Why do we debate? The abundance of extremism in British politics

Public debate should not be not about winning the argument, but about considering both sides of the argument to come up with a balanced solution. It is not about compromise for both sides, instead it is about achieving the optimum solution. I personally hate debate. But I engage in these sorts of discussions because I care about the truth and workable solutions.

The problem with British politics is extremism. Not extremism in the way politicians portray it. But this type of extremism: Extreme emotions, extreme reactionaries, extreme moderation. The first time I expressed my support for UKIP policies, I was completely shouted down by those whom I thought were my friends, who didn’t even bother to give my thoughts fair consideration. And the thing they all had in common were that they all considered themselves ‘moderate’. My ideas were simply dismissed as either ignorant or extremist.

A true moderate would be able to consider extreme ideas without resorting to censorship. Shouting someone down is censoring them by suppressing their thoughts and ideas. But so many on the left think that everyone who disagrees with them are ignorant, or simply don’t care about the problems in society. In fact, many of us who do care have long realised that far too many on the left haven’t a clue what they are talking about. You just want action, to do something, even if you don’t know what the best course of action is. Well sorry, but that’s actually REALLY destructive. 20th century Communism is a prime example of this.

I am actually very progressive. I do not believe in supporting and maintaining the status quo. The current status quo absolutely sucks! I would actually advocate large-scale sweeping changes and reform. But these solutions first have to be tried, tested, and proven. We need to have a very good idea of what the positive and negative effects of our decisions are before we deploy them on a large scale. The scaling up should be done gradually or incrementally. So although I would advocate huge reforms with the nation’s largest bureaucracy, the NHS, I certainly wouldn’t do what Jeremy Hunt is doing.

I had many radical left-wing ideas as I was growing up. I was persuaded by the ideology that central authorities should simply decide what is best for society and everyone who doesn’t like it should just suck it up. But as I matured I realised that the ideal solution is far from clear, that ideology far from guarantees good results, and that politics is the blind leading the blind. We’re all absolutely clueless, and we must proceed incrementally with great caution to avoid falling off a cliff-edge. Our only guide is each other, so we must, must, MUST confer with those on the far side of the group, to understand the pros and cons of their side, so that we slowly gain an understanding of the ground we are traversing. It would be no help to society if both extreme sides go off in their own direction in complete disregarding what the other side are saying or finding.

It’s also not true that conservatives (small ‘c’) want to maintain the status quo, that they simply don’t care about negative effects on society. There are two types of people who go into politics – those who want to make a positive difference in society, and those who have personal ambition. I think we all agree that personal ambition is a poor driver for good politics. But the people who truly don’t care, the people who don’t see it as their problem, they are apolitical – they don’t care who gets into power – they’ll just carry on doing what they want to do, regardless of the effects on society, regardless of who’s in power. I have personally met many of these people. So let’s not dismiss conservatives or right-wingers as people who don’t care.

The Conservative party led by Cameron are not conservative at all. They are ideologically-driven to privatise everything, and indulge in opulence such as vanity projects. There’s really nothing conservative about that! They don’t care about the results, it is all ideology. If you think that’s right-wing, then clearly I’m nowhere near right-wing.

UKIP are in favour of nationalising many things, so I don’t see how they can be fairly labelled as further right than the Tory party. I fully acknowledge that they are far from perfect. But as far as party direction and policies go, they are by far the best of a bad bunch. Politics should be results-driven and not ideologically driven. A sure sign that something is driven by ideology rather than practicality is when some ideas cannot even entertained. UKIP are the only party who is not afraid to entertain radical ideas, ideas which may go against the popularly accepted norm, ideas which stir up debate.

Public discourse should be like this. Entertain all ideas, and debate them all fairly. No idea should be completely off the table. Those ideas which have potential should be allowed to come through on their own merit. If they hold no merit, they will naturally fall away from favour. BUT! This can only happen when we discard all ideological commitments. As soon as we introduce ideological biases, ideas will gain favour regardless of the actual outcomes. You shouldn’t suppress ideas that you don’t like by shouting them down.

