As the Union Conference season draws to a close, it seems Union General Secretaries have moved on from "Should we outlaw people we disagree with from the Labour movement?" to "how can we win our argument in the Labour movement?".
This is a relief, even if it means a few more Labour party meetings will begin with discussion about how we've stayed united and avoided the circular firing squad of '31, '51 and '81. These will now be phrased as warnings, rather than self-congratulation.
I welcome this debate even though I am a right deviationist of the worst sort who holds out little hope for immediate victory.
To tell you the truth, I'm quite enjoying it. Why, I even got named as a a factional leader in the Labour party at the weekend, even if my faction was the smallest, least influential and most marginal of the factions.
Still, we might end up like the RCP. Never win an election, but never off the telly.
I welcome this debate because we need a battle of ideas in the Labour party.
If people on the left want to debate Labour's future rather than silence people they disagree with, I'll be delighted. Any place, Any time, Any where. (Subject to the day job, natch). It'll be fun. Politics should be about that.
Besides, no-one minds if I and some other unknown hack or Union evangelist tear each other to shreds in poorly attended speaker meetings. As long as we don't bring the high command into it, we're all free to say how lunatic and impractical are all other visions of the path to social democracy.
I fear that this debate has been delayed too long, for mutual convenience.
Let me paint a picture. A union general secretary, or a Left wing activist, or a newspaper columnist, says to some bright young thing in the mainstream of the Labour party -"Oi – we want X."
On hearing this, imagine that the bright young thing is in a quandary. Perhaps they think X is stupid, or impractical, or ludicrously expensive, or they believe it would send the voters fleeing to the hills.
Yet left wing firebrands, General Secretaries and Guardian columnists hold a special place in the heart of any bright young thing. Without their approval it is a cold and friendless world out there.
How has this dilemma been resolved over the last few years?
Too often, like this, I fear: The bright young thing conveys to the petitioner, by rhetorical nod and pamphlet wink, that they share their concerns, agree with their analysis, would love to go further in Policy terms in public, but sadly, cannot.
Why can they not join their comrades in the quest? Because of the infuriating power of the some baleful, utterly pragmatic force.
First Blair, then Darling, or Mandelson, or some other posturing popinjay stood in the way of justice. They could not be confronted, so had to be accommodated.
Who can blame the left, if after years of being told this stuff, they have come to believe that some malign force is preventing their friends from rallying to the cause?
Len and Paul and all the rest are men and women who passionately believe in a Labour party to the left of its current position.
Further, they have evidence that the path to electoral success lies in attracting five million working class voters back to the fold by taking a more left wing position . (Though this is a myth, as I've pointed out.)
They've got polling to tell them that left wing politics is popular (also a myth, as, I've pointed out here – damn, I boast too much.)
So of course they want that agenda to be delivered, and naturally they want action, not just rhetorical nods.
Now, after Blair, and government, and the threat of defeat have gone, it is the Blairite remnant, huddled round their magazine for warmth, who alone represent the barrier to the Frabjous day of action.
They might, oh, I don't know. Brief Patrick Wintour, or write a disobliging article on Labour list. So, runs the logic, if Progress (or their allies) are the problem, get rid of Progress.
Of course, what this reveals is the underlying truth. It's not about the right.
The reason Labour's policy team don't want to embrace the left agenda, at least in terms other than rhetorical, is that they don't really think it will work. Nothing to do with Blair. Everything to do with trying to govern in an age of limited funds.
If we're lucky, the next Labour government is going arrive in office in 2015 with a big deficit and high unemployment and a huge squeeze on resources, and sustained above inflation pay rises for public sector workers would mean significant cuts in services, or in jobs, or in the room to do the remodelling of the economy that we really need.
I reckon a lot of the soft left know this. That's why people like me are tolerated, even if we're occasionally batted around for being unambitious, or sell outs, or attached to old orthodoxies.
We're useful because we keep pointing out that there's going to be a deficit, and there's going to be sluggish growth, and that it will be very hard to adopt an expansionary fiscal policy in 2015, even – no, especially – if George Osborne has been the catastrophic failure as Chancellor we expect.
Those who like to talk about the changed consensus and how politics is transforming itself also carry the knowledge that the next Labour government will be sharply constrained, will have limited room for manoeuvre. It is therefore not entirely against their interests that someone argues that policies like using up political and fiscal capital on a post dated commitment to increasing public sector pay, for example, will be a mistake in both policy and political terms.
So I'll welcome the debate about Labour's future. Len McCluskey and his allies have an idea. It's a bad idea, a dangerous idea, but it is at least a real idea, not a desire for something better dressed up as a policy.
Addressing it directly will get rid of a lot of cant and waffle and pious hopes of radicalism without much intention or understanding of delivery.
However, all that said, the Labour right has made one big mistake, and if we don't correct it, we'll lose not just the votes, but the argument too.
We have failed to take seriously the one thing the Left has got right.
The model of social democracy that sustained Blair and Brown has collapsed. The right, no longer has easy electoral answers. Want state investment in growth? Then resources must be created, either in taxes, or in spending restraint,
It is no good the right harking back to Blair or Brown. Their model is dead. Len, Paul, Break out the champagne!
But, just remember – Blairism may be dead. What replaces it is much, much harder.
With limited resources, weak growth, demographic pressures, high failure costs, and falling living standards, Social Democracy will not be easy. Delivering sustained growth will help, but will itself be hard, resource intensive, work.
This is the politics of the hard centre.
Forget this year, or next, or even the year after. The years of toil will be extended indefintely, and there will be no goodies to distribute to please those who we need to support us. This is what haunts people like me. That we have the solutions for a hard decade, but no idea how to make them politically acceptable.
If that's the case then avoiding such grim choices becomes attractive. You simply have to believe in endless borrowing capability, or have faith in the magical properties of tax cuts to deliver growth rates that pay for the tax cuts.
I don't think either strategy is sustainable.
However, Labour's right has to find a way to make the politics of the hard centre attractive.
Labour's soft left are right to want to hope, and dream, and inspire, but this will be hard work and fleetingly successful if all that really lies ahead is a decade or more of hard, remorseless, unceasing grind.
For every winner, a loser. For every spending commitment, a pricetag. I think that's the reality facing the left. Sustained grind. It's why I revolt against both the policies of radical fantasy, and it's pale shadow, the rhetoric of fantasy radicalism.
Personally, I want to believe that the grind itself can inspire.
That this could be a moment when politics grows up, confronts and forces choices. When we strip away windy rhetoric, vapid sound bites and posturing for audiences – internal or external, and lay out that the times will be hard, the choices may all be unattractive but the path we take is essential.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the thing to do is to talk radical and keep your promises vague. Or perhaps now is the time for the sort of Left agenda that has been dormant for three decades. Maybe people do want to pay more tax.
Either way though, Labour needs that debate. It will emerge all the stronger for it, who-ever wins.