Election 2019- The Labour Party- The Deep Red Sea
Labour head into this election much as they did the last one, at a huge disadvantage. The disadvantage springs from two places, though one more than the other, and both of their own making. The sorry truth is that a combination of these problems is helping them to achieve the impossible- being on average 10 points behind what is I think objectively the worst Government of modern history in the polls. It should be impossible, and yet here we are. The biggest problem for the country is the one that this election is ostensibly being used to settle, in place of the more appropriate confirmatory referendum. Conversely for the Labour Party, according to activists, this is actually the smaller of the two problems. For Labour, Brexit has always been about trying to please all the people, all the time. Where the other parties have come to positions where they have a decisive position on the matter, Labour have always sat on the fence, trying to have it both ways. Whilst Labour-ites have defended this as a logical position to enable them to bring the country back together at the end of the process, it has inevitably left them looking indecisive and wobbly, a critical problem when you are dealing with the most important issue of our times. Labour’s problem was that although the party membership and Parliamentary Party had a clear leaning in favour of remain (approximately 75–80% believe we should remain in the EU), many of the constituencies in the North and Midlands that voted heavily for Brexit also have strong Labour votes. The Labour leadership believed, no doubt assisted by the pro-Brexit-y leanings of some of its leaders and certain key union leaders, that it could straddle the boundaries and retain all these diverse votes, diametrically opposed though they may be, and ride them to triumph. That didn’t happen, as evidenced by their catastrophic showing in the polls. Instead with the other parties forming up behind firm positions the potential Labour vote suffered. Many remainers started declaring intention to vote for the Lib Dems, as the leading pro-remain party. Some of the Brexiteers started declaring for the Brexit Party, or even, woe betide, the Tories. In trying to please everyone, Labour pleased no one. The matter came to a head at their conference this year. Conference voted to put the party firmly behind a confirmatory referendum, in a manner that Corbyn could no longer perform intricate little caveats and qualifiers around as he had consistently done before, but an attempt to place them firmly in the remain camp was headed off by the Unions, leaving them heading into this election with a promise for a second referendum on a theoretical new Labour negotiated deal, without a commitment as to how they would advocate in that referendum. Whether they would be able to get a new deal is a somewhat vexed issue- why would the EU reopen negotiations when they have the deal they wanted at the very start on the table? Whether they are able to or not, the conference motion binds them to hold a special party conference to decide how the party should vote in that referendum at a later date. Are you still following this? I realise the threads are pretty tangled. The inability to commit even at this stage remains injurious. Corbyn has been asked multiple times in interviews and debates what his position is and refuses to confirm one way or another. In line with party policy perhaps, but for the public a particularly damaging sight when he is surrounded by others who have firm positions. Most people are now entrenched on their Brexit positions. It even trumps party tribalism these days. For one of the two major parties to be unable to commit doesn’t look to the general public like a reasonable act of impartiality, but like an indecisive mess. Had the party had another leader, one better at bringing diverse viewpoints together and at commanding the general respect of the public, their original position may have paid out. But they didn’t. And it may well be what causes their utter failure in this election. And that, and I hope you will read a heavy sigh into the piece here, brings us to the next thing.
The bigger of the two problems is the same as it has been since 12th September 2015. Jeremy Corbyn. Look, I know the Corbyn-ites are going to jump aboard here and start targeting the artillery, but it should be undeniable to even the greatest devotee that he has a huge problem with the general public. At present, his approval rating is net -60, which puts him somewhere between the popularity of a bull at a china shop convention and a dragon sitting on a pile of gold in a children’s tale. To say he is unpopular would be the understatement of the century. It is no secret. Even if you are inclined to disregard polling because of your conspiracy theory of choice (all fixed, run by Tories, run by Jews, etc.), it is widely reported by candidates and canvassing that it is the biggest problem on the doorstep. Even those sympathetic to Labour’s aims seem to have immense trouble bringing themselves for voting to put Corbyn in Number 10. For the Corbynites though, there is no reckoning for this. Not even an attempt to deal with it. Instead there is always someone else to blame, and I have no doubt that when Corbyn doesn’t win a majority at this election, he will be in no way to blame. The most popular excuse is of course that the media is biased against him, primarily it is argued because billionaires and the economic elite fear what he might do if he came to office, and they direct the media to hammer him. There is certainly some evidence that the media has been consistently set against Corbyn since he took office as leader of the opposition. I do think however that merely blaming the media for all of Corbyn’s problems (or rather the public’s problems with Corbyn) not only undermines and disrespects the work of the many fine and upstanding journalists in both mainstream and independent media out there who do not brook editorial intervention, but also excuses his problems in a manner not conducive to actually dealing with them. As well as dismissing the public as easily led idiots. Although which of us hasn’t been guilty of that eh? The Corbynite defence is bolstered by a variety of outlets such as the Canary and Novara, who whilst they claim independence act as little more than uncritical cheerleaders of the Labour leadership, whilst ignoring journalistic norms regarding reporting sensitive issues and consistently lying and misrepresenting other viewpoints- indeed much the same that they criticise the mainstream media for. The general rule I work with when dealing with the press is that if they are entirely uncritical and supportive of one side, you can generally dismiss them as propagandist cranks, and I’m afraid many of the ‘independent media outlets’ decidedly fail this test. Put simply, if they never say anything good about the other side, they are questionable. If they only ever say positive things about their side too, they are probably dismissable as unreliable.