I think that’s the difference between Britain’s political left and myself – the left seems to believe that undesirables should be universally and systematically suppressed, whilst I believe that desirables should be fostered and encouraged. Undesirables don’t need to be suppressed, not only because they cannot in practice be eliminated, but primarily because a healthy society would be able to naturally and rationally distance ourselves from these undesirables. You shouldn’t need to institutionalise this suppression. Furthermore, we also have the complicated question of where we get the moral authority to decide what is desirable and undesirable? We are all humans, so no-one has more of a moral high ground than anyone else – the only person who can claim that advantage is God. Short of direct revelation, we need to act out of love and consider all ideas fairly. What is most unloving and hateful, is to shout down the ideas you don’t like.

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My fear with Jeremy Corbyn

The thing that worries me most with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, is NOT the possibility that he might win the next general election for Labour, and become the next Prime Minister, but rather the possibility that he MIGHT LOSE the next general election! I do not agree with his ideas, but Jeremy Corbyn seems to have a good heart and upholds his principles to an idealistic fault. But this very idealism and integrity makes him hold to some rather far left ideas. At the next general election, these borderline extremist ideas might very well scare the electorate into voting against Corbyn, and give the Tory party yet another 5 years in office!

In a previous post, I have described how the British electorate are more motivated by fear rather than by hope. Instead of believing in Britain, they were scared by allegations of racism. Instead of trusting in a Labour government’s ability to learn from past lessons and spend money responsibly, they were scared into voting for a party who is ideologically driven by privatisation. And what I fear is that at the next general election, Labour under Corbyn will be branded as far left communists, and the swing electorate will be scared yet again into voting for what they think is safe. You can be sure the Tory party will capitalise on this – that’s how they won the last two elections, they think they’re on to a good tactic. Tory MPs are already patting themselves on the back, even openly thanking the Labour party for giving the Tory party another easy ride into political victory. The last thing I want is for the Tory party to get an easy win.

The Tory party needs a reform, to change, to truly hold to conservative principles, both socially and fiscally, rather than giving ground on those social issues whilst pursuing the insane agenda of privatisation. And without a challenging political opponent, there will be no drive for the Tories to reform or change. The sad thing is, it appears the reform has occurred in the Labour party instead. As the Tory/’Conservative’ party moved left in social issues, the only ground remaining for the ‘left’ Labour party was fiscal issues. Given that the Labour party were in government right before the economic crash, they lost even that ground. It seems that in reaction, the Labour party has organically reformed itself to be even further left than they ever were. But this is unfeasible – ideologies do not make practical policies.

Traditionally, the oppositional form of government in Westminster consisted of two major parties – one held by conservatives and the other held by progressives. In principle, these two influential powers are in constant dynamic tension, with the result of opposition striking a balance in political outcome. We don’t want to maintain the status quo, for there is always room for improvement, but at the same time, we do not want to make changes too fast either, for that could lead to unpredictably dangerous side effects, like we see every time a nation undergoes a revolution. The opposition in political debate is there to balance this out, allowing the merits and demerits of both progressive and conservative ideas to be considered so that a fair decision can be made by representatives.

However, things changed in the last two decades. At the turn of the century, Labour swept to victory under Tony Blair by moving to the right economically. And in return, under David Cameron, the Tories got into power and stayed in power by moving to the left socially. The result? Both Labour and Tory parties occupied the exact same political space – socially progressive and economically conservative. This is the worst possible combination, for it maintains the economic status quo, whilst destroying the traditions that held society together.

But now, with the Corbyn-driven reformation, Labour appears to be swinging back fully to the left. This leaves the Tories to dominate the ‘centre-ground’, thus almost guaranteeing their next win. However, what is most worrying is that parliament is now unbalanced. Without true conservatives balancing the debate, we will rush headlong into social reformation at a pace never seen before. For the sake of Britain, the Tories need to go back to where they were, especially now that Labour has swung back left. But as long as the Tory party are in it for power and influence, they will not swing back to the right, and they will carry on staying in power. They will carry on conceding the social reformations demanded by the left, whilst maintaining the policies which are driven by their true motivations: Money. People who only care about money and power don’t care about society. They will let societal reformations drive itself into the ground unchecked as long as they get rich and powerful in the process, happily playing at their game of politics.

