We are a nation of shopkeepers, of property owners and of shareholders. For over 35 years, Britain has unequivocally and unashamedly carried on down the path of ambition – conscientiously striving to instil this sacred capitalistic ideology ever deeper into the fabric of society. In 1979, radical socialism was rejected at the polls, bringing in a new era of what some may term as radicalness- Thatcherism.
Before the 1979 general election, the process of government was the orderly management of decline. Britain was choked by the unions and collectivism. The miner’s strike of 1972 – in which miners rejected an 8% pay rise by the then government, preferring a 43% pay rise – famously forced the introduction of the three day working week for the country. We won’t mention the Winter of Discontent of 1978-1979. Inflation was uncontrollable; regularly above 10% between 1960 and 1975. The sclerotic state of the economy was dependent upon (borrowed) government expenditure being poured into the countless financially insolvent state-owned companies – naturally overstaffed, unproductive, archaic and lacking innovation. One awoke in their state-owned council flat, turned on their state-produced kettle for a cup of tea, got into their state-manufactured car to go to their state-supported job in a state-supported industry.
As one might expect, these corporations were hardly the hallmark of quality and efficiency. It was commonplace that BA stood, not for British Airways, but for “Bloody Awful”; British Rail itself was losing a minimum of £300,000 per day (inflation unadjusted) every year since 1961. It is no wonder that a Britain deprived of any spirit of the individual voted for a change in socio-economic policy and, as recent history confirms, has yet to go back. A non-Thatcherite Britain is difficult to imagine, and even more so for those whom it has become fashionable to term as the “young professionals” and adolescents of society.
We students would never seek a return to the days where hope, ambition and our current standard of living was taken away from us. We don’t want a return to unwarranted strike action – we can hardly deal with lecturers striking for a day. Inflation above 5% would seem a valid enough reason to see a government toppled, and a delay of 30 minutes on a train would be unbearable. Let’s make this quite clear; our materialistic, capitalistic, way of living is engrained into everything we do – we would never want to live in a 70s Britain. Why is it then that, with the majority of under-25s voting for Corbyn in the recent Labour elections, our demographic is asking for a return to a socialist Britain and everything associated with those policies? Corbyn claims to have embarked on a “new era” of politics. He has, in fact, resurrected one. It seems false hope is the backbone of Labour’s “new” intrinsic being.
Now the House of Commons will once again be a battleground between ideologies instead of policy implementation. This is pre-80s socialism verses modern British capitalism. We will return to the time of there being quite a difference between the Conservatives and Labour – middle ground consensus politics has been eradicated with Corbyn as Labour leader. That media catch phrase ‘huge democratic mandate‘ could not be more misrepresentative. It is a great shame that MPs could not elect their new party leader on behalf of the Labour electorate. Indeed, that would have been far more representative of those that voted Labour in the last general election.
Instead, a lack of strong candidates, £3 supporters (plus associated palaver) and unions demanding a return of a closer relationship with Labour, saw just over 250,000 people, or 0.85% of the electorate tick the box marked Corbyn. A “huge democratic mandate” indeed. A small number of radical party supporters have elected a radical leader. As shadow cabinet members resigned during Corbyn’s ascension speech, David Cameron would have been unable to wipe his smile off his face. With the election of Corbyn, the concept of democracy came tumbling down. An ineffective, unelectable opposition secured; the same people that voted for Corbyn had actually voted for Cameron. Even if one supports the Conservative mandate, it is concerning that there will not be a respectable opposition to offer effective, reasonable criticism to the Tory agenda. The logic that Labour did not position itself left enough is laughable, especially when one looks at the General Election outcome. Furthermore, I cannot shake the feeling that the reason Corbyn was elected was the simple fact that he was saying something different than the rest, not for the actual policies he would peruse. His amicable aura, his attack on the rich and the city, his idea of “fairness” and casual appearance are seemingly what got him elected. However, when one digs into his proposed policies, there are serious concerns for the nation. His policies are not representative of the people.
By far his most worrying policy is his anti-interventionist rhetoric. The scrapping of Trident, the UK’s nuclear missile deterrent, is most worrying. A common misconception is that it is there to be used. The nuclear deterrent is there to deter, to prevent military action and to prevent sending troops to war. There is also a concept that the renewal of Trident will be more expensive than the alternative. In fact, it may shock some readers to learn that the services chiefs are in fact, traditionally opposed to Trident renewal, because the alternative would signal Britain having a considerably larger conventional forces army. The scrapping of Trident would rid the UK of its independence to protect itself. Corbyn also wants the UK to rid itself of its NATO membership or significantly reduce its role in it, furthering his isolationist policy. Yet perhaps the most striking and surprising of his stated policies concerns the British people living in the Falkland Islands. He was against the Falklands War and indeed suggested the government effectively secede the Islands to Argentina. The pure fact that he would force British people, against their will, to be placed under a harsh military junta and rid the island’s UK sovereignty, is abhorrent.
He also wants Northern Ireland to be united with the Irish Republic, sacrificing British sovereignty at every opportunity. His overtures to “friends” like Hezbollah and Hamas is conducive to supporting terrorism. His tepid relationship with the EU is a marked contrast with the previous Labour, pro-EU stance. He insists on a more socialist Europe, or could not rule out his personal support for a “Brexit”. His refusal to sing the national anthem at the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, in front of ex-servicemen who have pledged their life for Queen and country, was very bad taste. His constant snubs to Her Majesty, such as his not attending a Privy Council meeting due to the requirement of pledging loyalty to the Queen, are not in line with the nation’s vast support for monarchy. His refusal to go also deprives him of confidential security briefings. His fantasy proposal of introducing a “maximum wage” is disgusting – depriving people of their hard earned money on the back of pure spite and jealousy. By introducing private rent caps, he would be tampering with the housing market – forcing landlords to not rent their property as the cap would, in many cases, be less than the mortgage, especially in London. His economic policy consists of constant money printing and a careless attitude towards the deficit.
The fact that he is reluctant to be uninfluenced by society and retain his now radical and idealistic convictions is admirable. Unfortunately, those convictions have no place in modern, consensus politics. Yes, the leader of a party must lead but must do so in a fashion that gets one elected. Instead we have seen division within Labour since the prospect of his leadership became reality. New Labour supporters (the Blairites and Browns) are now at odds with radical Corbyn supporters. Cross-Labour support, even on specific issues like Trident, at this moment in time seems impossible to reach accord. A party that cannot present a united message on important issues is a party unworthy of being elected. Corbyn is bad for democracy and his proposed policies risk threatening our economic and physical security. People may vote for a “man of the people” but, once that man is elected, we demand an exceptional leader. He cannot and never will be one. He will further alienate Labour from the people. This is the beginning of the end for Labour.