Corbyn Advocates Throwback to 1970s Britain

The British Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008 (Flickr/Jasn)

Despite earlier promises of “debate” and inclusion, Britain’s new Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is determined to push his far-left agenda through on at least two issues dear to him: the government’s benefit cap and attempts to weaken union rights.

In his first print interview since being elected leader this month, Corbyn told the New Statesman that he expects Labour to “completely” oppose the Conservatives’ proposal to limit welfare benefits to £20,000 per year for adults and £23,000 for those living in London.

“It’s what I’ve put forward as leader and I’ve made that very clear,” he said.

Corbyn said the cap had a “devastating” impact on his own constituency of Islington North in inner London. “The benefit cap has had the effect of social cleansing,” he alleged.

The Conservatives argue that benefits shouldn’t pay more than a starting salary. The current cap, at £26,000, is almost equivalent to Britain’s median wage of £26,500 per year.

The proposed reduction to £20,000 would exempt those on disability benefits. Read more “Corbyn Advocates Throwback to 1970s Britain”

Note to Corbyn: Your Political Opponents Are Not Evil

The British Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008 (Flickr/Jasn)

Why is it so difficult for Labourites in Britain to see the ruling Conservatives as anything but cruel and vindictive?

In July, there was Stephen Timms, a Labour representative for East Ham, London, accusing the government of an “attack on the low paid” and not caring about child poverty.

In August, leadership contender Andy Burnham chipped in, saying the Conservatives were “playing politics with the lives of vulnerable people” and “terrorizing” the disabled.

Now the man who beat him to the leadership is at it, writing in The Observer that the deficit is “just an excuse” for the ruling party to “railroad through the same old Tory agenda: driving down wages, cutting taxes for the wealthiest, allowing house prices to spiral out of reach, selling off our national assets and attacking trade unions.” Read more “Note to Corbyn: Your Political Opponents Are Not Evil”

Britain’s Labour Lurches Left in Wake of Election Defeat

The British Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008 (Flickr/Jasn)

Veteran parliamentarian Jeremy Corbyn was declared the winner in Britain’s Labour Party leadership contest on Sunday, pulling the opposition to Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives far to the left.

In his victory speech, the leftwinger and peace activist promised to fight for a more tolerant and inclusive Britain and tackle what he described as “grotesque levels of inequality in our society.”

Inequality in the United Kingdom is actually only slightly higher than in the rest of Europe but it has been rising for the last three decades.

When he entered the contest to replace Ed Miliband, who resigned as leader after losing the general election in May, Corbyn was considered a token leftist who could not possibly win.

Miliband, after all, had lost the election because he pulled Labour too far to the left. Under his leadership, the party criticized every austerity measure the Conservatives enacted and seemed only to promise more of the public spending largesse that made those cuts necessary in the first place.

Corbyn’s program — which includes free university education, the renationalization of utilities and rail, more generous welfare spending, state-covered homeopathy, withdrawal from NATO, dismantling of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, relinquishing Northern Ireland and Scottish independence — is a throwback to the left-wing fringe politics of the 1970s and 80s and totally unelectable in a twenty-first century Britain that just gave the right its first parliamentary majority in twenty years.

That doesn’t seem to bother Corbyn’s supporters, many of whom only entered Labour to vote for him. Read more “Britain’s Labour Lurches Left in Wake of Election Defeat”

Corbyn Victory Could See Labour Turn Against Itself

The British Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008 (Flickr/Jasn)

Soon after Jeremy Corbyn is named the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party on Saturday, the leftwinger will be faced with the daunting task of building a functioning parliamentary party.

Less than two dozen of Labour’s lawmakers ever truly supported Corbyn. Others endorsed his candidacy in the leadership election for the sake of facilitating “debate” in a party that lost the May election against Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives.

Few expected Corbyn to win. But the influx of tens of thousands of left-wing activists and the disappointment of traditional party members in the other, less inspiring candidates appears to be deciding the contest in his favor. Read more “Corbyn Victory Could See Labour Turn Against Itself”

Labour’s Biggest Rebel Wants No Rebellions

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in Aberdeen, Scotland
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in Aberdeen, Scotland (PA)

The man who has voted against his own party hundreds of times since he was first elected to Parliament in 1983 would tolerate no rebellions if he becomes Britain’s Labour Party leader this year.

