If a week is a long time in politics, then the five years since I retired from the Commons is an eternity. There have been two General Elections since I left. The make-up of the Parliamentary Labour Party is dramatically different from the one I knew. Even those who remain from my time are unlikely to be the people I remember. They have been through the traumas of the expenses scandal, economic collapse and now electoral defeat. It is not easy for me to work out who has changed and who has plodded on in the their old vain.
But I still have a clear view about what the diminishing band of democratic socialists in the Commons should do next week. They should book a Committee Room for a meeting of those who still see themselves as democratic socialists and labourites to hold a desperately important meeting. A meeting of what used to be called the hard and soft left. They need to discuss the future direction of the left and then opt for a single candidate in the coming leadership election. That will then give them less than a fortnight in which to mobilise to get the 33 necessary nominations for their candidate on the basis of what will need to be feasible left principles.
In my final years it might have been someone like Chris Mullin who would have filled the bill. Who it is now I know not. Until the key task I seek is undertaken, I will opt for John McDonnell. I disagree with him on numbers of fundamentals; but I remember him as having decency, honesty, guts and socialist beliefs. And he was there to support me in my own more reformist efforts. But I would prefer a left unity candidate from the avenue I propose, John or whoever fighting on a platform agreed by those able to deliver the nominations. And it is only such a platform that can then help reshape the very nature of the coming leadership debates.