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Labour’s hard-left, as observed by a legion of journalists grateful for some summer copy, is resurgent.  Swelled by new recruits from the Greens and the fragmentary socialist movement, emboldened by the defeat of the perceived compromise leftism of Miliband, the left-wing voice is louder than it has been for many years. It now looks likely that it will carry Jeremy Corbyn to victory in the Labour leadership race.

In analysing what this all means for David Cameron’s Conservative Party, a number of commentators have pointed out that Corbynism is not necessarily a cause for Conservative celebration. Dogged advocates of socialism red in tooth and claw in positions of influence will give a prominence to the socialist case not seen for decades. As fears of another bank-led crash spread shivers down spines, these arguments are unlikely to lead to a Labour victory in 2020, but could drag general political discourse further towards the Marx-tinged margins.

What should the Conservative response be to socialism once again having a place in the political mainstream? To seize it as an opportunity. To view the resurgence of the Labour left as a challenge to which the centre-right can rise to, and be enhanced by. The threat posed by ideological conflict can have a revitalising effect.

Pursuing a fiscally responsible capitalist approach to policy, one that looks to use economic stability and growth to increase the incomes of the poorest, has in recent decades become the central pivot of government policy. As such, it is a politics that has rarely had to respond ideologically to a sense of threat. The British centrist position has become a little flabby – bigger in bulk but less defined than in years gone by. A sense of threat, in the form of the increasingly confident Corbyinite legions, could be just the revitalising tussle the doctor ordered. 

There is a clear historical precedent for political strength being enhanced through ideological conflict, including the first stirrings of the radical movement now propelling Corbyn forward. In his ‘The Making of the English Working Class’ socialist historian EP Thompson charted the rise of modern English radicalism, arguing that it reached full maturity between 1780 and 1832 when: 

“Most English working people came to feel an identity of interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.’’

This sense of threat, so Thompson argued, resulted in a heroic age for English radicalism, with challenge crystallising identity and hardening a shared political will. A political will of some potency, whose descending echo can still be heard in the roar of acclamation that greeted Mr Corbyn when addressing activists in his native North London this month, only a stones through away from the very streets where Thompson’s 18th century radicals congregated.

The hard-left does then have lessons for us, in terms of how ideological challenge can boost political energy. We should look to the Corbyn challenge to revitalise the centre-right, with arguments being made with greater clarity and impact than before to counter this socialism.

It’s a debate that a reenergised centre-right can win, if its strongest weapon is deployed with confidence – the way in which balanced budgets and growing markets, described by the hard-left as reactionary, can serve progressive ends. By highlighting that the proportion of UK citizens living on a low income fell (column 3, table 3a of link) between 2009/10 and 2013/14. By reminding opponents how the growth of global capitalism, for all of its often all too apparent flaws, has halved global poverty in recent decades. By putting that remarkable fall in its proper context – as part of a historic trend that has seen global poverty tumble as capitalism has accelerated.

And so let them come. The centre-right can rise to the challenge.

Matt Browne is an Associate at Bright Blue and tweets @MattRCBrowne.