22 July 2015

Stop Jeremy Corbyn, please


Get ready for Corbynmania and a bout of mid-summer madness in the British press. In newspaper morning conferences today, editors will ‎be asking questions and issuing orders in the light of a poll which shows the bearded anti-capitalist MP leading the Labour leadership race.

Editor: “Who is Corbyn? Who was Mrs Corbyn? Where does he buy his hats? He doesn’t own a car? I want a sidebar on him and Irish Republicanism.”

‎Features editor: “OK. Great. Yeah, sure. Who do we have on staff who is close to this Jimmy Corbyn?”


News editor: “I’ll ask the lobby team if anyone has met Jeremy – not Jimmy – Corbyn.”

One might expect me, as editor of this website – CapX – to be an enthusiast for the election of Corbyn. ‎Our slogan here is “for popular capitalism.” We want capitalism to be popular, meaning in our analysis and reporting we are critics of crony capitalist behaviour where it exists. We are for competition and markets and a smaller state.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn – still unlikely – would be such a disaster for Labour that it ‎would discredit the anti-market case for ever, surely? Middleground voters in the country would look at him and his Lenin cap, and his beard, and his hatred of profit, and think that Labour had treated the electorate with contempt and gone nuts. Perhaps, but I suspect that would not be the only consequence.

As Scotland shows, where the radical left has latched on to the SNP, there is an appetite for Syriza-style flat-earth anti-austerity politics. These arguments have gone mainstream in Scotland (look at Mhairi Black) and in England there is a constituency, among students and older people who should know better, for stick it to the man crazy populism.

The result would be chaos‎, with a potential Labour split and a debate (about the alleged wickedness of profit) framed by the left.

In time that would be bad for the Conservatives too, despite what they think now. Parts of the Tory tribe have a tendency to arrogance, having spent so long in power and assuming it to be the natural state of affairs. A lack of serious competition tends to be bad in politics, just as it is in business and markets. Voters, like consumers, find themselves taken for granted and those in power, assuming they cannot lose, eventually become complacent or make mistakes. The Poll Tax springs to mind.

‎A Corbyn victory would also be bad for the Union, which is in grave peril already. Contrary to what the SNP says, it suits the party for the Tories to be in power for ever because it fits the false narrative that Scotland is oppressed (it isn’t) by a party it does not vote for in UK elections (which is why there is a Scottish parliament with power over most public policy). To that end, the SNP having destroyed Labour in Scotland, now wants to destroy Labour in England as any Labour revival south of the border might give Scottish Labour succour and a shot at reinvention. Never forget that Scots voted for Blair in huge numbers in general elections, three times.

That was what the SNP was up to with its peddling of untruths about the welfare bill, to make it appear that Labour does not care and has given up. It aims to trash the Labour brand and to deny the party any space to have a serious discussion on reviving itself in England.‎ Labour, urgently, needs to see the danger and start attacking the Nats directly from the centre-ground. Mhairi Black wants housing paid for 20 year-olds and much bigger benefits. Who is going to pay for this? Is the SNP going to increase taxes in Scotland to pay for it? Soon it will have the powers to dole out more on welfare via the Scottish parliament; will it use them and risk destroying the electoral coalition it relies on to win?

If Labour goes mad or splits, the SNP’s job in the next few years obviously becomes a whole lot easier.

For all those reasons it is vital that someone stops Jeremy Corbyn and makes Labour confront electoral reality. The terrific Liz Kendall could have done it, but what is left of her party is apparently not listening. Much of it appears to be listening to Jeremy Corbyn instead.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX