Parliamentary sketchwriter: “If a Corbyn government had behaved like this, wouldn’t Tory MPs be in uproar?”
Michael Deacon asks readers to imagine:
- that Jeremy Corbyn had won the election
- that his ministers had refused to be questioned on the Today programme.
- that journalists from certain right-wing newspapers were barred from a government briefing, while, say, the Morning Star was welcomed with open arms
- and that a Labour minister defended this behaviour by declaring, “Jeremy has just won a resounding majority, and has the support of the people!”
He then asks how Tory MPs would have responded and makes three suggestions:
A chilling attack on press freedom.
A cynical attempt to avoid scrutiny.
A sinister ploy by shadowy, unelected advisers.
Labour Party Manifesto: ignore the scaremongering; the electoral choice is status quo/client state – or social democracy
The content of the 14 anti-Corbyn articles published in the Murdoch Times today (post Manifesto) went unread, in favour of one of the four accounts in the Financial Times.
The FT notes that whereas previous Labour leaders, from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, accepted the market economy, the ‘hard-left clique around Jeremy Corbyn’ do not.
It acknowledges that the manifesto identifies areas that genuinely need fixing:
- Though the Conservatives returned to power in 2010, real wageshave still not returned to their pre-crisis peak.
- Homelessness has risen.
- Basic public services such as the criminal justice system, social care and local government are dire.
- Privatised water and rail companies are not delivering for users.
- Large parts of the population feel excluded from the bright spots of prosperity, mainly in the south-east.
The FT refers to the ‘vast expansion of the state’.
But the nationalisation proposals would, in most cases, merely return ownership of transport and other utilities from foreign state-owned industries to the British state.
As one correspondent wrote recently: “Which other mainstream European country has allowed wholesale privatisation of what used to be state owned businesses?”
The Independent searched Companies House records which revealed a host of foreign state-owned public services receiving ‘UK citizens’ millions’. A few are listed below:
- ScotRail franchise awarded to the Netherlands’ state-owned Abellio,
- Arriva now in the hands of Germany’s state-owned Deutsche Bahn,
- EDF, majority-owned by the French state,
- the industrial energy supplier GDF Suez, part-owned by France.
- Scottish Power owned by Spain’s Iberdrola,
- and Yorkshire Water, 26% owned by the Singapore government’s sovereign wealth fund,
‘Labour is proposing a staggering increase in inheritance, income and corporation taxes’.
Currently, low average earners in Britain on salaries of £25,000, or “middle-class” individuals on £40,000, enjoy among the lowest personal tax rates of ‘advanced European countries’, while high earners on £100,000 see less of their income taken in tax than almost anywhere else in Europe.
Labour’s proposed high spending plans amount to just 6% of the national income
According to the FT’s calculation (Ed, double-checked) – Jeremy Corbyn’s £83bn ‘dream spending plan’, is based on using merely 6% of a national income of over £544bn to bring Britain and its services up to French and German, Irish and Swedish levels of social care and other services.
Evidently the FT’s apprehensions about the ‘vast’ expansion of the state and the high spending plans are exaggerated. Does their major concern lie in the brief reference to the UK’s “treasured status as a beacon for foreign investment”?
The unsensational truth is that Labour’s manifesto is grounded in ethical and moral arguments and merely intends to move steadily towards social justice and greater equality through legislative reform.
“Mr Corbyn comes to life on the stump”
Above: Corbyn in Trafford, May 2019
Mr Shrimsley estimates that a vote share above 30% may be enough to prevent a Tory majority adding that, given likely losses in Remain strongholds, Mr Johnson needs 40-50 gains.
Other points made include those summarised below.
Having alienated the Democratic Unionists, the Conservatives have no natural coalition partners and face the ‘potentially wrecking impact’ of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Several other parties might support Labour or at least tolerate an anti-Johnson administration. The early evidence is that Remainers may be reconciling themselves to voting Labour where necessary.
Labour has a coherent narrative. The last three years have been no advert for Tory efficiency and the last nine have not left most people feeling better off
It has a raft of policies with appeal to core groups. It has baubles for young and old, tenants and workers. It will not be outbid on public services.
Voters’ current experiences are of austerity and cuts. Labour can, for example, note that Mr Johnson’s promised 20,000 extra police will only restore numbers to their 2010 level.
Plans to nationalise water and rail companies will play well, as will promises to give workers more say and more pay.
Labour also has a radical agenda on the environment, perhaps the most salient issue for younger voters.
And the wild card? As Camilla Cavendish (former No10 adviser) points out: “Mr Corbyn comes to life on the stump; Mr Johnson doesn’t always seem to do his homework”
Corbyn’s conditions have been met: 28 EU member states give assurances that the No Deal option is off the table
Labour decided to agree to an election during an hour-long shadow cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning at the party’s headquarters in Westminster.