Corbyn’s popularity problems stem from a variety of issues from all across the board. We will start with the less controversial ones and move slowly and inexorably towards the big ones that will mean I have my head ripped off by his acolytes (I’d like to delay that as long as possible- hey, I’m a coward). The first problem is his more or less total lack of any leadership qualities. It is perhaps difficult to conceive now of just how inconsequential Corbyn was prior to his assumption of the leadership of the Labour Party. He was the most back-bench of backbenchers that it is possible to imagine. Whilst I am sure he was a fine constituency MP (although it has to be said there are mixed reports on this), he never took any leadership positions on issues major or minor, never seriously involved himself in political efforts to secure solutions to the problems of the world and never sought the media spotlight, except in the shadowy fringes that he operated. The last of these would no doubt be held up as one of his chief virtues by his supporters, and by their accounts his virtues are many. Leadership however could never be said to be one of them. He was always a decidedly fringe figure, even for the Labour Party pre-Blair, associating more with residual communists and Marxist elements than the Labour Party proper. On the issues that he did take prominent positions on, he always associated with groups outside the mainstream, often controversial, sometimes downright dubious. His work against apartheid was with the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group, a group that the African National Congress refused to work with on the grounds that they were too radical and were actively hindering the anti-Apartheid movement. He made frequent appearances alongside controversial figures from across the left of politics. Despite this, he never developed the leadership skills required to bring people of diverse viewpoints together instead preferring to associate with those whose thinking was already in line with his own, where he could remain safely unchallenged, much like his present counterpart at the head of the Conservative Party.
Despite the assertions of his followers that he played an important role in many peace projects and negotiations, the historical record does not back this up. When queried on his extensive associations with groups such as the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah, the standard response both from him and his followers is that he believes in establishing dialogue to work towards peace. A worthy goal to be sure but again, not one that is backed by his personal history. If one is so set on dialogue as an avenue to peace, one might expect the would-be peacemaker to speak to both sides, and this is where Corbyn falls down despite his assertions. Throughout his entire career, he has always neglected to do so. In every conflict he chooses to try and involve himself with, he will choose the side that has the more anti-Western agenda, speak extensively to them (often involving invitations to Parliament, appearing alongside them at events, praising their goals etc.) and then forget to talk to the other side at all. In Northern Ireland, he was associated closely with IRA figures, even inviting them to Parliament shortly after they had murdered British troops in their barracks, but there is little, if any, record of him ever talking to the loyalist parties. The same pattern repeats itself in all of the conflicts he was involved in. The Israeli-Palestine conflict- his commitment to peace extends to talking to anti-Israeli forces, but there is no record of him ever having held his vaunted ‘dialogue’ with the Israelis. In terms of peacemaking, his dialogue seems to be missing the ‘di’. The reason for this is obvious. As a figure on the fringes of the party, he never expected to be leader, and therefore never expected to be scrutinised for his associations or approach to peace. He has been deemed worthy of praise for his opposition for the dubiously legal Iraq war, and though this perhaps is praiseworthy, the oft-made assertion that he has always been on the ‘right side of history’ is at best deeply questionable. He vigorously opposed the Nato intervention in Serbia’s ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, an intervention which prevented further war crimes and helped to prevent a genocide. Not only did he oppose the war, but he actively demonstrated on behalf of the Serbs, who were perpetrating the most horrifying atrocities against the Kosovan people. Right side of history? He defended the Soviet Union, even when the details of their mass crimes against humanity were being revealed, lamenting its fall. Right side of history? He has consistently spoken for Iranian state television, heaping praise on a regime that habitually commits crimes against humanity against its own people. Right side of history? He has consistently refused to outright condemn the IRA for their use of violence, instead making general condemnations of violence. Right side of history? OK, so perhaps that last one is a little tricky, as no-one came out of that one wearing shining laurels. The point is, the argument that he has consistently been on the right side of history does not in any way stand up.
