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CapX Election Special - The case against Corbyn

The case against Corbyn
by Robert Colvile

To win an election in Britain, a political party needs two things: to be trusted on the economy, and to have a leader the public respect. No party has ever won while being behind on both - and for good reason. These, to the voters, are the things that really matter.

So where does Labour stand? We know about Jeremy Corbyn's foreign policy views - but what about his wider fitness to govern?

In terms of his poll ratings, Corbyn has had a good election campaign. That should not be surprising. Expectations were, to put it politely, rock-bottom. And there are few people with more experience addressing campaign rallies – or better yet, protests. To Corbyn, expressions of moral outrage at social injustice come as naturally as breathing.

But as a leader? His own MPs voted, 172-40, to kick him out. That wasn't due to a Blairite plot. It was because even those who initially gave him the benefit of the doubt came to realise that Corbyn and his team were fundamentally not up to it. His shadow Cabinet is a wasteland of talent not because the talented would not serve, but because those who did serve rapidly reached the limits of their patience. Even Corbyn’s own staffers admit that the operation was and is a shambles.

Yet it is on the question of economic management that the case against Corbyn ultimately rests. For the fundamental problem is that the Labour leader and those around him – McDonnell, Seumas Milne, Andrew Fisher, Andrew Murray, the whole shabby bunch of them – do not understand where prosperity comes from.

During their long decades in opposition to their own party, Corbyn and McDonnell learned nothing and forgot nothing. (It was strange, during the election debates, to hear the Labour leader say one of his great skills is listening, since there is precious little evidence of any new information seeping through.)

In 1985, McDonnell stood for the Labour NEC on a platform of “democratically controlling and planning our economy on the basis of social need rather than the pursuit of profit”. In 2010, he published a “manifesto for 21st-century socialism” which advocated “support for the government and people of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and other countries pursuing policies that create alternatives to the market economy and the control of [trans-national corporations], the WTO and IMF”.

The following year, as I pointed out on CapX recently, Corbyn was writing that “free market capitalism cannot provide for everyone, or sustain the natural world. Its very imperative is of ever hastening exploitation of all resources including people, and it needs armies and weapons to secure those supplies." Fortunately, he added, "Islamic opposition and the radical popular movements of landless and poor peoples" are starting to challenge this.

What has changed since? McDonnell and Corbyn now make vague gestures in the direction of fiscal rectitude – perhaps the most fantastic of the many fantastic promises in their manifesto is to close the deficit while splurging on spending.

But their basic economic case has not altered. Capitalism is greedy and destructive. Wealth is to be taken and redistributed, not to be increased. Firms should be controlled by workers, not shareholders - or by the state. Corbyn and McDonnell, indeed, were two of the only people to oppose the European Union not because it interfered too much in the British economy, but too little.

One of the cliches of this election campaign is that there is no magic money tree. Yet it is a cliche for a reason. We can only pay for the NHS, and schools, and pensions, if we have a growing economy: one that rewards wealth-creators and wealth creation. Raising taxes to their highest levels since the Second World War, as Labour proposes, is a long-term (or even short-term) route to penury. As for the party’s latest position paper on “Alternative Models of Ownership”, it is, as Tim Knox and Daniel Mahoney point out on CapX today, a blueprint for economic failure.

The essential truth, in other words, is that Corbyn and his clique are not social democrats: they are hardcore socialists. Yes, the same was said about Ed Miliband – not least by “Red Ed” himself. But Miliband was part of the mainstream in a way that they simply are not. Like Theresa May – and Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Tony Crosland, Kenneth Baker, and every other grown-up politician of the past half-century – he accepted the market, with modifications.

But Corbyn and co cannot, and will not. They came into politics to oppose capitalism and America, and have seen little reason to change their tune – even as the economic forces they despise have lifted billions out of poverty.

And this is why, when you stand in the polling booth tomorrow, there is only one way to vote: against Labour. Whatever the merits of your individual MP, whatever your feelings about Brexit or Tim Farron or Theresa May, there is a higher principle here: the need to drive the hard Left back to the fringes.

Corbyn should not, and most probably will not, win the election. But we at CapX urge you to make sure he and his ideas are not just beaten, but crushed.

Below, you'll find the final election arguments from our writers - and an interview with the doyen of polling night, Prof John Curtice. Happy voting...

Robert Colvile
Editor, CapX

Labour's blueprint for the destruction of the economy

By Tim Knox & Daniel Mahoney
While there may be a troubling amount of common ground between the Conservative and Labour manifestos, the economic choice is stark. A new report for the Labour Party, 'Alternative Models of Ownership', starts by attacking the very concept of private ownership - before outlining hard-Left proposals that would tear Britain's economy apart. 

North and south of the border, this election is an existential battle

By Graeme Archer
Corbyn's Britain might be Venezuela without the sunshine - but in Scotland, an equally significant battle is being fought. There, it is the Union rather than economic sanity that is being defended. And Theresa May could learn much from how well her Scottish lieutenant, Ruth Davidson, is doing the job.

Here's why I'm voting Conservative

By Andrew Lilico
Both sides in this election are a known quantity. The Conservatives have shown themselves to be responsible - if imperfect - stewards of the economy and the country. Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, by contrast, are offering an economic and political recipe that we already know doesn't work.

Brexit: the elephant in the polling booth?

By Oliver Wiseman
Brexit hasn't dominated this election in the way many expected. Yes, UKIP has collapsed - but the expected Lib Dem surge is nowhere to be seen. Cambridge, where the Remain vote was 74 per cent, is the sort of seat where the Lib Dems hoped (and needed) to capitalise on anti-Brexit sentiment. Will they succeed? Also for CapX, Jack Evans reports from Cheltenham, another Lib Dem target seat.   

John Curtice on the secrets of election night

By Robert Colvile
Who will know the results of the election first? Not Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May. Not even David Dimbleby. It will be the team behind the exit poll - led by the pollster's pollster, Prof John Curtice. In this special election edition of the CapX podcast, he tells CapX's Editor what he's learnt after decades spent taking the pulse of the nation.

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Every week, CapX's editor Robert Colvile talks to some of the most interesting people in politics and policy about why they do what they do.

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