The Financial Times switched to tabloid mode:
“Labour bowed to the inevitable”
“Boxed in’ by the Liberal Democrat and Scottish National party move to trigger a snap poll Jeremy Corbyn supports December poll despite gloomy forecasts”
“Jeremy Corbyn has faced accusations of dithering in recent weeks over how to end the Brexit impasse”
“He felt compelled to jump off the fence”
Not so: Jeremy Corbyn was able to agree to an election because assurances had been given by all 28 EU member states that the No Deal option was off the table. This fact was stated in a video embedded in an article focussing on the reactions of Labour’s back-bench rebels.
In the video, Corbyn delivers his thoughtful and well-considered decision in a manner sharply contrasting with these media offerings.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a trend in which the Labour Party has become Greener and the Green Party has become “Leftier”. I fervently wish for further rapprochement.
While feeling despair at the head-in-sand attitudes and empty rhetoric in much of Westminster, Whitehall and the City – especially the City – I was enthralled by a presentation given in my constituency of Stroud last month by Alan Simpson, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s advisor on climate change and sustainable economics. If anyone is unfamiliar with his policy ideas, I urge them to look him up and read these essays.
A future Labour government will do its utmost to adopt Simpson’s plans, which include:
- local renewal energy cooperatives,
- an agricultural policy reset to penalise high greenhouse gas emissions,
- a far more locally-based economy (community wealth building – thriving in many locations and now to be adopted in Stroud),
- a far more integrated, publicly-owned transport system…
- and of course real measures to curb tax “avoidance” by the heavyweight national and global corporations, and tackle our hideous income inequality.
- First and foremost though – greenhouse emissions must be HALVED every ten years.
We should all be taking notice of the wonderful Greta Thunberg’s message
Real change can’t come too soon, and the only way we’re ever going to see real change in the UK is to put a Labour/Green government? into power at the earliest possible opportunity.
I can’t see how diluting the non-Conservative vote at the next general election is going to achieve anything except more Tory-led acceleration to destruction.
I realise some will find their tribal loyalties tested – but the nightmare we’ve created transcends such petty concerns.
An earlier post – the first in a series ‘The Corbyn Revolution: How Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s economic agenda would impact Britain’s economy’ – was a fairly dispassionate overview of the proposed policies ‘breathtaking in scope’, but the other titles in the series indicated that they would fall well below the standards of ‘fairness and impartiality’ which the FT’s new owners had undertaken to maintain.
The writer cravenly decided to avoid them, but Judith Martin (below, right) had more spirit and took the FT – ‘One of the business world’s most-respected platforms’ – to task for its article, UK’s Labour would seize £300bn of company shares.
Though the FT edited or removed many sentences and gave it an anodyne and misleading title: Rewarding your workers makes sound economic sense, we can now present the full text, sent by the writer.
“Raid”, “stealth tax”, “expropriation” – I don’t recall the FT using these inflammatory terms when discussing the John Lewis Partnership, which has always given annual bonuses to the staff instead of to shareholders.
Your front page headline “Labour would cost UK companies £300bn by shifting shares to staff” (2nd September 2019) is one of the most partisan I have ever seen in the FT, and more like something I would expect from the tabloid press that I don’t choose to buy.
Only later does it become clear that the suggestion is for a gradual transfer of a mere 10%. The fact that the top 20% of income earners received 6 times the disposable household income of the bottom 20% (according to the government’s own figures (Income inequality in the UK, House of Commons Library, May 2019)) doesn’t get a look-in.
Henry Ford understood that it made sound economic sense to pay workers enough to allow them to buy the company’s products. Impoverishing your workers – even if, like Deliveroo, Uber and the rest of the gig economy crew, you claim they’re not actually employees – is not good for society, as numerous FT articles have noted in recent years. Most of our current worker protection has come from the EU.
As for the rights of tenants, I am agnostic on whether or not they should be given the right to buy but they certainly need a fair rent structure and decent protection. Not long ago there were headlines saying that a new generation of middle-aged renters was likely to face extreme poverty in old age, with resulting stresses on the health service and elsewhere. Compare this country’s attitudes to housing and landlords with Germany, where Berlin has just acquired nearly 700 flats from a private landlord, with plans for more. In March this year the FT noted approvingly that the start-up culture in Berlin was thriving. A city that protects its residents frees up initiative.
Is this really a good time to put the boot in to any policy that might suggest that capitalism was capable of improvement? The FT has spent the last three years insisting that the EU gives a better deal than the economic isolation that faces the country in November.
