for the first time. Those on the other side of the party say this is wishful thinking, while those in between the two camps believe it is just unaffordable.
Still, even if Corbyn is proposing completely unworkable, unattractive policy ideas that will make his party even more unelectable than it proved to be in May, at least he is sticking to policies, not the utterly miserable gossipy briefing emanating from other camps, as though they think sniping about someone’s personal life is a substitute for strong ideas. No wonder Corbyn is doing well, when some of his rivals seem so out of puff.