Spending a week here in London, I thought I would take the opportunity to catch up on the local politics.
You probably know that Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election in May 2017, expecting to achieve a substantial increase in her then-small majority in Parliament; but instead she ended up losing a few seats, going to slightly less than a majority, and thus was forced into a coalition with the small Democratic Unionist Party to get barely enough votes to form a government. Today the Conservative-led government is struggling to deal with the many issues of Brexit (among other things), and the defection of only a few members could bring down the government and force a new election at more or less any time. Morgan Stanley, among others, is predicting that it is "likely" there will need to be a new election in 2018.
If and when there is a new election, what is the alternative for the UK? Recent polls show the prospective vote about evenly split between the Conservatives and Labour, with the lead in the polls seesawing back and forth every few weeks. The most recent (March 18) ICM/Guardian poll had the Conservatives up by 3 (44/41), but as recently as March 8 a different poll had Labour up by 7. Clearly, an election could go either way.
So what is the alternative offered by Labour at the moment? Remarkably, after decades of "New Labour" under leaders including Tony Blair, it seems that the Labour Party has now gone back to traditional old-fashioned socialism with all its trappings. Wouldn't you think that the collapse of the Soviet Union, let alone the ongoing disasters in places like Cuba and Venezuela, would have discredited this approach to policy for all time? Yet somehow, there is always coming along a new generation of airheads with no memory going back more than a few years, and no knowledge of history or even of current events in foreign lands, and ready to be seduced by the promise that government can achieve perfect fairness and justice in human affairs by the simple device of sufficient use of the state's coercive powers.
In 2015 Labour picked as its leader a guy named Jeremy Corbyn. In 2017 the Washington Post described Corbyn as:
a white-bearded baby boomer from the back benches who, like Bernie Sanders in the United States, ignited an improbable movement among young activists with his attacks on the rigged capitalist system and unquestioned fidelity to socialist ideals.
Many predicted that Corbyn's leadership would lead to immediate disaster for Labour in the 2017 election, but in the event his party outperformed expectations and came within a whisker of victory. Most recently, in January 2018, internal Labour Party elections brought into party leadership additional representatives from Corbyn's faction, described by the Express here as the "hard left."
Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left faction of Labour tightened its grip on the party today with an overwhelming triple victory in elections to its powerful ruling body.
So what exactly do Corbyn and his Labour Party stand for? We can start with a few choice quotes. From Corbyn's speech on the death of Fidel Castro in 2016:
From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba’s record of international solidarity abroad, Castro’s achievements were many. For all his flaws, Castro’s support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa, and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.
"For all his flaws" -- you mean, like, running a prison state for 57 years, locking up dissenters, taking all political freedom away from his subjects, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, and also trapping those who remained (other than a handful of his closest cronies) in abject poverty? But, as the Independent points out at the link, the Castro speech could not have come as any surprise, since Corbyn had been a supporter for decades of the "Cuba Solidarity Campaign" of Brits supporting Castro.
Venezuela? Well, there was Corbyn's speech in 2013, on the death of Hugo Chavez, praising Chavez as "inspiration to all of us fighting back against austerity and neoliberal economics in Europe.” Or his tweet on March 5, 2013: "Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world." (For the latest on the socialism-caused crisis in Venezuela, check out this piece from the New York Times, that appeared in their European edition today.) I hope you're starting to get an idea of where this guy comes from.
How about his proposed policies for the UK should he win? You can start with the "Labour Party Manifesto," but you won't learn much there. It's mostly pieties and nostrums. "For the many, not the few." OK, then! When you actually get down to some specifics, its the same old government control of most of the economy that the left has been pushing for generations. A national investment bank! A "national education service" ("includes universal public childcare, the “progressive restoration” of free education, and quality apprenticeships")! Nationalize the electricity industry! Massively expand public housing ("building 1m new homes in five years, at least half of them council homes")! (Wasn't that the centerpiece of the Chavez program in Venezuela?) Make the tax system more "progressive"! Bring back rent control! (Can he learn from the New York experience that rent control gradually gets taken over by wealthy insiders who figure out how to game the system? No!)
Is there anything to this guy's proposed program other than the old statism strategies that have failed so badly time and time again? Well, there is the proposal to get to 60% "renewable" fuels by 2030 ("moving to a 'low-carbon economy' and green industries, in part via national investment bank"). There's no chance that will actually happen -- the technology doesn't exist -- but he could potentially achieve a quintupling of electricity bills by 2030 in the attempt to get there. How again is that "for the many"?
Despite Corbyn's seeming increasing control over the Labour Party, Rachel Sylvester reports in the Times of London on March 20 that his "anti-western bias" is so severe that "many of his MPs have concluded they can't help make him PM."
For years, Mr. Corbyn has campaigned against Nato and romanticized dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela that favored Russia over America. His press spokesman Seumas Milne once wrote that: "For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialization, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality."
Yes, this is what the UK currently has on offer as the best alternative to the Conservatives.