The BBC published a list of 24 things that Jeremy Corbyn apparently believes in (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34209478). I have no idea on what basis this list is compiled, and how pertinent or outdated they are to Corbyn’s leadership. But here are my thoughts on them:
1. The deficit should be paid off – but not through spending cuts and not to an “arbitrary” deadline. Instead Corbyn would fund its reduction via higher taxes for the rich and a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion while tackling “corporate welfare” and tax breaks for companies.
Point of note: You cannot “pay off” a deficit. You pay off a debt. A deficit is the difference between income and expenditure where expenditure exceeds income. You can reduce the deficit by increasing income and reducing expenditure.
a) higher taxes for the rich will only discourage the rich from residing in the UK and spending their money here. That is indisputable. So the financial benefits of increasing taxes on the rich are hugely debatable.
b) cracking down on tax avoidance can only go so far – with smaller businesses, the cost to prosecute them will be more than the amount of tax recovered.
c) tax breaks are implemented to encourage businesses and industries to set up shop, thus growing the economy. Removing these tax breaks will discourage businesses from starting up and thus damage the country’s economic growth.
2. Britain’s railways should be renationalised. He is also opposed to the HS2 rail scheme, saying it would turn northern cities into “dormitories for London businesses”.
I’m whole-heartedly in favour of this. The current system creates effective monopolies of captive markets by a small section of train operators. There is no competition as passengers are not able to choose alternative providers of train services, defeating the point of privatisation. The railways should be nationalised so that they are run as a not-for-profit public service, but competition should be maintained internally within the organisation so that efficiencies are maintained.
3. Far more allotments would be good for the UK. He has a plot near his constituency in north London and told the Commons in 2008 that councils and builders “should be doing their best to ensure that every new development includes some allotment space”.
I’m ambivalent about this. Allotments suit only a very specific section of society, namely those who like growing their own vegetables but do not have the garden space to do so. A large proportion of the UK population do not fit this description (either they have sufficient garden space or they may not like growing vegetables). A more productive approach might be to encourage a proportion of natural greenery for all new developments, which would be universally appealing.
4. Talking to militant groups is necessary to win peace in the Middle East. Corbyn faced heavy criticism for using the word “friends” to describe Hamas and Hezbollah. He has responded by saying he had used the term in a “collective way” adding that while he does not agree with either organisation, a peace process means “you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree”.
I also agree with this. You have to talk and reason with people groups you disagree with. You cannot simply dismiss them as irrelevant extremists – you have to take them seriously because they receive significant civilian support. War should always be the last resort.
5. “Quantitative easing for people” could be used to invest in housing, energy, transport and digital projects. Unlike the £375bn issued electronically by the Bank of England between 2009 and 2012 to buy bonds, gilts and other debts, this would be “QE for people instead of banks”, Corbyn says. Tax campaigner Richard Murphy argues these plans would stimulate the economy and boost employment. But Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie attacked the proposal, saying it would lead to higher inflation and interest rates, hurting the poor most.
I’ve been sceptical of QE for a long time. I believe government funds would be more efficiently utilised by being spent directly on the industries that needs it, rather than being injected into banks in the hope that they trickle down to industries. Doing it the latter way only provides opportunities for banks to siphon off a cut before the monetary benefits affect the wider economy. Inflation in and of itself is not necessarily an evil, nor does it necessarily affect the poor who live on payday to payday.
6. Replacing Trident would be a costly mistake. Corbyn, a long-term CND member, says plans to replace the nuclear missile system should be ditched. He believes the project’s £100bn price tag could be better spent “on our national well-being”.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is misguided. Disarming yourself does not encourage other countries to disarm themselves. It only reduces the disincentive to rogue nations to develop their own nuclear armaments. Unless the world is unequivocally peaceful and everyone gave up the desire for power or influence, Mutually Assured Destruction seems to be a necessary evil. If this destruction is not mutually assured, it is only self-assured. When multiple world nations agree to maintain a level of armament that is to be NEVER USED, it maintains a degree of deterrence to nations from going rogue and utilising their own nuclear armaments, for fear of combined retaliation.
7. A National Education Service modelled on the NHS should be established. Under Corbyn, state-funded academies and free schools would be forced to return to local authority control while university tuition fees would be scrapped and replaced with grants. Corbyn would look at ending the charitable status of public schools, although he accepts this would be complicated and might not happen immediately. He reportedly split up with one of his former wives following a disagreement over whether to send their son to a grammar school or a comprehensive. Asked recently if the break-up was over an “an issue of principle”, Corbyn told the Guardian newspaper: “I feel very strongly about comprehensive education, yes.”