Outside the dubious claims of his leadership on diplomatic matters, he has personally cardinally failed to deliver leadership on the most critical issue of our times- Brexit. Though he has now been dragged kicking and screaming to support a second referendum on any deal achieved, he still refuses to commit to either side instead claiming to want to act as a neutral arbiter on the matter. Had this been his argument from the start, I would perhaps have given him credit for it. That it has arisen as a position only after he has been forced to concede on the referendum issue makes him look like he is still attempting to sit on the fence. One does not, it seems, override a lifetime of euroscepticism merely because it’s a vote winner. Whenever this government has committed acts damaging to the rule of law and the constitution, you will never find Corbyn in a leadership position in defence of the system. Most of the opposition to the horrendous way that the Government has behaved, attempting to railroad or bypass parliament, trying to shut Parliament down entirely, has come from the backbenches, with the frontbenches coming on board later. That is not the way it is supposed to be. The opposition should be making a stand against this stuff. Should be the first to be standing up and condemning it, and trying to correct the assault upon democracy. Instead, individual MPs have had to lead the charge. The attitude shown has been nothing short of shameful. This issue is not the only one on which he has shown a spectacular lack of judgment. After the novichok attacks in Salisbury, even after the intelligence services had categorically concluded that the Kremlin was behind them, he called for restraint in assigning blame. Whereas restraint may be a laudable thing in circumstances where evidence is doubted, when the collected intelligence services of the nation have drawn the same conclusion based on solid evidence, to continue to call for continued prevarication shows a spectacular lack of judgment and a callous attitude to those who have lost loved ones. Even were we to accept that his caution was warranted, his assertion that we should believe the Kremlin because they said they didn’t do it showed a remarkable naïveté, unsuited for the demands of the man who would be in charge of national security. Even on internal matters his judgment is dubious. After sexual harassment claims were raised against the former Labour minister Kelvin Hopkins, Corbyn kept him in his shadow cabinet for over a year. You can be damn sure that if that had been the other side of the chamber it would have caused outrage amongst the Labour Party.
The other problem is related to the first and again has a nexus with the ‘right side of history’ argument. Indeed, we have already touched upon it. One of the side-effects of his associations with fringe groups, particularly in the context of Israel-Palestine has been his association with figures whose views on the Jewish people could be characterised mildly as ‘off’, or more accurately as ‘abhorrent’. For so long, I gave him the benefit of the doubt as to whether he himself was anti-Semitic. Perhaps he didn’t agree with the views of his controversial compatriots. We all associate with people whose views we disagree with, that’s just life. Perhaps this was merely his flaw. But eventually I’m afraid I became incapable of performing the mental gymnastics required to conclude that he did not have at least a subconscious problem with Jews. Perhaps this is an indication of my own mental weakness, but there are only so many times I can see someone standing beside someone spouting outright hatred without even attempting to intervene, only so many times someone can be seen metaphorically and literally embracing individuals whose views are utterly unacceptable in the context of a civilised society, and that is without mentioning the laying of wreaths and comments on obviously anti-Semitic murals. Corbyn and his adherents certainly do not believe he is anti-Semitic, but that is not the measure of racism. Very few racists would call themselves so. Recent polls indicate that 87% of British Jews consider Labour to be an institutionally anti-Semitic party, and whilst all parties have such views on the fringes, the number of incidents and problems within Labour have markedly increased since Corbyn became leader. You can be damn sure that if 87% of any other minority group considered a party to be intolerant towards it that the Labour Party would be the first to be up in arms. And yet in their own case amongst Corbyn’s acolytes particularly there is a refusal to accept the judgment of the community. In the last fortnight, the Chief Rabbi made a rare and obviously very reluctant intervention in this election to caution that Jews are genuinely fearing the possibility of Corbyn in Number 10. The responses from the left were wide and varied, but far too many of them strayed beyond the bounds of the acceptable, including my favourite category, responses pointing out that he had connections with Israel. A rabbi, having connections with Israel, who’d have thought it? Joking aside, the ‘controlled by Israel’ trope to which this is an obvious reference is one of the most common anti-Semitic tropes. The most disappointing responses for me were the collection of clearly genuinely upset Labour Parliamentary candidates many of whom I deeply respect bemoaning that it had come to this, before heading back out onto the streets to campaign to make the man at whose feet the blame for enabling the rise of anti-semitism in