For now, the only political opposition to unfettered societal reform remaining in the country is the House of Lords. And even that institution is under attack, with many public calls to reform it unrecognisably, or even eliminate it entirely. And you know what, even David Cameron, the supposed leader of the ‘Conservatives’, are in support of this reformation. So you still think the Tories are right-wing? That they want to conserve the status quo? Don’t make me laugh.

Some detrimental effects of EU policies (that I know of)

1) A specific case of EU law infringing on engineering sensibilities – the ban on lead-based solders. (my university thesis was related to this topic) Some background: solders are critical in all electronics, because they form the physical and electrical connection between components. Traditional solders are based on lead and tin, and are perfect for the job because they have relatively low melting point, flows and adheres to small metal components readily, have a proven track record of reliability and durability. But the EU have banned this substance because of the toxicity of lead. This means that future solders are now based on silver and copper, far more expensive materials. They also have a much higher melting point, requiring far more energy in manufacturing electronics. They are also weaker and more brittle, contributing to modern electronics getting less reliable despite being more expensive to manufacture. But most importantly for me, is that they are now susceptible to a phenomenon called tin-whiskers. All lead-free solders exhibit this spontaneous growth, where microscopic strands of crystalline tin spontaneously grows out of the solder, eventually short-circuiting the system, with potentially dangerous consequences. This means that ALL electronics manufactured since 2002 have a limited working life. This problem is widely recognised in engineering, so exemptions to this ban are given for critical electronics, namely in medical technology and in military applications. When you buy your next £600 mobile phone or £1200 laptop, don’t expect it to last longer than 3 years. So it even contributes to the consumerist attitude. Even your car, which you’d hope would last longer than a few years, will need now need its CPU replacing regularly. The problem goes further to include your household boiler, your tv, your stereo system, traffic lights systems, musical instruments, list goes on… It seems evident to me that the proper way to have dealt with the usage of lead was to implement policies and guidelines for the proper disposal of lead, rather than restrict the usage of it.

2) Common agricultural policy – the CAP imposes an artificial price for agricultural produce, an attempt to stabilise the agricultural market, and introduces subsidies to the agricultural industry to encourage local production of specific products. Because the price is artificially set, it is not reactive to the market, so that as agricultural practices and technologies improve, farmers are now actually way overproducing. Normally, in supply and demand economics, when supply exceeds demand, price drops to compensate and increase demand. And as price drops, suppliers are discouraged from producing, thus reducing supply. This natural economic mechanism has been blocked by the artificial price, and futhermore the subsidies to the agricultural industry, once put in place, cannot be removed without devastating the industry. The result is that the EU is overproducing, and this overproduce is being offloaded onto poorer 3rd world countries, destroying their local agricultural industry. And 3rd world economies generally subsist on an agriculture, so this policy has further retarded the growth of developing countries.

3) Common fisheries policy – the CFP sets quotas for how much of a particular species is allowed to be caught, in order to maintain natural fish stocks. Sound good in principle? In practice, fishing isn’t species-specific as we would like. Fishermen often catch fish of various different species as by-catch even when attempting to target specific species. Fishermen end up throwing dead fish overboard to avoid exceeding the quota. The result is that supply of fish is reduced, but fish stocks are still being damaged. In hindsight, a better policy might have been to demarcate certain areas of the ocean as being free from fishing, to provide safe areas for marine life to reproduce.

4) Free movement of people – have you noticed how young career-minded people often migrate to cities in order to find work? Many young people despite having grown up in rural areas, will uproot themselves and go to where jobs and industry are. The UK already has the problem where smaller towns are suffering economically because they don’t have any local industry. And the local industry will not develop if the young people keep leaving the area and reducing the population. Now scale this up to the continental level, and you have the EU and its free movement of people policy. Of course people looking for work are going to go to the countries which are economically successful. Good on these individuals, but it certainly doesn’t do the countries where they are departing from any good! Many developing countries have recognised this problem as the ‘brain drain’, and that’s WITH normal restrictions in place. When you remove these restrictions, the problem is exacerbated many times. Under-populated areas will keep losing their young workforce, and already dense population centres become even denser.