When Jeremy Corbyn (left, FT) has finally been dragged into co-operation with other anti-brexiters, and Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is looking increasingly unstable, is this really a good time to put the boot in to any policy that might suggest that capitalism was capable of improvement just because it comes from the Labour party? Do you really want more of Johnson and his stated approach of “fuck business?”
A Moseley reader draws attention to an article by Peter Oborne, who marvels at media sycophancy: “Whatever Johnson does or says – however incompetent, immoral, ignorant or foolish – is strong, visionary and wise . . . We’ve seen nothing like this level of command and control of leading Fleet Street papers since the early years of Tony Blair, when editors and media bosses doffed their caps to Blair’s media advisers, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. That ended badly. The lack of criticism of New Labour helped create the hubris that led to the Iraq calamity”.
He asks us to imagine that Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister last week, put there by 93,000 mainly left-wing Labour members, and:
- that he then reshaped the Cabinet to make sure it was filled with personal loyalists, immediately sacking almost every centrist minister,
- that within minutes of kissing the hand of the Queen, he breached royal protocolby briefing the press about what the monarch had told him in private,
- that he committed himself to investing tens of billions of pounds in extra government spending within days of entering office, sending the pound into free-fall, hitting a two-year low,
- that he’d just ditched his wife of twenty-six years standing, and the mother of his four children, and installed in Downing Street a 31-year old girlfriend,
- that his new home secretary had been forced to resign in disgracejust two years earlier for secret meetings with a foreign government – and that he knew this, but still appointed her,
- that his education secretary had also been recently dismissed in disgrace for a gross breach of national security,
- that the new transport secretary had been found to have had a second job under a pseudonym while an MP – something he admitted to only after years of publicly denying the claims
- and that his most senior adviser was in contempt of parliamentafter refusing to appear before and give evidence to a select committee.
Oborne (right) continues: “all this is exactly what happened within days of Johnson entering No 10 last week. The collapsed pound. The girlfriend trouble. The dodgy cabinet appointments. The royal indiscretion”.
He asks us to imagine the media response if Jeremy Corbyn had acted in this way – “The outrage. The fury. The disbelief. The mockery. The newspaper headlines would be universally hostile. Chaos in Downing Street. Corbyn and his government would be flayed alive”.
Instead, Boris Johnson has been widely praised for ‘an almost faultless move into Downing Street’:
“It’s been a good week for Boris Johnson’s government,” drooled Christopher Hope, chief political correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. The Spectator praised Johnson as a man “dismissed as a philandering clown” but who has “confounded” his critics “at every stage”. The Times discerned Johnson’s “decisive action” in creating his new cabinet. The Telegraph opined that Johnson’s no-deal strategy sent a ‘clear message to the EU’ ”.
Oborne asks: “could it be that the rules of political reporting have changed?”
Rule 1: However incompetent, immoral, ignorant or foolish – Johnson is strong, visionary and wise.
Rule 2: Only Johnson’s opponents can be ruled offside, and only he is allowed to score the goals.
And ends, “It’s time Fleet Street woke up and asked difficult questions about Johnson’s Brexit plans. If Brexit goes wrong, Johnson won’t be forgiven – nor will the papers that backed him. It’s time to end the sycophancy”.
Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in 2017 and was named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He also was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.
FT: Jeremy Corbyn set out proposals in a letter to the leaders of other opposition parties and senior backbench MPs to form a temporary government which would request an extension to Article 50 in an effort to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Sun (‘demanding’ and ‘begging’) Jeremy Corbyn has demanded rebel MPs make him caretaker PM as his price to stop Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit. He said he will only strike if they promise to give up on their plot to install a Caroline Lucas-style national unity government and hand him the No10 keys. In return, he would beg the EU to delay Brexit yet again and promise to hold a swift election.
FT: in the ensuing general election, Labour would stand on a platform of holding a second referendum on the terms of leaving the EU, including an option to remain in the bloc.
Sun: Green MP Caroline Lucas was also critical, and called for a new Brexit referendum.
FT: No reference
Sun: Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson mocked Mr Corbyn’s plan as “a nonsense”.
FT: Ms Swinson said: “This letter is just more red lines that are about him and his position and is not a serious attempt to find the right solution and build a consensus to stop a no-deal Brexit.”
FT: Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, welcomed Mr Corbyn’s proposal and said the party would support any no-confidence motion table aimed at bringing down Mr Johnson’s government. “I will be pleased to meet with the Labour leader and others at the earliest opportunity to work together,” he said.
FT: MP Liz Saville Roberts (left), the Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru, also welcomed Mr Corbyn’s plan and said “the crisis we find ourselves in goes beyond personalities”.