Tony Blair after 3 General Election Victories
"He scares the Tories. He even scares the hell out of me."
John Prescott on Tony Blairs Election as Labour Leader in 1994
"Who has the Toughest Job. You or Me?" William Hague
"You." Tony Blair
On William Hague becoming leader of the Conservatives, 1997
The Recent Election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of the Labour Party is a fairy tale for some a horror show for others. He came from nowhere with 200-1 odds and emphatically won the contest. Persuaded to put his name forward by John McDonnell, now the new Shadow Chancellor, "I've stood twice, it's now your turn to put your name in the mix"; it's not entirely clear Mr Corbyn wants the job. He probably didn't think he would make the ballot. Then when he did, he thought maybe he could come third, but to take over 50% of the votes, more than all other three candidates shows how mutinous the mood of the general public is. Over 90% of Labour MPs did not vote for him and since he was known to be on the leadership ballot there was a huge surge in Labour party membership. I think a lot of his votes were from disgruntled Socialists from various organisations. It is evident over the world. Far right movements in Hungry, France and Greece; Syrzia a supposed far left Government; Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump who are storming for the Democrats and Republican leadership. People have become weary of politicians with hot air and no principles.
Politics however has always been about people with soundbites and little principle. The whole point of a politician is to try and appeal to as many people as possible, it is not as people believe to represent them. Tony Blair was one of the greatest politicians of the modern era. Regardless of what you think of him his ability to appeal to almost everyone and anyone was astonishing. He stood for everything and yet nothing at the same time. He was a Socialist but never took offence at being called a Tory in disguise. He was a big spender but didn't raise taxes. He could be tough when needed but compassionate when required. He courted business leaders and union bosses simultaneously. What he understood was how to win elections. David Cameron is now replicating this exact formula. He supports the NHS but believes in enterprise and free markets are the engine to prosperity. Again he is tough when required but compassionate when needed. He has announced the living wage and declared the Conservatives to be the true workers party, going straight for Labours Jugular. Their intention is not to destroy Jeremy Corbyn; instead they want to discredit the Labour Party itself for a generation.
Why do I mention all this? Because Jeremy Corbyn is not of the same mould, one of the reason his supporters went for him. He is compassionate but not tough. He is a Socialist. He stands for a clear set of principles. This is why he will struggle to appeal to the general electorate, more specific the 2 million of so who decide the marginal seats that determine who the Government is. First question is - will he still be leader in 2020? There are a number of reasons he may not. First he may quit. He's never had a frontbench job never mind actually a leadership job. Second, the Blairites and center of the party may try to get rid of him before the election. This could happen if the party starts to implode, and as Mr Corbyn seems a very principled and pleasant person may even step down to save the party he loves. In saying all this I have already seen some political manoeuvres to appeal to the broader electorate. He has been playing down comments he's said in the past about Hamas or the IRA, given open ended answers on Europe and stated that he will sing the national anthem at his next public appearance. John Mcdonnell his shadow chancellor recently appeared on question time and had to face questions about comments that he "Wish he could go back in time and assinate Margaret Thatcher" and regarding the IRA "It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA.". Only now when in a potential position of power did he apologise for those remarks (he didn't retract them). Despite being told that that team Corbyn has no spin, we are seeing plenty of it. He also came up with a story as to why Jeremy Corbyn didn't sing the national anthem which many of the panel didn't buy.
As Margaret Thatcher once said never underestimate the appeal of Socialism. It works on the premise of having simple solutions to complex social interactions. Your problems can be solved by a few people whose premise is to take money from one set of people, give it to another group and then claim credit. Yet whenever it is tried it fails with brutal reliability. The get out clause is it either wasn't "pure" Socialsim or Capitalism brought it down,, and so the process repeats for another unsuspecting generation or group of people. Many in the UK lived through the 1970's when we tried Socialism, the post war consensus and don't want a return. It was interesting that a lot of Corbyns support came from younger people who have not had to go through such traumas. Corbyn still thinks Venezuela is a model for social cohesion and prosperity, despite the fact that crime and inflation are rampant and the President there states toilet roll shortages are because Venezuelans eat to much. Mr Corbyn goes on Iranian TV but doesn't challenge them on their views on women and the fact they hang homosexuals but because they have an anti-western view they are his "friends" like Hamas. Nick Cohen has explained why he's deserted the left. If he's left then the majority of Britons won't vote for him.