Labour rests Prime Minister. The problem for many Corbyn-ites I fear is that they do not seem to recognise that anti-Semitism does not necessarily march in wearing jackboots, it makes its first appearance more subtly, and sets down its roots. The refusal to accept its presence, and the willingness to find excuses for not dealing with the problem is in many ways one of the key enablers of institutional racism. Accepting the problem is the first step to rooting it out, but instead of doing so Corbyn-ites tend to fall back to a few key positions. Firstly, that Corbyn couldn’t be anti-Semitic because he has campaigned against racism all his life. Whilst he has certainly done good work in the past campaigning against many forms of racism, his long history of associating with dubious individuals certainly indicates a blindness towards anti-semitism. I do not doubt that were he sharing a stage with someone in the habit of slinging the N-word at black people he would intervene somehow, but history more than adequately demonstrates that he is perfectly content to share the stage with people casually throwing out anti-Semitic tropes like some sort of racist machine gun, or even as emerged in the last couple of days warmly greeting and physically embracing somebody who had previously been found guilty of commiitting blood libel, saying that Jews used the blood of Chriistian babies to make their sacramental bread. His followers frequently evoke his mother’s presence at the Battle of Cable Street, standing against the fascists; or his receipt of a supposedly prestigious international prize for peace and equality, which when examined turns out to be something of a fringe award with many questionable recipients. The more confident Corbynites will tell you that though there is a problem with anti-semitism the Party, lead by Corbyn, is dealing with it. Whilst there have been moves in this direction, notably the acceptance of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, there are still huge problems with inconsistent and minor punishments being meted out to anti-semites, often in the form of administrative wrist-slaps. Just today it has come out that holocaust deniers have been allowed to stay in the party with no punishment, that the investigation of someone who described jews as a “viral infection” and called for their “complete annhilation and extermination” dragged on for 10 months before he was finally expelled in August this year, and that members found guilty of anti-semitism are allowed to remain in the party so long as the attend “diversity courses” whiich party insiders admit don’t actually exist. As for Corbyn leading on it, quite the contrary. His Office has been found multiple times to have interfered in the supposedly independent processes of the Party. Corbyn himself has only apologised half-heartedly, if at all, always couching it in broad terms without specifically addressing the issues. In his interview last week with Andrew Neill, he was confronted multiple times with specific accusations and asked to condemn an explicit act of holocaust denial. He did. But only after he was asked six times. That he is unable to do so immediately and unreservedly is a great stain upon his character, and that even after he has sort-of apologised these problems still arise is a greater one. Actions speak louder than words Mr Corbyn. Many Corbynites are reluctant to address the matter at all, falling back on whataboutism. Instead of addressing the problem, they highlight the Tory party’s problem with islamophobia. That modern politics should be reduced to a race to the racist bottom is nothing short of horrifying. The refusal to deal with it properly with a short sharp shock approach continues to allow the institutional racism to flourish. Labour has become only the second political party in history, after the BNP to be put under a statutory investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. The fact that the manifesto for this election contains a pledge to reform the EHRC to be ‘truly independent’ is I’m sure entirely unrelated to this fact. A couple of days ago, a redacted version of the Jewish Labour Movement’s submissions to the ECHR investigation has leaked. With 70 whistleblowers having contributed to the submission, when Labour only has a permanent staff of 200, it is not difficult to see that it’s a big problem. I have not yet had time to go through the full report, but the extracts that I have seen are nothing short of terrible. Reports of casual anti-Semitic abuse, comments of ‘Hitler was right’ in party meetings, the whole gamut is run. So far the response from senior Labour figures and their outriders has been muted, in that few of them have said anything. Owen Jones, the Guardian columnist and Labour activist with a direct line to the leadership responded by claiming that journalists and reporters who reported the content of the report but didn’t prioritise Tory islamophobia did not in fact care about racism. Whataboutism at its finest. The problem is that racism is not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible for Labour’s institutional anti-semitism to be a big problem, and for Tory anti-semitism to be a large and underreported problem. The second does not abrogate the responsibility of the first to tackle it’s own problems, and dismissing community concerns about institutional anti-semitism as smears merely entrenches the problem. The ECHR is not due to make its full report until January, after the election. I have a feeling it is going to make harrowing reading.
