Be careful of what you wish for is a good rule for politics as it is for life. The mess Labour has got itself into with the leadership election is a prime example.
Leader Ed Miliband, late of this Parish, set up a new system of elections to move away from the strong influence of the Trade Unions.
The system entitled three separate groups of people to vote. Ordinary party members, affiliated supporters who have signed up through the unions and other affiliated organizations and registered supporters – people who’ve registered that they support the Labour Party by signing up online and paying a one-off minimum fee of £3.
As the late Cilla would say, “surprise, surprise.” Far from reducing the influence of the trade unions it has put the bit between their teeth. They’ve used the new system to mobilise support for Mr Corbyn.
In order to widen the interest in the Labour party and raise some much needed extra cash, for a fee of £3 people could register as supporters of Labour and entitle them to a vote in the leadership and deputy leadership election.
It would seem that people wishing to vote for Corbyn have signed up in droves whereas the other candidates have failed to generate anything like the same enthusiasm and get supporters to register.
Now that Corbyn is the front-runner and looks like winning, MPs and senior party members are shouting ‘foul.’
The party have resorted to excluding already-registered voters from voting in its leadership election. The exclusion of these potential Labour voters shows that as the “moderates” are losing the battle of ideas they are turning to increasingly repressive measures to fight back.
“Entryism” is the overused word of the moderates. A word resurrected from the days of Kinnock but now used in an attempt to undermine Corbyn’s backers.
How such a word can be used in a pejorative way when it’s the Labour party itself that has devised a category that for three quid allows any fellow traveller to pay and exercise a vote.
Fight the ideas not the process
The truth of the matter is that they devised the system before they thought that someone with Mr Corbyn’s agenda could become a front-runner. Now that he is, they blame the system.
None of those MPs that are now moaning and are threatening to go to the courts if Corbyn should win, have got a leg to stand on. If they had reservations then these should have been debated before Miliband introduced the new rules not now that the race is underway. It’s sour grapes.
Let’s face it if a candidate other than Corbyn had drummed up so much new support, it is unlikely that voices would be raised. No they look like and sound like sore losers. It’s they that are out of step with the ordinary party members.
If Corbyn wins, it will be because the majority of those voting endorse him and that vote should be respected. It won’t be the failure of the process but the failure of the “moderates” to convince.
Living proof that Corbyn is running way ahead of the other candidates in Labour’s leadership contest is the way that senior party figures are intervening to undermine the front-runner.
Last week it was Tony Blair. Anyone voting with his or her heart needed to get a transplant. Yesterday it was Kinnock resurrecting the bogyman of the Trotskyite left. Fighting again the battle of the eighties against Militant. A time where he tried to rid from the Labour party many a loyal party worker simply for being on the left of the party.
He’s up to his old tricks again questioning anyone that votes for Corbyn as not being interested in power.
“ We are not choosing the chair of a discussion group who can preside over two years or more of fascinating debate while the Tories play hell with cuts in local services and public investment, extend injustice and flat lining incomes, sustain or worsen private debt, and deepen the balance-of-payments, productivity, housing and poverty deficits. We have to elect a leader capable of taking us to victory in the 2020 election and of being Labour prime minister.” Says he, whilst declaring his support for Burnham.
Shadow Chancellor has a go
Today it’s the shadow Chancellor Chris Lesley having his pennyworth. Who he? I hear you say? His view “The starry-eyed, hard left economic strategy of Jeremy Corbyn would hand the Tories at least another decade in power and end up hurting poor people by leading to higher inflation and interest rates as well as cuts in public spending.”
Then he rules himself out serving under the veteran left-winger.
Is Corbyn’s economic plan a disaster?
Burnham has declared he wants a “balanced and sustainable public finances.” So more of the same. No change from the austerity agenda there then. For Burnham read Cooper and Kendall. Little wonder that Corbyn is seen as the candidate of “hope.”
But is it starry-eyed, hard left economics, as Chris Lesley would have us believe? If you listen to the Financial Times, the answer is yes. “His views (Corbyn) – higher taxes, mass nationalisation, more welfare, more borrowing – are seen as toxic.” Hardy surprising a view for the FT to hold. But are they really as bad as the supporters of New Labour and most of the press would have us believe?
His rejection of austerity as a coherent macroeconomic strategy puts him in the same company as Nobel winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz to name but two. Both amongst many other economists have identified the damaging economic and social impacts of austerity.
The advocates of austerity, such as the Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor and the other three leadership candidates maintain, that a looser fiscal policy would result in higher interest rates and/or have an adverse impact on business confidence. Not so. The reality is so different. Looser fiscal policy would have little impact on interest rates which are already at their lower bound and which have had to be propped up by quantitative easing (aka printing money) as they could not be cut further.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe the level of public sector deficits and debts are “not sustainable.” Not true. What is important is whether the debt is fundable and what it is used for. In a world of low interest rates, government deficits are easily fundable and remain low by historic standards.
More public investment
Corbyn’s stand on public investment in infrastructure and the establishment of a National Investment Bank is again a very creditable economic policy.
Most reputable economists would argue that investment in infrastructure, such as transport, energy and telecommunications, are essential to raise growth and productivity. The private sector has singularly failed to do so which leaves only the public sector. Many of these investments are large-scale and long-term, requiring government planning, delivery and financing.
No cuts to welfare
When Corbyn voted against the Chancellor’s welfare cuts he was exposing the philosophy of the current government that the poor need a cut in welfare to make them work; whereas the rich need a cut in taxes to make them work. It may be good politics but it certainly not good economics. Such an approach accelerates inequality and lead to rising child poverty. It was the IMF that said recently that inequality was bad for economic growth. Hardly a socialist institution.
His case for regional rebalancing to encourage growth throughout the economy is again a creditable economic policy. London’s growth since the 1980’s has accelerated whilst the rest of the country has stagnated. This economic inefficiency is socially undesirable. A strong regional policy will improve national economic growth. Areas such as Wales would benefit from such a policy.
Let’s face it the vitriol will increase as Corbyn looks like winning.
But he’s the only politician in the race that’s thinking outside the box. But of course it won’t stop the Blairites and the Kinnocks of this world from targeting the man and his supporters in both the party and the trade unions, rather than his ideas. Many of which if enacted would have a significant impact on long-term prosperity and who’s to say that the voters would not be pleased to back in an election.