Labours post war history has always been a battle of the moderates vs the leftists. After their historic 1945 landslide win and the mass program of Socialism that followed the party has only ever been elected since when they moved back to a more market friendly stance. The people of Britain have never voted for Socialism since when others in the world did. First Bevan vs Gaitskell. For over a decade Labour were out of power, they only got back into power when Harold Wilson moved the party back to the Center ground during the 1960's (in his early days Wilson was to the left of the party). Then came the 1980's, again the left said Britain wanted true Socialism, Michael Foot was seen as the only one who would unite both the right and left, a compromise to Dennis Healey and Tony Benn. Instead the party split and the SDP was formed by people within Labour who thought they were un-electable. After the crushing 1983 defeat to the Tories Neil Kinnock came in and moved the party once more back to the center ground (similar to Harold Wilson in his early years he was to the left of the party) battling the left wing militants, the Marxists. It took 18 years until Tony Blair formed another Labour Government and had to move the party right over to the center-right in the end to regain the British peoples trust. Then the battle of the Milibands; Ed the more left leaning than his brother David. Ed lost the 2015 election quite badly in historic terms. Yet the left still claimed "We need a purer message", "people didn't vote for us because we weren't left wing enough". So Jeremy Corbyn was elected. Labour have always had to contend with the battles between left and right - their whole party history is based on it. And they have only ever gained power post 1945 when they have abandoned their Socialist history and had a more moderate stance.
Therefore when people say this is the end of the party I have to disagree. Jeremy Corbyn will leave one day and so the Labour party will thus move back to a more central position. They have been in worse nick. When this will be I have no idea. Some have described Corbyn as an extreme far left candidate, when actually historically he's quite moderate compared with 30 years ago. He has so far "only" wished for a 50% top rate tax when at one time it was well over 80%. He advocates the re-nationalisation of the railways when in fact the railways are already heavily owned by the State. The Government controls the tracks, the stations, the signalling. It sells access to the lines for the private companies to run on, it sets many fares and determines how many trains can run at certain times. The only thing that is private is basically the carriages. So actually nationalisation is not much different to what we have now, which an inquiring mind would ask "what will nationalisation solve?". When John McDonnell was asked about renationalising BT (which was the first of the Tory privatisations back in 1984 and was actually unpopular among the general public initially with the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock vowing to re-nationalise it) he said he would love to, but said it was too late now. I suspect the real reason is the fact it wouldn't be popular and people could not see the point of the Government going into telecom's as they've witnessed the advances in the sector with the absence of Government (not complete absense - again Government has a lot of regulatory power with OfCom). With all this actually Jeremy Corbyn is to the right of the SDP back in the early 80's, more aligned to Tory Policy back then. He may be a Socialist but he's not made any Socialist commitments yet.
This is what the power of the market does. People don't need to read textbooks on liberty, free markets or the virtues of Capitalism. They can just witness prosperity with their own eyes and observe what works and what doesn't. We are on the cusp of a new era of prosperity - Banking, Law, Education, Healthcare, Transportation - all traditional areas of Government management are going to break free from this straight-jacket. Entrepreneurs are using technology to subvert these current sectors. Whether that be de-centralised legal contracts, currencies or peer-to-peer banking; doctors in America voting with their feet to abandon their Socialist-Corporate-Racket Healthcare they currently have in favor of cash based payment models or people creating abundant education for all. Its all coming and it won't be Socialism that will deliver this. Jeremy Corbyn is still stuck in a time hole; people have moved on since the Cold War and the collapse of Communism. He will only win power if there is a Financial Crisis (which is due) during the 2020 election and he is able to con the majority that it is the fault of Capitalism. Or he abandons his Socialist stance. British people, as can be seen post 1945, have never voted for a Socialist movement.