With Labour’s leader proving more problematic and less popular than the bubonic plague, a lot of Labour’s election fortunes will ride on the manifesto it presents to the waiting public. So what of that manifesto? Over the past couple of years, much has been made of money trees, money forests and a variety of other financial-arboreal metaphors of varying degrees, and Labour’s manifesto invites a continuation of that trend, on an epic scale. It would involve public spending of £83bn a year according to Labour’s own costings, the bulk of which so it claims, would be funded by raising taxes on the richest five percent of the country, corporation tax rises and inheritance tax changes. Quite how many people they think fit into that bracket is unclear, but I fear they may be due to receive bad news. Even were we to assume that they could raise this money from the aforementioned sources, the idea that 95% of the country will pay no more seems preposterous. Is a company going to merely accept the decrease in profits mandated by a higher tax rate? Or will they merely pass that along to the customers in the form of ‘unfortunate and inevitable price rises’? The Institute for Fiscal Studies, the premier economic think tank described the economics of it as “not credible”, and far be it for me to doubt the economic calculations of a party that thought that the maintenance of a nationwide super-fast fiber optic broadband network would cost a mere £230m a year (a figure they later revised to £580m a year- still only half of the minimum figure given by industry analysts), but I am in agreement with the IFS on this one that to suggest these promises could be funded with 95% of the population feeling no difference is at best disingenuous and at worst a downright lie. In addition to the £83bn of public spending in the manifesto, in the days after the release of the manifesto Labour also announced an additional £58bn for the so-called WASPI Women, campaigners against the way the state pension age was equalized between men and women. The £58bn announced would form a compensation fund to be paid over 5 years to applicants. A noble cause, certainly, but an announcement that was not in the manifesto or its costings. It is difficult not to see this as a last minute pledge made when Labour realised that the Tories had made no provision for this in their manifesto, in an attempt to buy a few more votes. The problem is that it is an additional £58bn to come from somewhere. When pressed on it, Corbyn and his shadow cabinet have proved evasive with regards to its source, declaring that it will come from government reserves, without identifying which reserves exactly they are talking about. When pressed further they tend to revert to claiming that the payment is a moral issue. A moral issue it may well be, but £58bn does not just appear, not even for the most moral of issues. Questions have also been raised about whether this £58bn, if it is to be spent at all, may not be better spent on other issues. Although pensions inequality is an important issue, the compensation fund would largely go to reasonably well-off middle class households, and potentially introduce further inequalities in the pension system. Would not, the counter argument goes, £58bn be better spent on tackling poverty, dealing with disparities in other equalities funding, or even going to the NHS. £58bn would represent a 50% straight increase in the NHS annual budget. The willingness to add an additional uncosted pledge of £58bn on top of the rest of the manifesto seemingly willy-nilly for political advantage would seem to demonstrate an alarming proclivity towards profligacy with public funds. One of the defences that has been mounted by Labour supporters is that actually, this degree of Public Spending is nothing unusual in Western Europe, and this is certainly true. The degree of spending they propose would merely bring us close to parity with several other states. In and of itself, it is not then a terrible idea. What might be more concerning however is that they want to take us there immediately, from a much less secure position. Spending that much money is fine, but you shouldn’t expect it to just happen immediately. It should be a goal to work towards, not something that is rushed to. Rushing to it risks the stability of the economy, and potentially undermines the ability of the state to support such an increase.
