Monday, August 24, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn in lights on Broadway

I thought I had escaped the Labour leadership battle at the end of July when I headed off to the USA for a couple of weeks. News in American hotels reports American news. Nothing much about the latest from the UK. In the US, they are not free of leadership elections. Whilst in Washington DC, the key political story was which 6 of the 16 candidates for the Republican nomination would not make it on to the Fox New candidates' debate. The other key issue was how to stop the Donald Trump bandwagon. It seems extremists with simplistic messages can make headway in the USA, not just in the UK Labour party, even though they both come from opposite ends of the spectrum (though sometimes it's difficult to differentiate.)

By the time I had left DC, visited Baltimore and Philadelphia and arrived in New York, no matter how much I tried to avoid UK politics, news of the surge in Corbyn support kept reaching me. It really brought it home to me when I stood in Times Square and saw the "surge in support for extremist Jeremy Corbyn in UK Labour leadership election" on the tickertape news. It may be the only time Corbyn's name is in lights on Broadway!

I got home on Saturday 14th August and on Monday 16th, I watched the speech by Andy Burnham. It was his bid to place himself as the candidate to beat Corbyn. Burnham is not a person who makes the political weather. Instead, he is one who is buffeted by it. When the winds are blowing in a Blairite direction, he is a Blairite. When blowing in a Brownite direction ... and so on. With Labour rapidly tacking to the left, Burnham drifts to the left as well. His speech was a clear example of that. It was his attempt to jump on to the Corbyn bandwagon.

His speech was a shambles. His presentation was wooden, his appearance more like a bobbing Thunderbirds puppet. Away from speech-making, he continues to look like a startled bunny caught in the headlights of the oncoming (Corbyn) juggernaut. No wonder he has lost his status as favourite to the person who was only meant to be there to "broaden the debate."

Those backing Corbyn claim he is plain speaking. There is nothing plain speaking about telling people what they want to hear whilst avoiding the hard truths about debt and living within our means. Ask Syriza in Greece about that and the answer will come back that harsh reality always gets in the way of unsustainable spending promises. (Indeed, ask the Lib Dems about that on tuition fees.) Corbyn's message of anti-austerity goes down well with some. A Corbyn-led Labour party will find its support deepening with this group of voters. Yet at the same time, it will alienate those with a greater grasp on reality. Those who understand that money borrowed to pay the bills will at some point need to be repaid far outweigh those who believe you can continue spending other people's money. The realists in the electorate outnumber the fantasists. Blair understood that. Economic credibility is what wins elections. If Labour do elect Corbyn, the final vestiges of Labour economic credibility will be shredded.

Before going to the US, I refused to believe that Labour could elect Corbyn. Surely they could not be that mad. But now, it's looking more likely. And so does a long period of Conservative rule.

That said, I'm not at all convinced that Labour would do any better with Burnham as leader. At least with Corbyn you have someone who believes in something, no matter how unrealistic. Bumbling Burnham would make Ed Miliband's dithering look inspiring.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about Burnham, but that is all.
You say there is nothing plain speaking about telling people what they want to hear - jeremy talks of the homeless people living in our streets (have you ever walked through London after 2am?) who are ignored by everyone but charitable people, forgotten by society, many of whom are former British soldiers suffering from mental health issues - do you think people want to hear about that? No, they don't want to hear that their country has become that, but they do know about it and they don't like to see it, and he is the only politician putting it front and centre, and it is a problem that it representative of so many social problems, the roots of which go back, in most cases, to the vast inequality in our society. If companies (and individuals) paid tax properly, and company profits were shared more fairly with employees (incentivising them) would we need in-work benefits? Would people struggle to look after their elderly family members and pay for child care? If everyone had more in their pockets?

Your talk of 'hard truths about debt' and 'living within our means'' - you seem educated, you know the economics of a nation is extremely complex, very different to a household budget or whatever those phrases relate to. This is a free market economy, and the less regulated it gets, the less relatable it becomes to the masses. They won't take responsibility for the problems they didn't have a hand in causing again and again.
And while we're on that, you must know better than to equate the British economy with that of Greece. There is a great difference between the unsustainable government spending/joining the euro that led to greece's problems, and britain's situation. Comparing the two is something worthy of the daily mail.

Corbyn's message of anti-austerity goes down well with the IMF - I won't quote the economists who backed his plans a few days ago but let's look at the Chinese markets today: The issue is consumption vs investment. China has been investing in their economy for many years, while Britain has been cutting ours back - importing more from china and producing less of our own. Now china needs to slow its economy, and Britain needs to INVEST in its economy (along with other nations in a similar position) to capitalise and build some competitive industries and exports, get to near full employment and grease the wheels. Corbyn in the only candidate putting forward that agenda in his party, as well as the current government. Are you also forgetting, that Britain has almost always had a deficit? Out of the last 100 years, how many of them were we in surplus for?

Economic credibility is not what wins elections. The media barons having your best interests at heart wins elections. Ask Tony Blair, David Cameron, Tony Abbott in Australia, George Bush jnr - Or anyone who has ever worked at large media organisation