Since May, throughout the summer of Corbyn and beyond, one grey old canard oft repeated has been that playing to the centre ground wins elections. However devoted his supporters, Corbyn is going the other way, and must therefore lose in 2020 if he’s still Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition by then.
Yet, of course, it’s not an eternal truth. It clearly wasn’t the case when Thatcher won three elections in a row thanks to the ideological distance she deliberately put between her party and the Labour of Foot and Kinnock.
The hope of the Corbyn forces is that Labour can now win support from those it has previously abandoned – from the other ‘progressive’ parties, from UKIP, and those who’ve long abstained from the ballot. This strategy has been ridiculed by the Hodgeses and Rentouls whose voices have for so long dominated public debate about Labour politics.
As to Corbyn’s electability, I can only speculate. For libertarians like me, an extensive moral and practical case against this ardent state socialist virtually writes itself. Yet even I find a few of his statements appealing, and I’ve already been struck by how he’s enthusing people who normally have nothing to say on party politics..
Several friends have already cited Corbyn’s intent to address inequality as a solid point of recommendation. Never mind that most conservatives aren’t interested in the question. Ignore the blithe assertions of wonks who forget that value is subjective. The issue of inequality does matter to millions and you cannot simply tell them that it doesn’t.
Proposing to ‘tackle inequality’ is vague and usually dangerous, but let’s not forget the great event in recent memory that showed clearly our rulers’ willingness to enact acute and deliberate inequality against their own populations – the bailouts of the banks with taxpayer money and the returning of those banks later into private ownership.
Only Austrian Schoolers disputed that the banks had to be bailed out rather than left to collapse from their own errors. There was no distance at all between Labour and Tory in those days of intense crisis in the autumn of 2008; but debate on what should follow did soon commence. For centrists of left and right, these colossal interventions to ‘save capitalism’ needed to be followed by stricter regulations and limits on bankers’ individual earnings at the minimum. For the harder left, they should have been opportunities to keep banking under permanent and thorough state control.
Stricter regulations and deposit reserve norms did indeed follow 2008, yet the left gained little else. Most of the nationalisation has since been reversed, bankers continue to earn vast sums, and the operation of the grand cartel has resumed in full. Then, as the Libor and Forex scandals, PPI and insurance misselling and money laundering for arch-criminals cropped up, banks found guilty of outrageous schemes were often able to make deals where they agree to pay negotiated, affordable fines. This still takes into account the fact that some individual bankers have ended up being forced to resign, made to pay back a portion of their ill-gotten fortunes, and occasionally sent to prison,
Heaven forfend a single one of these corporations be put in danger of collapse no matter how blatant their crimes. The states who bailed them out have demonstrated then and ever since how heavily they rely upon this supremely privileged industry. Meanwhile, the urban riots and looting of 2011 were met with all-night magistrates’ courts and openly politicised sentencing. The welfare state continues to be reduced in size. Tax minimisation continues to be available to those wealthy enough to afford it. The Quantitative Easing pursued by the ‘independent’ Bank of England and other central banks has strongly driven up prices of essentials all around the world. We’ve been instructed that banks are indispensable and the rest of us aren’t.
Corbyn’s program proposes truly horrible responses to this flagrant racketeering. They may not be quite as absurd as Krugmanites, but Labour’s left are even more authoritarian – witness what Corbyn’s monstrously statist advisor Richard Murphy has been advocating since the great crash. However much of what they accuse is true, and they are effective at convincing large audiences that they alone will confront the problems at root. Where Brown and Miliband offered pretentious submission, Labour’s left propose a more proletarian response in what they more or less correctly identify as a class war. What they call capitalism – the network of state-endorsed corporate oligopolies we live under now – is indeed a system where the already fortunate can find new ways to exploit the common worker and taxpayer while gradually shoving poorer beneficiaries of the state away from the trough.
So far, a sufficient portion of the electorate have gone along with this ‘austerity’, but it’s far from inspiring. It essentially endorses the towering privileges of the banking industry, regardless of all its wrongs. At best, at least for those who aren’t safely rich, it’s something you’ll support only in lieu of a better option.
What if something happens in the next few years to reveal that those tame reforms that Cameron and Osborne have made cannot nearly save us from the calamities that the banksters constantly dice with? Will voters remain cautious if their savings, pensions and house prices get scythed down in another, greater panic?
In 2020, voters will probably be faced, yet again, by a choice between Labour and Tory governments. The Conservatives offer what they usually do – an enthusiastic endorsement of rigged corporate capitalism. Labour under Brown and Miliband offered much the same, just without the enthusiasm. Labour under Corbyn will offer a real and radical alternative, however much we free marketeers think that it’d be even worse. And it may be that all that stands between now and the dreams of the far left is one more sudden contraction of credit.
Such a contraction will come; we just don’t know when. Let’s assume that Corbyn doesn’t win in 2020 or doesn’t make it that far as leader. Marvellous, Tories will say then: we averted The Great Danger; we nailed home the ‘sensible’ centrist, pro-bankster consensus; we can all carry on laughing at how Greek governments now exist mainly to force their ‘lazy’ population to fulfil the debts to foreign banks that they (all of them, apparently) voted for in previous times and thus deserve. Meanwhile, we can ignore the fact that most other governments, including the UK’s, are doing the same, just with less urgency.
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