One of the most heavily criticised and hallmark policies of the Labour Manifesto has been their program of renationalisation. Before I start on this, and I am going to join the chorus of criticism, I should say that I am not opposed to nationalisation if there is good evidence that it would work to achieve efficiencies and its stated goals. This last little bit is important. So what is Labour planning to nationalise? Well, rather a lot. The list goes something like this. Mail, energy distribution and supply, water, rail and fibre broadband provision. That’s quite a lot. Before we even get into the maintenance of delivery of these services once they are acquired by a putative Labour Government, there is already a problem, which is that we don’t even have an estimate from the party as to how much these acquisitions would cost. When asked about this the party have indicated that this would be the subject of negotiations starting with a “fair assessment of the true value of the companies”. One of the key principles of nationalisation is always the determination of value. If the government pays too much in compensation to the current owners, then nationalisation ceases to provide good value for the taxpayer who is ultimately funding the programme. Pay too little, and the nationalisation programme essentially amounts to full on expropriation of private property. Whilst I have no doubt the latter would satisfy the more radical of Corbyn-supporters, the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions is a protected one covered by human rights legislation (Protocol 1, article 1 of the ECHR for those who want to check) and therefore theoretically off-limits unless the Government wants to be dragged before the ECtHR. Valuation of companies, especially ones not publicly listed is a tricky business, but it is fair to say that it is a lot™. The other problem is that the purchase for nationalisation purposes of all these companies also has the effect of bringing to the public balance sheets the value of their liabilities. At present this would collectively amount to at least an additional £150bn of debt being added to the public purse, representing a little under an additional ten percent onto our pre-existing deficit. Given that we have no real estimates for the cost of buying all these industries, that figure really is the very bottom line, and the total amount could easily be double that or more. Make no mistake, when Labour describes their nationalisation plans as ambitious, they aren’t lying. They would represent the biggest scheme of nationalisations in modern history, and none of them are industries where the large mistakes that could be made in the nationalisation process should be underestimated. In addition to their own costs and benefits, they are each an industry that underpin much of the rest of the UK economy. A collapse in one would not be an isolated thing and would have potentially horrendous impacts on the country as a whole. This key role in wider economic infrastructure is one of the reasons that Labour is keen on nationalisation, and criticism is often met by a chorus of “well they do it that way in the rest of Europe.” The problem is this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how state-owned industry typically works in Europe. Whilst there are limited examples of fully nationalised industry- a la Labour’s plans, it is far more common for a mixture of private and public ownership to be used, either through contracting or through state majority ownership of infrastructure, but with private investment filling out the rest of the ownership. The idea that nationalisation should be uncontroversial then merely because “that’s how they do it over there” is therefore a poor argument. The most prominent example of how cautious one should be around nationalisation comes from Australia where the Australian Labor Party had similar plans to nationalise broadband into their National Broadband Network, a project that has still not come to fruition courtesy of delays and vastly increased costs. A salutary warning perhaps. The primary problem that I have personally with the proposed Labour nationalisation programme is that it is unclear what problems nationalisation could solve that could not be better solved by reform of the current sector regulation, a much less controversial and much safer alternative. Purely state-run industry always tends towards inefficiency, because there is no real impetus to achieve efficiencies, such as those that motivate private industry (profit margin, shareholder responsibility etc.) In the case of the industries Labour wish to nationalise particularly because they are not taking a sector-by sector approach, but rather a programme of mass nationalisation I find it difficult to see these proposals as anything other than kneejerk ideological reactions to problems that are more easily solved in a less heavy handed manner. Put bluntly, they are using a sledgehammer to solve a problem that needs a scalpel.
Labour’s manifesto response to the climate emergency is suitably robust, even beating out the Green manifesto in analysis by Friends of the Earth. Pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 and to eliminate them entirely within that decade represent an improvement on their original pledge to bring them to zero by 2030, which whilst it was an even more dramatic pledge would have been practically impossible to actually undertake. The new target is still a big ask, and may still prove too much for the economy to handle, but in these times dramatic actions are needed, and I cannot fault them for their pledges. So how do they intend to achieve these goals? The flagship promise is the creation of 1m new jobs in sustainable development, renewable resources and home refurbishments, designed to bring about a new green industrial revolution and resolve potential problems with job losses that might come about due to the cutting of emissions. How these jobs would play into the extensive nationalisation plans is not yet clear, but Labour have pledged to create a £250bn ‘Green transformation fund’, as well as providing an additional £250bn through their proposed national investment bank. Their seriousness and ambition in tackling what is an existential issue for the planet should be lauded, as should their more realistic approach. Balancing the needs for a functioning economy and a no-holds-barred approach to tackling climate change is always a tricky one, but I am optimistic that the Labour manifesto provides a decent blueprint for doing so.