Granted, points (1)-(3) are simply mistakes in policy-making that can and should be rectified. But do you see that because the EU legislation and policies work on such a large scale, the adverse effects are on an unprecedented scale? If these mistakes were made within one country, the damage would be bad, but it would still at least be limited to that country. Now any mistakes EU makes in policy-making, affects an entire continent, and arguably the most powerful continent in the world. I haven’t even touched on problems arising from monetary policy and foreign policy, and that’s only the issues I have heard of.

The British voting public are a bunch of gullible cowards.

UPDATE: This article should be retracted in light of the updated piece – I was wrong
I have chosen to not remove this article for the sake of austerity and transparency.

Warning: This article is going to upset a lot of people. My opening salvo is at the cowardice and credulity of the British voting public, but rather more specifically, at the swing voters who were responsible for getting David Cameron and the Tory party into power. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to ‘tribalist’ voters who make voting decisions based on how they’ve always voted, rather than on what the parties promise and stand for. I’ve got loads more critique for that kind of senseless behaviour, but that’s a story for another time. So here goes…

I don’t know anybody who actually *likes* David Cameron. Yet he somehow managed to persuade people into voting the Conservative party into power at the 2015 General Elections. How did he manage to do this?

1) Scare tactics.
He made the British public afraid, very very afraid, of what the Labour party would do to the country were they to come back into power. He repeated this line over and over again, the little memorandum that was left by the previous Labour government which jokingly said “I’m afraid there is no money.” The disgusting Tory party paraded it around as if it was supposed to be a serious confession. It was a joke simple as. The deficit not was the fault of the Labour party. There was no money left because the economy was really bad. The economy was bad because the whole western world economy crashed.

2) Lies.
The UK’s economy suffered not because Labour overspent. The reality is that Labour spent according to what the forecast budget could afford. Labour spent the money investing in much needed infrastructure. And the greater reality is that under Cameron’s governance, national debt has increased more in 5 years than it has under 10+ years of Brown and Blair.

3) More lies.
Cameron likes to claim that the economy is improving under Tory policies. But wait, what policies have helped the economy… austerity measures? They’ve certainly hurt a lot of people, and I cannot see how it would contribute to economic recovery. Or what about that tax allowance for married couples? £212 per annum is hardly anything to rave about – it’s clearly just lip service to conservatism, and an expensive one to administer at that! Tax cuts? This just flies in the face of austerity!
There is no evidence that the economic recovery is a result of Tory policies rather than through the natural recovery which always happens after every economic crash. Sure, welfare reform was much needed after being neglected by the Labour government for far too long, but the welfare reforms are insignificant compared to the wider budget. Even worse, the welfare reforms are set according arbitrary targets, rather than according to principled guidelines. The results is that as councils struggle to scrape together figures to meet the targets, many of the most vulnerable are coldly and uncaringly hit with welfare sanctions.

4) More scare tactics.
The nation were scared into believing that an Ed Milliband-led Labour government would only function by being under the thumb of SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon. There is no argument for this whatsoever – and this not only contributed to Labour’s loss of votes, they also contribute to SNP’s surge in support. Ironically, I believe this wave of Scottish nationalism has practically undone all of the Tory campaigning against the Scottish independence in 2014.

5) Smear.
Where to begin… In addition to all of the above, Cameron has successfully smeared the only viable alternative to the Tory party, namely the UK Independence Party, by branding them as ‘closet racists’. It didn’t matter that he retracted the statement later, or that UKIP has never had a history of being racist. In the politically-correct sphere of the United Kingdom, such allegations stick. I only have to cry out “racist” and hordes of public would rally to my support. Nevermind that amongst these hordes are those who would have exhibited racist tendencies towards me to begin with. It is a self-righteous hypocrisy that seems endemic to the British public. Nobody bothered to investigate the allegations. Anecdotal evidence was sufficient to reinforce the confirmation bias of those who simply believe what they read. Not even the many immigrant and ethnic minority supporters, members or even Parliamentary candidates of UKIP were enough to dissuade these ideas. People’s minds were made up. It is even more ironic that the nationalistic, populist policies of UKIP were branded as ‘extreme right-wing’ whilst the nationalistic, populist policies of SNP were considered acceptably left-wing. Short-sighted hypocrisy thrives in this nation.