Jeremy Corbyn, the far-left candidate who is ahead in the polls to succeed Ed Miliband, told The Independent newspaper this week he would expect lawmakers to fall in line and back his radical agenda — even if it would almost certainly divide the Labour Party and doom its election prospects in 2020.

To the dismay of the party establishment, Corbyn has called for free university education, the renationalization of utilities and rail, more generous welfare spending, Britain’s withdrawal from NATO, the unilateral dismantling of its nuclear deterrent, relinquishing Northern Ireland and Scottish independence. Centrist lawmakers and former party leaders, including Tony Blair, have warned that such a platform would almost certainly cost Labour the next election.

Labour lost its second general election in a row in May on a more left-wing manifesto than former prime ministers Blair and Gordon Brown campaigned on.

Labour Party members have always been to the left of the Labour Party’s voters who are logically to the left of the average voter.

But Corbyn threatens to drag the party further to the left than ever — and refuses to heed warnings about what that will do.

Instead, in what The Independent described as “a barely coded threat to the right of the party,” he reminded lawmakers they were only in Parliament because supporters “worked night and day” to get them there.

Corbyn urged his colleagues to “recognize” that there is a “huge thirst for significant change in the party” and told them not to “stand in the way” of it.

“I will absolutely use our supporters to push our agenda up to the parliamentary party and get them to follow that,” he said.

But many of his supporters weren’t even members of the Labour Party before he nominated himself for the leadership.

Some 600,000 have registered to vote in the leadership contest, around half of whom are trade unionists and new members who only paid £3 for the right to vote.

Dan Hodges, a former party official, has argued that the far left is trying to take over Labour.

We’ve now reached the stage where the Corbyn cultists are effectively arguing that membership of the Labour Party at any point over the past thirty years represents the ultimate act of treachery toward that party. Their minds process their warped narrative thus: the modernization started by [Neil] Kinnock and carried forward by Blair and Brown was a betrayal. During these dark days only the Corbynites remained true to Labour’s values. And so, by extension, anyone who supported Kinnock, Blair or Brown supported the erosion of those aims and values. Ergo — only those who joined Labour over the past twelve weeks can claim to be genuine Labour supporters.

Corbyn’s resistance to Labour’s centrist drift during its eighteen years in opposition from 1979 to 1997 makes him an poor choice for leader of a party that has recently lost two elections because it was seen as too left-wing again.

What is egregious is his and his supporters’ intolerance of those beg to differ with their strategy.

Corbyn was Labour’s single most rebellious lawmaker during the Blair and Brown era. He often defied instructions from the party leadership. In the last Parliament, he voted against his party one in four times.

The same Corbyn is now lecturing other lawmakers on toeing the leader’s line?

Why, but his were “principled” rebellions, Corbyn told The Independent — by implication accusing every Labourite who doesn’t share his eagerness to relitigate the economic policy battles of the 1980s and lose again of having no principles. Which is probably the majority of the party, not counting those who are using it as a vehicle for turning Britain into a workers’ paradise.

Young Americans, British Look to Failed Economics of the Past

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders makes a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, July 18
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders makes a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, July 18 (Gage Skidmore)

On both sides of the Atlantic, young voters are captivated by economic visions whose failures they never experienced firsthand.

In the United Kingdom, they are rallying behind Jeremy Corbyn, a far-left candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party. In the United States, they are fueling the presidential aspirations of Bernie Sanders.

Corbyn was dismissed when he first entered the race to succeed Ed Miliband — who resigned as leader after losing the election in May — and is opposed by virtually the entire Labour establishment. Yet he now leads in the polls, in part because tens of thousands of voters in their twenties have signed up to participate in the leadership contest.

Only around half of the 600,000 registered voters were previously Labour Party members. The other half is made up of trade unionists and new members who paid £3 for the right to vote.

Corbyn’s platform — free university education, the renationalization of utilities and rail, more generous welfare spending, state-covered homeopathy, withdrawal from NATO, dismantling of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, relinquishing Northern Ireland and Scottish independence — is utterly unelectable in a country that just gave Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives their first parliamentary majority in two decades. But that doesn’t seem to bother Corbyn’s youthful supporters.

