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Jeremy Corbyn: Does a Corbyn government lie in the near or  medium future? (Chris McAndrew CC BY 3.0)


In the aftermath of last June’s general election, Jeremy Corbyn predicted that he would be Prime Minister by Christmas — or that is what he is reported to have said backstage during his appearance at the Glastonbury festival later that month. The adulation of the crowd, in the aftermath of Labour’s much better than expected election result, must have gone to his head. Corbyn has failed to make good on his prognosis — but is a Corbyn-led government in the near, or indeed medium, future a realistic prospect? It is not only his supporters who are hyping the prospect: Conservative whips are using the fear of it as a powerful threat to attempt to keep their more recalcitrant MPs in line, especially on Brexit. Backbench MPs fear that removing Theresa May as Tory leader could precipitate the end of Conservative rule and an early election. Fear of a far-left Labour government is making some foreign investors have second thoughts about putting their money into the UK.

Such fears are not surprising — a Corbyn-led Labour government would be coming from a very different place than not just the Blair and Brown governments, but any previous Labour administration. The second most powerful figure in such a government would be shadow chancellor John McDonnell who when asked, in a 2006 interview with the Trotskyist Alliance for Workers Liberty, what his greatest influences were stated, “The fundamental Marxist writers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, basically.” Other leading Labour figures may have had an understandable affinity for Marx — it is not inconceivable that other senior figures could have said, as McDonnell did, that “one can’t understand capitalism without reading Das Kapital” — but Lenin and Trotsky? The corpus of these men’s work has nothing to offer other than revolutionary, anti-democratic stratagems and highly authoritarian, centralist theories on party organisation — and that is to say nothing of their actions leading directly to the deaths of millions. In the same interview McDonnell went on to state that his support for Labour was pragmatic and most certainly did not stem from a deep allegiance to the party: “The affinity and loyalty of the large section of the labour movement and of the working class [to Labour] . . . you can call it false consciousness or whatever . . . [means that for] very pragmatic reasons it is important to work within [the Labour Party].” There is no reason to believe that McDonnell’s views have moved on since then.

If one then looks at Corbyn’s two closest non-elected advisers — his director of strategy and communications Seumas Milne and his election strategist and trades union link Andrew Murray — one finds two men who have made defending the Soviet Union and its “achievements” their life work. In 2006, Milne wrote in the Guardian, of which he was comment editor: “Communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment . . . Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.” These aspirations could probably also sum up Milne’s ambitions for a Corbyn government.
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Michael McManus
December 12th, 2017
3:12 PM
The malign doctrines of Corbyn and his associates exposed by Michael Mosbacher (Politics, December/January) are just not understood by the youthful supporters, unwise in the ways of theworld. ‘For the many not the few’ is an attractive, artless message, hard to disagree with and easy to get across: we used to live in a Garden of Eden; along came the Tory viper and set us against each other; help is at hand: vote Labour. It’s a familiar tale, repeated endlessly in folklore. Robin Hood and his merry men. No one can hope to prevail against it. Certainly not the party that is identified, if thought of at all by young people, with Smallweed and Tulkinghorn, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The roots of the problem lie in ideology and values. Conservatives don’t really have the former, and seem to me to be shy of expressing the latter. The opposition has utopian egalitarianism, distinctions of class and sex and controversy dissolved, everywhere sweet and conflict free. That egalitarianism and perfect harmony need continual enforcement and the crushing of dissent is never understood until too late: ideological utopias, socialist, fascist or theocratic, always end in censorship, repression, intolerance and tears. Many traditional Conservative values do not easily translate into compelling slogans: they include duty, a responsibility towards the unborn future as well as what is inherited from the past; a fondness for what is reasonable and compassionate; individual liberty; the tried and tested, the devil you know; and a preference for what Michael Oakeshott called present laughter over utopian bliss. Caution and tolerance are rooted Edmund Burke’s observation that, ‘in human affairs, all our knowledge is but a woven web of guesses.’ Recent Conservative slogans have not expressed values at all: ‘strong, stable, forward’ are vacuous, not values. ‘For the many not the few’ is attractive but simplistic Bentham and Mill Utilitarianism, soon mired in policy contradictions – (for example, nationalisation of the railways, plentiful only in the south east, will be a case of the few benefiting from the taxes of the many). Cannot the many Conservatives with PPE degrees put their heads together and embody their values in compelling phrases? It seems to me that to win the next election the Party must attract the people described in the final paragraph of Middlemarch, where George Eliot writes that the ‘growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who have lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.’ Could the party that promises low taxes, prosperity and full employment be defeated by the party that promises everything to everybody? Picture this. The election is over and the new regime in place. Investments and pension funds crash to the floor. The first Hate Week stars Germaine Grier, an un-person for saying surgeons cannot make an Eve from an Adam. The MoD portfolio goes to Sein Fein, the Israeli ambassador is expelled, and the Queen welcomes Hamas on their first state visit. In compulsory reading for schools, the Big Bad Wolf is spared the axe when he identifies as a Grandma. Could it just be a bad dream?

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