6) More smear
What about the poor Liberal Democrats who were wiped out in this last election? Somehow or other, Cameron et al managed to foist everything negative about the coalition government onto their political allies, and scapegoated them to destruction. Conservative voters blame Lib-Dems for holding back Cameron from doing a good job. Labour voters blame Lib-Dems for not holding back Cameron sufficiently from doing the damage he did. How can you simultaneously do too much and not enough? Never before has a ‘centrist’ party experienced such demolition, especially at a time when you’d expect them to grow in significance as they grew in experience and influence.
Don’t forget Ed Milliband – since when was it publically acceptable to bully anyone, much less a public figure, by attacking him based on his appearance and smearing him as a “North London geek”? Whatever happened to the self-righteous political correctness of the British public? Or has this gone the way of short-sighted ignorant hypocrisy again?

Let’s get back to the beginning – how did Cameron win this election? He scared people into not voting for Labour by telling them scarey lies about how they would ruin the economy. He scared people into not voting for an alternative centre-right party by labelling them as extremist bigots. He scared people into believing that the Conservative party were the only safe choice.

And you know what? The idiot public believed him. Nobody actually wanted David Cameron’s party in power. But they were too scared to vote anyone else. This is why I said what the title said – the British public are a bunch of gullible cowards. If the British voters had more guts to vote according to policy rather than according to fear, we may have a very different government.

It’s too late for the next 5 years. This might be why they’re swinging away from ‘safe’ centrists who say a lot but mean nothing, and are supporting someone who has some principle. It’s a shame that they are still too scared by all the previous labels. Ed Milliband should have been given another chance. Nick Clegg should be given a greater voice. UKIP should be able to cast off their ‘racist’ label. But no, the British public are too scared, in case all these allegations were true. So they swing in support of a veteran politician instead, one with principles and integrity, despite not having made any significant waves for about two decades. Enter Jeremy Corbyn.

Remember the short-sightedness I mentioned before? The myopic Brits have forgotten that Corbyn hails from a generation of political lefties who were so far left that the British public voted the Tories into power out of desperation. They forget it was Corbyn’s associates who helped give Britain eleven years of the first and only woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Post-script: Turns out a Conservative economist feels the same way. He wrote this article as far back as 2012: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ramesh-patel/growth-cameron-austerity_b_2007552.html

Have trade unions lost their purpose?

First, let’s delve into what trade unions are and what purpose they serve. Back in the early days of the industrial revolution, industries were owned by the few truly rich and powerful. Because of this overwhelming control of the employment market by the employers, workers desperate for work were often exploited. In other words, many people wanted jobs, the rich and the powerful controlled the jobs that were available, so could afford to pay less to workers desperate for paid work. This situation can still be observed in many parts of the developing and underdeveloped world (such as India and China), where trade unions hardly exist.

Enter the trade unions. The labour market grouped together to form a collective bargaining entity. No longer can employers say “If you don’t like the low pay/poor working conditions, I’ll give the job to someone who wants it.” When pay or working conditions are unsatisfactory for even a few individuals, the entire workforce could gang together and refuse to work. This caused the employer to lose productivity and profitability. It is thus in the employers’ interests to keep the unions happy in order to maintain productivity. Individual employees were also thusly incentivised to join trade unions, for personal protections as well as for the greater benefit of the whole workforce. There is now a semblance of power balance between the employer who controls the capital and the employees who control the labour. To this end, the influence and power of trade unions is a GOOD thing.

Fast forward to modern-day Britain. If you work in public services (even if your employers is a private company, such as with train operators), you very likely will have joined a trade union. If you work in the private sector, your chances of being part of a union are very slim indeed, unless you are part of a long-established industry. The causes of this are wide and varied. This could be because employment in the public sector has gained a reputation for being steady long-term employment, whilst those desiring shorter more mobile employment opportunities favour the private sector, with this pattern of job-hopping doing away with the necessity of trade unions. In the private sector, the employment market is as much controlled by the upwardly mobile workforce as by those with the capital to employ. Additionally, the private sector is so widespread and diverse that most people employed in the private sector have no relevant union to turn to.