Nor are they put off by his knee-jerk support for whatever happens to be the leftie cause célèbre of the day. Since he was first elected to Parliament in 1983 — the very year Margaret Thatcher reduced Labour to its smallest delegation in living memory — the literally sandal-wearing Corbyn has campaigned against apartheid in South Africa, American “imperialism” in the Middle East and Israeli “aggression” against the Palestinians. Lately, his preferred target is austerity at home.

It’s not just centrist and right-wing voters who see Corbyn’s puerile and utopian socialism for what it is and remember how the policies he (still) advocates wrecked Britain in the 1970s and 80s; Tony Blair, the former prime minister who led Labour to three election victories between 1997 and 2005, has dismissed Corbyn as a throwback to the pre-Thatcher era as well.

These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work.

Some, however, are too young to remember.

It’s the same in the United States where young leftwingers are backing Sanders’ hopeless presidential primary campaign.

Not even a Democrat, the self-described socialist from Vermont is challenging Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, for the party’s presidential nomination. Unlike Corbyn, he doesn’t stand a chance of winning. But Sanders could force Clinton to take more left-wing positions, imperiling her election prospects in 2016.

The Atlantic Sentinel reported in 2013 that Americans growing up in the recession were threatening to radicalize the Democratic Party. Bill de Blasio’s election to mayor of New York — the country’s largest city — that year was a sign of things to come. A deputy for his plutocratic predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, dismissed De Blasio’s agenda as a “U-turn back to the 70s” yet it prevailed.

Just as Corbyn’s fans didn’t live through the dismal 1970s nor experience Thatcher’s revitalization of the United Kingdom, Americans in their twenties don’t appreciate just what a rotten state big-government policies left their country in and how desperately it needed Thatcher’s ideological counterpart, Ronald Reagan, and his program of deregulation and privatization in the 1980s.

Like Blair, the Democrats’ Bill Clinton recognized a decade later that Reagan had shifted the middle ground in American politics to the right. He had to find a “third way” between his party’s old statism and conservatives’ anti-government sentiment to win elections again — and did.

But now a generation is coming of age that is more likely to blame government again for failing to properly regulate the market and provide a social safety net. The 2008 crash and subsequent recession galvanized left-wing activists. They may not be many (Sanders is drawing crowds in the tens of thousands; Corbyn could triumph with similar numbers) but their views are resonating.

In 2010, polls found that two-thirds of Americans under the age of thirty want a bigger government with more services rather than a cheap one with fewer services, a margin 25 points above the rest of the population. Nearly one in two young Americans has a favorable view of socialism.

In Britain, YouGov recently found that students are to the left of average voters on many policy issues — which is hardly a new phenomenon.

But interestingly, it also found that on the very issues Corbyn is campaigning on — nationalization, redistribution and taxes — British students actually lean a bit more to the right.

Plenty of youngsters in America and Britain do know their history and are more individualistic and liberal than their parents. But a minority is not and it is big enough to have a real and negative impact on the two countries’ dominant left-wing parties.

Conservatives Should Think Twice Before Rooting for Corbyn

The British Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008 (Flickr/Jasn)

With the far-left Jeremy Corbyn polling first in the race to become the British Labour Party’s leader, the ruling Conservatives are gleeful. An unrepentant Marxist like Corbyn would surely make Labour unelectable and all but guarantee a Conservative victory in the next election.

Yet the liberal Adam Smith Institute’s Madsen Pirie cautions against such optimism and argues that a Corbyn win would be disadvantageous to the right in two ways. Read more “Conservatives Should Think Twice Before Rooting for Corbyn”

After Election Defeat, Britain’s Labour Party in Disarray

After losing the general election by an unexpectedly wide margin to the ruling Conservatives, Britain’s Labour Party is deeply divided about where to go: move back to the center to regain its credibility on economic policy or drift further to the left to appease party activists and the trade unions at the risk of surrendering the middle ground.

If the contest to succeed Ed Miliband, who resigned as leader after losing the election in May, is any indication, the party has yet to come to grips with its defeat.

Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist lawmaker from Islington North who has made a career out of defying his own party, is second in the nomination count from local parties. He also has the endorsement of Britain’s biggest trade union.

Seen as a fringe candidate when he entered the race, Corbyn would now get the support of a third of Labour members.

But even that underestimates his strength. Under the instant-runoff system Labour uses to elect its leaders, Corbyn could win if he is the second choice of many voting members. Read more “After Election Defeat, Britain’s Labour Party in Disarray”