Whilst the NHS is undoubtedly a boon to the British public, the organisation is a bureaucratic mess that is the height of fiscal inefficiency in the UK. We should not be modelling anything else on it. Whilst a case can be made for grants for SOME university degrees, the idea of university grants for all courses is ludicrous. It simply cannot be financed by the Treasury. The output of university graduates already outstrips the market demand for them. We shouldn’t be encouraging more university graduates when the jobs simply aren’t available. Plus, the cost of going to university often exceeds the monetary benefits. Many jobs simply don’t require academic degrees – young people shouldn’t be given the false promise that all university graduates end up in well-paying jobs.
There is no case for ending the charitable status of public schools. The entire argument rests upon envy and jealousy of the ‘rich’. Even if you don’t like the idea of a ‘privileged elite’ attending a good school because they can pay for it, the schools are there to benefit the public – a great many hard-working middle-class people stretch themselves thin in order for their children to benefit from attending a public school. Taxing these schools would end up pricing more of these families out. We end up hitting the middle class instead of the elite rich who are able to afford it anyway.
8. Labour should not support air strikes against Islamic State in Syria. Corbyn, who is national chair of the Stop the War Coalition, believes innocent Syrians would suffer and the supply of arms and funds to the Islamic State group should be cut off instead. He opposed military action against the Assad regime in 2013 and was a prominent critic of the invasion of Iraq. His website says he wants to see “illegal wars” replaced with a “foreign policy that prioritises justice and assistance”. Asked during a Sky News hustings whether there were any circumstances in which he would deploy UK military forces, Corbyn said: “I’m sure there are some but I can’t think of them at the moment.”
I think war should always be the last resort. I believe encouraging peace talks should always be the first step, to negotiate compromises that are equal on both sides. If the ceasefire is broken, the armed intervention may be necessary to suppress all factions of the conflict. However, the UK MUST NOT undertake any military action on its own. It should first have the support of the UN, so that any military action is undertaken by a neutral coalition. Thus I agree with the direction Corbyn is taking this, though not out of the same principle.
9. Rent controls should be re-introduced, linking private rents to local earnings, and more council houses should be built. He also believes that council tenants’ right to buy their homes should be extended to private sector renters.
This is a form of governmental micro-management that sounds good in principle but is practically ineffectual and unsustainable. Communist governments have deployed similar ideas but have always failed. Some form of smarter regulation might work, but this isn’t it. Various pilot programmes should be deployed before introducing such widespread controls.
10. The Chagos islanders evicted from Diego Garcia should be allowed to return. Some 2,000 people were displaced from the British Indian Ocean territory between 1967 and 1971 to make way for a US air base. Corbyn has been a long-standing supporter of their campaign to go back.
What’s done is done. The argument can be put forward for making reparations for the people if they were unfairly done by, but it is fantasy to imagine that things can be the way they were before. They have already been out of the land for almost two generations. But this point is next to irrelevant to the UK.
11. The immigration debate has been “quite unpleasant”. In an interview with Channel 4 News, Corbyn said the current discourse around the issue “fails to recognise the huge contribution migrants have made to this country”. He added: “We should let people into this country who are desperate to get somewhere safe to live”.
Arguing against immigration is not the same as arguing against immigrants. The logical outworking of Corbyn’s principle should be to open up the borders to the world and let in just anyone from ANY country. The lands of North and South Americas and the African continent have plenty of experience of letting that happen. Ask them if they’ll ever do that again. Should USA open its borders to Mexico? Should South Korea open its borders to North Korea?
12. The dispute between the UK and Argentina over the Falkland Islands could be resolved with “some degree of joint administration”. In an interview with the BBC in 2013 he said other territorial disputes had been settled in this way, and under such an arrangement the islanders’ British nationality could be maintained. He added that during the 1982 Falklands conflict it had been in Margaret Thatcher’s interests to “divert attention from her catastrophic economic issues”. During the leadership campaign, a Corbyn spokesman said he supported “a long-term negotiated settlement” that took the islanders’ views into account.
Let the Falklanders decide. They are the ones who live there now, regardless of their descent. Don’t allow international politics to ruin people’s lives.
13. High property prices are leading to the closure of London pubs. In 2013, hesaid in the Commons that pub companies “make a great deal of money out of selling them” to developers.
This is far more complex than Corbyn would understand it. Personally, I believe residences, coffee shops, and restaurants are far more desirable establishments than drinking holes.
14. An arms embargo should be imposed on Israel. Corbyn, who is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said in August that Palestinian refugees should be given a “right of return”. He supported a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements and of Israeli universities that engage in arms research.
Some of the best weapons technologies in the world come out of Israel. An international embargo is illegal. A UK boycott is ineffectual. Palestinians shouldn’t be displaced for sure, but the issue is again, more complex. The blame does not rest on Israel alone.
15. Corbyn is a committed republican, but he would not seek to end the monarchy. He told the New Statesman: “It’s not the fight I’m going to fight – it’s not the fight I’m interested in.”