The result of this is that the most prominent and active of trade unions can be found in the public services sector – unions are almost all but extinct in the private sector. When these unions take strike action due to disputes with their employer, the ones they hurt are the public, NOT their employer. Their actual employers will not have their profit margins damaged in any way.

Let us remind ourselves:
1) What are the trade unions for?
Answer: Trade unions exist to protect the interests of the workers

2) Who are the trade unions protecting the workers from?
Answer: Trade unions protect workers from abuses and unfair practices by employers

3) How do trade unions protect workers?
Answer: Trade unions protect workers by collective bargaining power through facilitating industrial action which hurt the employer.

(I am assuming that the above three points are non-controversial. If they are, please let me know and give me feedback on how you would challenge them.)

What happens when RMT strikes? Large parts of public transport goes out of service, hurting the public and businesses whose workers depend on public transport. Train operators will hardly have their profits hurt in any way, since the majority of their income from regular travellers are primarily from season ticket holders, and other travels are simply just deferred to another date.
What happens when NUT strikes? School pupils miss out on being taught by their teachers. Schools and councils carry on as before, since there is no profit or productivity margin for them to worry about.
What happens when FBU strikes? The public miss out on critical professional fire brigades services, having to rely instead on provisional services provided by the army with their frequently outdated equipment. As above, although councils and governments do get a bad name, but they certainly won’t have any profit margins to concern them.
Many NHS workers don’t even dare strike because they know first and foremost that the ones who lose out immediately are the patients – lives are literally at stake in front of these workers.

These examples demonstrate that when unions take industrial action, they first and foremost lose public support. Any employers’ response is primarily to appease the public, which often amounts to not more than lip service. In the meantime, public support for union activity diminishes with every strike action they take. It is all too easy for employers to play the unions off against the public, casting them as the ‘greedy bad guys’ to the public eye. This has already happened to the RMT, especially in light of the militant industrial actions instigated by the late Bob Crow. Thankfully trade unions still maintain some semblance of public support due to the long history of public support it has in this country. However, I fear that this is unsustainable in the longer run. How long will trade unions retain public support when they continue to hit the public instead of employers?

Furthermore, what of the private sector? What happens when Amazon underpays the unskilled labour force working in their packing warehouses? What of the Costa and Starbucks baristas who work long stressful hours serving demanding and ungrateful clientele? Some of the highest paid city jobs are also the most demanding and least ethical of working environments – many of their employment contracts explicitly do not recognise industrial action. If you want people to work shorter hours and simultaneously curb the highest paid jobs – this is the industry in which trade unions should be the most active. Sadly, these highly competitive industries are also where employees are the most self-serving… but that’s another story.

What’s the future for trade unions then? The way the majority of trade unions now function, I see no future for them. They have lost their way. No longer are they fighting abusive employment practices – they are now fighting out of self-interest only. The future I see for trade unions is to go back to their grassroots – how did they come about and why. They need to regain their original purpose, to combat abusive employment practices, to stand up for the employee who is poorly treated, and to level the power balance between those who own capital and those who own labour.

24 things that Jeremy Corbyn believes – what I agree with, and what I don’t

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.
That aside….
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.

Conclusion…
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.

The Syrian refugee crisis, and the difficult solution

Almost everyone has heard of the plight of the Syrian refugees. It is a humanitarian crisis that spans the borders of three continents. Much has already been said and written regarding the scale of this problem – I need not add anymore.

What I do want to write about, is the responses to this problem. To make sure we maintain an objective perspective, let’s first approach this abstractly. Every problem manifests itself in symptoms. But usually, we encounter the symptom before we realise there’s a problem. For example, a car with a failed battery will not be able to start its engine. Yes, we have to deal with the symptom, but you also have to deal with the underlying problem. Jump starting the engine will allow you to drive off this time, but if the battery is not even able to hold a charge, you’re going to encounter the same problem again. You have to address the root cause of the problem.

