There was a rally in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff in 1981 to support Tony Benn’s campaign to become Deputy Leader of the Labour party.
As history will show, despite the enthusiasm of the rally, Benn narrowly lost to Dennis Healey when the votes were counted. That was the peak of the left’s influence in the Labour party for many a year.
Foot was replaced by Kinnock to be replaced in turn by John Smith and then the parliamentary Labour party shifted to the right under Blair and Brown.
Mrs Thatcher when asked of her greatest achievement replied “Tony Blair.” She rightly pointed out that Labour had moved away from being a party of the left to one that embraced capitalism.
Labour’s Clause four was ditched. Now the market would provide all the answers.
Things have remained more or less the same until the current leadership contest and the Corbyn phenomena.
Whether Corbyn wins as is widely predicted, or is narrowly defeated, his intervention will have changed fundamentally the party. The Blairite project will be over. The centre of gravity of the party will have moved to the left.
Whatever your views about Corbyn, his campaign has created an exciting leadership contest. He has made many reflect on “what is Labour for?”
He’s made a debate of the direction Labour should be taking. Take the very concept of “Corbynomics.” Interestingly, no one is talking about Cooperomics, Burnamomics of Kendallomics. They barely make it on to the political radar.
No it’s Corbynomics. It is he that the debate’s about.
Out, the stale politics of austerity and in, a new anti-austerity agenda. He’s offering a hope and in that has caught the imagination of the young.
Reform rather than revolution
But in reality what Corbyn is proposing can hardly in an historic sense be regarded as revolutionary.
That his very modest ambitions can cause such panic simply shows how far to the right the country has moved. And how unadventurous the other leadership candidates are.
His approach is to reduce the budget deficit through economic growth rather than austerity. An approach favoured by the International Monetary Fund, an organization hardly known for being leftwing and radical.
Plans for selective nationalization in the transport and energy sectors seem to have particularly got the wrath of the right. It’s almost as if he was Stalin reincarnated.
But selective state intervention is hardly socialism red in tooth and claw. After all public ownership of the railways, electricity, gas and water remain the norm in Angele Merkel’s Germany and Francois Hollande’s France and in many other advanced capitalist economies.
A vote loser? Not if the opinion polls are to be believed. They constantly show the British people supporting such a move.
A People’s QE
There is one area above all others that Corbyn’s plans have been most heavily criticized, his plans for a form of “quantitative easing” for the people.
Under such a scheme, the Bank of England would create money to buy bonds issued by a National Investment Bank to fund specific projects. Can’t be done says his critics it will fuel inflation.
These very same critics conveniently forget the £375bn handed to banks, insurance companies and pension funds to redeem mostly state-issue bonds. That money was supposedly to be used to stimulate economic demand, investment and the housing market.
What it did produce was fatter corporate bank balances and created the property price bubble that has made it virtually impossible for young people to access the housing market.
At least Corbyn’s plans for QE will actually benefit the real economy.
What Corbyn has done more than any of the other candidates in this contest is challenge the principles of deregulated finance, free-wheeling market capitalism, privatisation of public services and the shrinking back of the state.
His belief in social justice, egalitarianism, and the ethos of public service and full democratic accountability simply reflects what many an ordinary party member expects the Labour party to stand for. And is perhaps what makes him the favourite to win the contest.