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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

RAYMOND CHELLEL, The PJ's UK-based correspondent, wonders ...

Jeremy Corbyn
Though Not Certain -- Test Will Come in By-Elections
'Interesting -- But Probably Not in a Good Way'

LONDON [WC News Service] -- Corbyn!  There are two British political groups celebrating the election last week of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader:  The unreconstructed, hard-left socialist wing of the party, and just about all Conservatives, who, with good reason, believe this lurch to the left will make Labour unelectable for years to come.  After all, Corbyn's predecessor, Ed Miliband (who, with the support of the trade unions, beat his brother to the leadership) moved the party to the left and consequently presided over one of the worst electoral defeats in Labour history.

 As in 1979, when Labour lost power to Margaret Thatcher's Tories, the left-wing's take on the this is that the party lost because it was not left-wing enough, once more illustrating that 'denial' isn't just a river in Egypt. In fact, English people (as distinct from Scottish and Welsh people) tend to be conservative with a small 'c,' and distrustful of ideologues of any stripe. They certainly didn't trust Labour to manage the economy and held it largely responsible for the financial crisis of 2007, the destructive effects of which we are still struggling to cope with today.  Moreover, the working class, blue-collar bedrock on which Labour's support is built has been steadily eroded. In  1970, two-thirds of Britons lived in working-class households; now, the figure is one in five.  And the recent catastrophic loss to the Scots Nats of all but one of their fifty-odd Parliamentary seats in Scotland -- formerly rock-solid Labour in the way that the Democrats in the U.S. used to dominate the Solid South -- is a body-blow to the party's prospects.

Still, the sense of popular anger at the banks and their greedy, dishonest, fat-cat executives is palpable in the UK wherever you go.

But Corbyn.  He represents the far-left of the Labour Party, where democratic socialism blends seamlessly into Marxism.  Like the Bourbons, these people have learned nothing and forgotten nothing over the past fifty years.  Many of them, the successors to Stalin's 'useful idiots', mourn the passing of the Soviet Union.  Their political creed is a kind of quasi-religion with all the intolerance of dissent characteristic of True Believers everywhere.  For them, political opponents are enemies to be hated and fought, not merely people with differing points of view.  The vicious, enduring loathing of Margaret Thatcher whose death they celebrated is an example of this.  If you are a Tory, you are ipso facto an infidel, a kuffir!  And this hatred can, and often does, extend to members of their own tribe:  Blair is reviled by the Corbynistas, not only because he took Britain into the disastrous Iraq war on the basis of a pack of lies, but because he moved the party to the centre, creating what was known 'New Labour.'  How infuriating it is for them that he consequently won three elections.

What we've got as of Friday is very definitely Old Labour in the person of a grumpy old teetotal vegetarian who loses his temper in interviews and who has spent his whole life in back-room socialist committee meetings and protest groups; who has never had a proper job -- unless you consider being a councillor in the London Borough of Islington (previously known as The People's Republic of Islington, where they flew the red flag above the town hall) and who divorced his second wife because she wanted to send their children to a good selective secondary school in a neighbouring district instead of Islington's ghastly comprehensives which at that time were amongst the worst schools in the country.  (The abolition of academic selection and the creation of huge, non-selective comprehensive schools was, you'll remember, a central Old Labour policy in the mid-20th century and is still controversial today.)

So, Corbyn!  Much of his foreign policy -- if it can be dignified with that term -- is underpinned by a deep, abiding hostility to the United States, long regarded by him and his co-religionists as the Great Capitalist Satan whose hegemonic, neo-colonialist machinations are at the root of most of the world's evils.  That's why he wants to take the UK out of NATO which he sees as a militaristic vehicle for American imperialism.  In the Corbynista mind-set, enemies of America tend to be seen as friends:  Corbyn regards the death of Osama bin Laden as 'a tragedy,' he is sympathetic (astonishingly) to the thug, Putin; and he regards Hamas and Hizbollah as 'friends.'

Corbyn's domestic 'programme' is predicated on the leftist belief in the Big State as the benevolent nanny of its people from cradle to grave. The fact that this ideology has failed in just about every country where it has been attempted -- look at Hollande's France, for example -- is of no consequence. 

Corbyn favours the re-instatement of Clause Four in the Labour Party constitution.  Deleted by the Blair administration, this clause commits the government to nationalising, or re-nationalising, Britain's major industries, a policy which has worked so very well in Venezuela (where people have to queue to buy scarce toilet paper) and which was a catastrophe here in Britain in the '50s and '60s, leading to the country's near-bankruptcy and eventual rescue by the IMF in the '70s.  Politicians, it turns out, are not very good at running businesses.

I'm old enough to remember the complacency and arrogant disregard for customers that were typical of these nationalised corporate dinosaurs.  Trying to get a telephone installed by the state-owned company responsible for telecoms (the General Post Office, oddly) was very, very expensive and took months.  The proto-Corbyn of his time was the socialist former aristocrat (he had renounced his title), Tony Benn, a Labour cabinet minister who was a strident exponent of what was euphemistically called 'public ownership', and whose Labour administration nationalised the country's largest car manufacturer, British Leyland, bringing it to the point of collapse -- albeit aided and abetted by the Marxist trade union stewards who organised frequent crippling strikes.  And the cars were awful.  The appalling Austin Allegro was an egregious example, never exported to the US for very good reason.

So, with Corbyn it will be Back to the Future -- except that it won't, because with him at the helm Labour will never get elected.  At least that's what the pundits are saying, although I have some misgivings. Despite what I said earlier about English middle-of-the-road conservatism, there is an underlying mood of protest -- against banks, politicians, uncontrolled immigration and the EU, a mood which is evident across Europe.  I wouldn't be surprised if a few Parliamentary by-elections go Labour's way in the next few years.  It may be that Corbyn can harness this anger at and disenchantment with what used to be called The Establishment. 

He has successfully inveighed against 'austerity,' promulgated the wholly false notion that the Conservatives want to dismantle the NHS by privatising it, promised to end university tuition fees and to force the Bank of England to print money to expand government spending.  But the UK is not Greece, and Jeremy Corbyn is not Alexis Tsipras; and it will be interesting to see how all this actually plays out:  Corbyn v. Cameron at Prime Minister's Question Time in the Commons -- with fifty-six Scottish Nationalist MPs, whose sole purpose is to break up the UK, baying from the backbenches.  As I say, interesting -- but probably not in a good way.