Going back to the problem of the Syrian refugee crisis. Yes, the millions of refugees need humanitarian help. We should be sending aid in terms of food, medical provisions, shelter and any other form of help a normal society requires. But, that’s just the symptom of a much deeper problem. Let’s not stop there, let’s not neglect the root cause. So far, the public attention is on how refugees need our help. Most of the media articles you read are of the poor refugees, how we should embrace them and welcome them into our countries. Hardly anyone talks about the solution to the underlying problem.

Here is the underlying problem: Syrian people are being massacred or displaced as refugees because there is civil war in Syria. We need to address this issue if we want to prevent more civilians becoming refugees.

Sure, there is plenty of blame being thrown around. Fingers are pointing at ISIS, on Assad, or even on the West for trying to oust Assad. But there is a big difference between blame and solutions. Western countries have had it so good for so long, the ability to formulate pragmatic but tough solutions seems to have disappeared.

We don’t need to just welcome them into other countries – I guarantee you genuine refugees would rather be at home, in their own countries, and live a peaceful life with their families and in their communities. That’s what it means to be a refugee – you’re taking refuge from a horrible situation, you’re not migrating permanently.

What do I think can be done then? Well, the international community should be forcing peace negotiations. That’s first and foremost what the UN is there for. The whole point of forming a global community of participating countries is to be able to encourage peace, foster communication, and finally the collective power to be able to hold individual countries responsible and accountable.

The first step is to get representatives from each faction, from Assad’s regime, from the Arab Spring rebels, and from the ISIS. Get them all together and properly chair peace a negotiation and peace talks. None of this “we do not negotiate with terrorists” nonsense – all these factions already have considerable influence in the region. We cannot just ignore them. Get them together and talk fairly. Don’t let them get away with unreasonable nonsense. The UN is the place where global nations can unite and force these negotiations. Force a peace treaty where everyone compromises fairly and equally.

Well, what if they refuse? What if they insist on violence instead of abiding by treaties? Again, I point you back to the UN. The UN is comprised of 193 member states. This includes the world’s most powerful countries, including the USA, China, Russia, and most of the EU. Whatever disagreements these countries have, I believe they all agree that the crisis in Syria must be dealt with. The collective military might of these member states should be able to enforce peace in the region.

No, I am not in favour of armed intervention. Normally, I hold that countries should sort out their own political problems without needing foreign help. However, the difference is that these factions in Syria are already all armed and causing massive numbers of both armed and civilian casualties. They are causing great harm to humanity, the environment, and to the international community.

The UN needs to act as a temporary world police, under the proviso that member states take no sides in the conflict. The first and foremost objective should be peace, nothing else. The powerful members of the UN will keep each other in check to ensure that no single nation exercises undue influence on the region. Once there is peace, the factions will have no choice but to negotiate.

It might sound like a tautology, but to stop violence, you must first have peace. Violence is like fire. It only begets more violence. The converse is also true, when you enforce a peace, violence is less likely to erupt. It doesn’t completely prevent or even discourage violence, but what it does do, is cut off the chain of violent retaliation on violent retaliation.

I do not draw this conclusion lightly. I fully concede that this project will be very costly indeed. It will be long and drawn out. There will be great economic expenditure from all the nations involved. But what is the price of humanity? Look at how we condemn the nations who readily surrendered to the Axis during WWII. Look at how we celebrate the efforts of those who fought for freedom and for humanity, even three quarters of a century later.

I understand this is far easier said than done. Soldiers need to be humane, to combatants, to civilians, to prisoners of war. If you have to shoot, aim to maim rather than to kill – families would rather have an injured son than a dead one. Have mercy and love for those who are fighting you. Once combatants have been defeated, treat them as humanely, feed them clothe them and show them hospitality so that they might be won over. Give combatants on both sides respite. Try to avoid letting battles be a drawn out into a war of attrition. It will be a hard job, so we need to support those who are making the tough decisions in a difficult environment.

But if we are going to intervene let’s not do it half-heartedly. We’re all in this together. Don’t let two countries go in on their own and let them fail. Let’s learn from our experience of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Don’t let Vietnam happen again. The only ‘successful’ war was one where the world joined together. And remember, that came at very great cost indeed.

What do you think? Are the UN fulfilling their responsibilities, or are they failing to do their job?