On equality the Labour manifesto is similarly strong, representing strong commitments to the Human Rights Act and improved support for victims of domestic violence including ratification of the Istanbul Convention and the International Labour Organisation Convention on Violence and Harassment at Work. The pledge to create a separate Department for Women and Equalities at Secretary of State level, is a welcome change and would go a long way towards promoting a more robust response to the challenges of equality in a rapidly changing world. It would also support their pledge to completely close the gender pay gap by 2030. ONe of the notable additions to the manifesto is the pledge to reform the Gender Recognition Act to introduce self-declaration for transgender individuals, a change that should be welcomed across the board as progressive and forward thinking support of a still much maligned and suffering group.
Despite their no doubt popular promises and giveaways, Labour stand no realistic chance of forming a majority Government. If they are lucky, they will hold on to the seats that they have, and maybe gain a few more, though I do not expect any surge. A combination of their Brexit position and their leadership problems makes them distasteful to wide swathes of the population. Although there has been an uptick in their polling numbers as we approach the date of the election this is largely due to the faltering Lib Dem campaign, and through no positive actions of the Labour Party itself. I will make no bones about it that I feel that Corbyn is supremely unfit for office, equally as much as Boris Johnson, and in all honesty I would be deeply alarmed to see a Corbyn majority government not only because of his personal issues, but also because of the radicalness of his policies. In truth I am very grateful that this situation will not come to fruition at this election, and that the alternative where Corbyn’s policies could be moderated by either a coalition partner, or by acting as a minority government is the only plausible positive outcome for Labour. The unfortunate truth is that the only way a Tory majority can be stopped (which is the most critical thing at this election) is by tactical voting, which in many places will mean voting for the Labour candidate to put Corbyn in office. I’m personally glad that I am not forced to make that decision. For me, Jeremy Corbyn is too tainted by his past, by the allegations that remain hanging over him and by his refusal to grapple with them and seek meaningful personal improvement in his leadership and skills. Whilst his ongoing problems with anti-semitism remain his greatest moral failing, I also fear the state of the country under his leadership. Although many of the concerns over how much of a threat to national security he would be are overblown, his indecisiveness, his lack of judgment and his inability to properly reckon with people who disagree with him do concern me, as do his lack of ability to critically analyse situations and his willingness to blindly accept reassurances, seemingly no matter their source. On the Labour manifesto, whilst many of their policies on equality and climate change I fully approve of, I cannot agree with the laissez-faire manner in which they seem to be willing to handle the public finances, and although I do not always disagree with nationalisation, I do fundamentally disagree with their programme because I do not think there is enough evidence that it would achieve what they want it to achieve or that it would actually be for the public benefit. To me it seems very much like an ideologically-led programme, not an evidence-led one, which is what I always look for.
I know that many of my friends and acquaintances will be voting Labour in this election, whether tactically, or because they genuinely believe in Labour’s policies. Equally, I know this will likely be the most controversial of the pieces I will be publishing. I have no grounds to ask you to do anything, but what I would ask, if you are going to vote Labour is that you familiarise yourself from a neutral position with the issues around anti-semitism. That you try to understand why 87% of the Jewish community believes Labour to be antisemitic. That you reckon with the fact that the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has just named the Labour Party the biggest threat to Jews today globally. That you try and appreciate why the Chief Rabbi felt the need to break with convention and write his article. I do not say this to try and stop you voting Labour, a tactical vote for Labour by many of you is the only way to achieve what I reluctantly concede is the optimum outcome of this election, but because I want you to try and understand the concerns of that community. To fully appreciate what you are doing when you vote for the Labour Party, and to make sure that you understand that they are not smears and that there are genuine concerns. I know that probably sounds patronising, and I don’t mean it to be, but I see too many people, good rational people willing to dismiss the claims as smears and lies. So please, before the election, go and read up on it. By all means after that hold you nose and vote for them. But do so with the facts before you. The comedy writer and heroine on this issue, Sara Gibbs has written one of the best explorations here:
Now go on. Go and read up on it. The Conservative hit job is coming next.
8th December 2019