I agree with this.
16. Remaining in the European Union but with changes. Corbyn says he is not content with the EU as it stands, but wants to stay to fight for a “better Europe”. He had previously refused to rule out campaigning to leave. He also opposes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal.
Nice principle, but profoundly ignorant of how far-reaching the EU bureaucracy has become. The EU is no longer republican, but instead produces far more poorly thought-out legislation and governmental red tape than individual countries themselves do.
17. Corbyn backs cycling. He does not own a car and declined to share one with the BBC’s Chris Mason for an interview, saying: “I cycle all the time. Actually I’ve got a confession to make, a rather naughty secret – I’ve got two bikes.” He is also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling.
It’s good to encourage cycling, especially in cities. The obvious step he should be taking would be campaigning to make cycling cheaper and safer within city roads.
18. Energy companies should be under public ownership. He says he would be “much happier” with a “regulated, publicly run service delivering energy supplies”. He is “totally opposed” to fracking. However, he says deep-mine coal pits in the north of England could be reopened.
Whilst I agree with the nationalisation of energy companies, his position on fracking and coal mines is clearly a populist double standard. Fracking produces much cleaner fuel (oil and gas), than coal. Fracking is far less environmentally intrusive than coal mines, requiring only a small well head, rather than a huge pit. And fracking is far safer than coal-mining, without the need for miners to go deep underground into unpleasant and unsafe environments.
19. Ireland should be united. Corbyn has long supported British withdrawal from Northern Ireland and invited Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams to the House of Commons as far back as 1984. He was criticised for observing a minute’s silence for eight IRA members killed by the SAS in 1987 and once employed Irish Republican Ronan Bennett as a member of staff at Westminster.
LEAVE IT TO THE IRISH PEOPLE TO DECIDE. IRA are terrorists, why the hell are you observing a silence for the government suppression of terrorism?
20. A national maximum wage should be introduced to cap the salaries of high earners. He would also introduce a windfall tax on former state assets such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, which he says were privatised too cheaply.
This is the form of communism which discourages wealth creation through industry. Higher-rate taxes already discourage people from working harder to earn more. A cap on the wages would discourage the hardest workers in society altogether. And people will still find a way around these legislative restrictions, so the only people they will really hit are the honest hard-workers. Certainly RBOS was sold off too cheaply, but the solution isn’t to tax the heck out of people. Just like you can’t unsell the gold Gordon Brown sold, the damage is already done – there’s no going back, only moving forward.
21. Every child should have the chance to learn a musical instrument or act on stage. Corbyn’s arts policy also includes directing a greater proportion of funding to local projects, widening access and protecting the BBC.
Agreed. Cultural developments should be encouraged, not discouraged or even eliminated like the communist regimes attempted.
22. Private Finance Initiative deals with the NHS should be ended by using government funds to buy them out. Writing in the Guardian, Corbyn said they were a “mess” that were costing the health service billions.
Agreed. The PFIs were a stupid waste of money. It would have been better for the government to fund the project themselves.
23. A “serious debate about the powers of Nato” is needed, but Corbyn has saidthere is not “an appetite as a whole for people to leave”. Corbyn has previously supported withdrawal and believes it should have been wound up in 1990 at the same time as the Warsaw Pact. He also said open eastward expansion of Nato would lead the Russian military to conclude that it had “to expand to counteract Nato”.
I’m not against the principle of having a debate, but the direction this is heading is misguided. Russia is not going to stop expanding if NATO is disbanded. It will just revel in the new power they have achieved. Instead, Russia should be invited to join the NATO as it has been for the UN.
24. The arms trade should be restricted. Corbyn would like to see the “brilliance and skill of those in the arms industry be converted for peaceful purposes”.
The arms trade is an integral part of the arms race. And the arms race should be led by peaceful countries, in order to maintain the edge over less peaceful countries. But the arms trade should be regulated so that it is not being open to regimes or factions which are openly hostile and desires the arms for aggression rather than for deterrence and enforcement.
Agree: 2, 4, 5, 15, 17, 21, 22 – 7 points
Disagree: 1, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19, 20, 23, 24 – 14 points
Maybe: 3, 8, 18 – 3 points
Please note that these points are not my way of weighing up Corbyn’s person or his policies. They are just a my way of quickly (but inaccurately) summing up my thoughts on the article. I do not know how accurately this article represents Corbyn’s actual views on these subjects, nor do I know how much emphasis or importance he puts on each of these 24 points. These are my current subjective opinions based on my present knowledge and the content of the article. I am entitled to change or retract these thoughts in light of further evidence, new knowledge, or deeper understanding.
If there’s anything you disagree with or would like to add, please feel free to contribute below. I welcome discussion and exchange of ideas.