Autumn is party conference season in the UK, and it was Jeremy Corbyn’s soliloquy to the Labour faithful that dominated news, with the new Labour leader promising that he would never cease to be an activist.
Corbyn surprised critics by disowning the Tony Blair era, which is the most successful electoral period in Labour’s history, when Labour centred itself and attracted its own moderates and some gullible Conservatives. Corbyn offered the antidote to Blairism. He declared that he would oppose any British military action in Syria and asserted that he would never stop being an activist.
He sent a direct message to Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene with the Saudi Arabian regime to stop the beheading of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr for taking part in a demonstration at the age of 17; and to terminate a bid made by the Ministry of Justice for England and Wales (MoJ) to provide services, on a commercial basis, to Saudi Arabia. The MoJ would be required to carry out the sentence that would be put down on Mohammed Ali al-Nimr. Corbyn vociferously bashed Tory policy with his devotion to human rights. His first engagement as Leader of Opposition was to speak at the “Refugees Welcome” rally in London.
Corbyn personalised the old Labour values of social justice and equality. He redefined “luvvies” for his term in opposition, embracing kinder politics for nice people in a caring society. Corbyn’s Labour will promote honest politics which is more inclusive.
Corbyn’s new politics appear to involve Labour members in policy decisions. He said, “One firm commitment I make to people who join our Labour Party is that you have a real say, the final say in deciding on the policies of our party… I am not a leader who wants to impose leadership lines all the time.” Corbyn also recycled sections from a vintage speech written by Richard Heller between 1981 and 1983. The speech was never used in its entirety but elements resonated with Corbyn, so his “new politics” was expressed with an “old speech”. He vowed to challenge austerity, combat environmental danger, eschew nuclear weapons. He believes Britain should lead in making progress on international nuclear disarmament.
However, Corbyn did not make any reference to balancing spending, borrowing, taxation and debt, thus disappointing business leaders and the private sector. John Mcdonnell, Labour’s new shadow chancellor, insisted that Labour were not “deficit deniers”, and said that the party could balance the books through investment and ingenuity, rather than through spending cuts.
While Corbyn is Mr Nice Guy with attitude and inspires his daydream believers with platitudes, it is Tom Watson, deputy leader, who is the virulent ideological force behind Corbyn. In a strategic effort to get the 5 million micro business owners in the UK onside, Watson said, “These people are not posh. They’re not privileged. They’re not greedy or selfish or stupid. They work hard, they want to get on, but they also care about their neighbours and the communities we share”.
Labour may woo enterprising start-ups with 0-9 employees now but when they become small to medium sized enterprises, or successful enough to try for an Initial Public Offering, Labour could be there to tax their success.