One accusation continuously levelled at Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party is their policies are too left wing, and therefore unworkable, but does this claim stand up to scrutiny? Certainly, you will find few in the mainstream media willing to tackle those policies head-on. They simply regurgitate empty platitudes and then cite 1970s Britain as an example of why Corbyn is out of touch, but there are several key points they omit. In this article I will discuss a few:
a) The most successful government in our country’s history was Clement Attlee’s Labour government, and it was also the most left wing.
At a time when Britain was in ruins, following World War II, and struggling with a deficit of 250% of GDP, Labour invested in infrastructure, gave us the NHS and public housing, achieved full employment and turned that huge deficit into a budget surplus.
But how was this possible? Doesn’t socialist ideology always lead to mass unemployment and a bigger deficit? Well, actually, no. History clearly demonstrates otherwise. The further left we push, the better we perform, and the same pattern can be seen in democracies around the world. Look, for example at the US, during the “golden age of capitalism” and you will see it was actually a golden age of socialism with a marginal tax rate of 90% and huge investment in services and infrastructure.
Socialism really works.
Added to this the fact under Tory rule, public services suffer, wages stagnate, and wealth gets shifted upwards to the 1%, it is a wonder the Tories get any votes at all. But then they do have the mainstream media on their side (including tragically the BBC).
A handful of billionaires control 90% of the “news” we receive and inevitably support the PM candidate who sucks up to them, who offers whatever tax loophole they ask for. Just look at how Tony Blair and David Cameron befriended Rupert Murdoch, the man whose newspapers have backed the winning candidate in every recent general election. This is no coincidence.
Times may be changing and the mainstream media’s influence may be waning, but that influence is certainly still felt. The public may not be stupid, but human psychology is a strange thing, and otherwise smart people can be manipulated. The key is to generate fear and anger, create common enemies, and then repeat the same tropes over and over. The more a person hears something, the more likely they are to believe it is true. And the more emotionally affected they are likely to become.
In recent years, we have been told our woes come from the EU, Muslims, and immigrants. We’re constantly fed negative stories about these groups, and although some stories may have an element of truth, context is almost always lacking, meaning the consequences are exaggerated and the positives are minimised. We are then told the Tory party will save us from these enemies and that other parties would surrender, that they are weak, ineffective, treacherous even.
We’re rarely told immigration provides a net economic benefit, that immigrants contribute more to the system than they take from it, that they’re significantly less likely to claim benefits or commit crimes, that they keep many of our services running, that you’re more likely to win the lottery than be the victim of terrorism, that Muslims up and down the country, and worldwide, are working to tackle extremism, that Muslims themselves are the biggest victims of terrorism, that EU membership has greatly improved workers’ rights, environmental protections, etc., and that Europe has actually done a much better job of tackling elitism than Britain, with significantly lower levels of inequality, less corruption, and better public services. The EU is far from perfect, but it is our approach that is the main problem, not theirs.
We are allowing the elite to drive down wages, despite the fact Britain is wealthier than ever before. Since the recession began, all new money that has come into the country has gone to the richest 1%, making them three times richer than they already were.
Britain has seen the second largest collapse of wages in the developed world, just behind the basket case economy of Greece. In most developed countries, wages are increasing. Our public services are being sold to foreign companies and governments who are profiteering while allowing the quality of services to suffer.
In short, we are being shafted, but we allow ourselves to be distracted into believing we’re tackling the ‘real enemies’ – the EU, Muslims, and immigrants. And if the Tories win, this strategy will, of course, not lead us into prosperity because it was never meant to. They will simply find other groups to demonise and we will allow ourselves to be distracted all over again.
b) The nations leading the world on human development tend to be more left wing than Britain.
Arguably, the most socially and economically left wing democracies are in Scandinavia, and they operate similarly to how Britain would under Labour with extensive social programs. It is no secret Scandinavian countries regularly top the UN Index of Human Development and The World Happiness Report. The next time someone cites Venezuela as an example of why democratic socialism cannot work, mention this, and then remind them such a straw-man argument is no different from citing Somalia as an example of free market capitalism.
c) All of Labour’s policies have proven successful elsewhere.
Here I will discuss arguably the five most noteworthy:
£10 an hour minimum wage.
The Tories would have you believe a high minimum wage is a job killer. Try telling that to Denmark, Switzerland or Australia who have the highest minimum wages in the world, but low unemployment. Also, look at the US where minimum wages vary by state. The states with the highest minimum wages perform better. Why? Simple economics.
Economies function properly when the working class have money in their pockets. It gets them away from state dependency and enables them to spend, which puts money into the economy, in turn creating jobs and helping small businesses grow. The only losers in this scenario are the billionaires who have to cut their own disgustingly high bonuses in order to pay their workers a fair wage.
A national investment bank.
It is no coincidence the countries which invest most in small businesses have the most thriving economies. This concept has proven particularly successful in Germany, which is the model I understand Corbyn is looking to emulate. Either we can have a country in which large corporations dominate and billionaires siphon our money into tax havens, or we can have a country where the ordinary guy can get ahead, and where everyone benefits.
Nationalised rail network.
Firstly, this idea is not unaffordable, as some would have you believe, nor is the state inherently too inefficient to run a rail network. At present, almost all of our rail services are run by the Dutch, German, and French governments! We can renationalise rail companies, one by one, for free, as their licenses expire, and then we can put an end to poor services and sky high prices. All across Europe, you will find better rail services, and almost all are state owned and run. Some European countries are profiteering from our rail network and putting their own people first. Isn’t it time we put a stop to this?
Increasing free childcare.
How many times have single mothers been demonised for claiming benefits? By increasing free childcare, we can make it easier for women to work, providing a boost to the economy, and reducing state dependency. At present, the free childcare we offer is much lower than in many other countries. The Swedes get extra tax credits to defray the cost of child-rearing, plus access to regulated, subsidised day care facilities which stay open from 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night. The Danes and French benefit from similar arrangements. We are the second most expensive country in Europe for childcare and this only provides an obstacle for working mothers. Let’s change this.
The Tories claim high taxes for high earners will drive businesses abroad, and yet the countries with the highest upper-tax rates are doing just fine. When Denmark set its upper-tax rate at 52%, it was ranked the best place in the world to do business. In the 1950s, the US and UK had an upper-tax rate of 90% and their economies thrived. While no-one is suggesting we go that high again, a few extra percentage points on the upper-tax rate would certainly ease the burden of those hit hardest by austerity.
After all, we’re in this together, aren’t we?