Monday, 29 August 2016

Was New Labour really 'neo-liberal'?

If we created one of those ever-fashionable ‘word clouds’ from the posts of Corbynistas on social media, two phrases would probably appear larger and bolder than many of the others. One would be ‘neo-liberal’ and the other would be ‘MSM’ – their short-hand for what they describe as ‘mainstream media’.

The first of these two terms does have a meaning, but one which has become increasingly debased through misuse. The second is vacuous and means nothing at all unless you’re a fully-fledged conspiracy theorist.  So let’s leave the MSM just for the moment – I’ll maybe return to it another post – and focus instead on this idea of neo-liberalism.

Activist and Guardian journalist George Monbiot has described it is an ‘ideology that dominates our lives’ and says it ‘redefines citizens as consumers’. In the neo-liberal world, he argues, ‘tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised’. 

I don’t particularly disagree with his definition and interpretation.

The ‘neo’ in neo-liberalism does, after all, imply that we’ve been here before. All we’re really talking about is the revival of ideas that had always been part-and-parcel of laissez-faire capitalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Back then, tax and regulation were indeed minimal and spending on effective public services a rarity.

What happened was that with the growth of communism – and, perhaps more significantly, social democracy, Keynesian economics and the creation of the nascent welfare state – this traditional free-market ideology was very effectively challenged, particularly in the decades immediately following the Second World War.  

This swing towards redistribution of wealth, planning and co-operation created a space for the ‘neo’ liberals.  These were the people who rejected the new interventionism and advocated a conscious, politically motivated return to the economic liberalism of the past. Intellectually, supporters were inspired by the so-called ‘Austrian School’ of intellectuals, which included figures such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek.

So far, so straightforward.

The case against neo-liberalism is obvious and it’s the same case that would have been made against the laissez-faire liberalism of the past.  It’s a philosophy which usually benefits the rich. 

Free-market economic policies lead to exploitation of the weak and vulnerable, absence of a proper safety net for the poor, lack of respect for our environment and a widening divide between rich and poor. 

This is the reason, of course, many people choose to join social democratic and socialist political movements.  Rather than accept the inequalities of capitalism, these dissenters rightly challenge them and look for ways to ameliorate them. They believe, fundamentally, that humans achieve more when we co-operate than when we are locked in perpetual competition.

So where does the problem arise? Well, Corbynistas use ‘neo liberal’ as a term of abuse. Critically, however, they don’t just apply it to Conservative politicians. The phrase is used to tarnish the track record and achievements of the Labour governments under Blair and Brown. And that’s where their rhetoric stands up to very little scrutiny.

Blair, in the eyes of many Jezuits, is the ultimate symbol of neo-liberalism. The argument would be that the former Labour Prime Minister fully accepted the free-market agenda of Margaret Thatcher and merely perpetuated and expanded it during his own tenure.

When pressed for examples to back up this attack on Labour’s most successful leader, critics often point to the light-touch regulation in the banking sector and the use of private finance to rebuild public infrastructure such as hospitals.  The former might rightly be seen as causal factor in the 2008 financial crisis, while the latter is creating problems today for a number of NHS Trusts which are struggling to meet what are effectively heavy mortgage repayments.

Blair’s supporters can’t hide away from legitimate criticism here. While the reality is that the Tories advocated even laxer regulation of the financial sector and the costs of PFI only represent a tiny fraction of the total amount of money spent on the NHS each year, there is little point in denying the consequences of the decisions that were made.  It is hard to justify either policy with the benefit of hindsight.

But do these examples really constitute evidence that Blair and Brown were pursuing neo-liberalism?  That they presided over neo-liberal governments?

Even a cursory glance at the track record of New Labour would reveal any number of interventions that would horrify neo-liberals.

First – and perhaps most significantly – let’s look at government spending.

As a proportion of GDP, it did fall during the early years of the Blair administration (when New Labour had pledged prudence in financial management), but it then steadily grew from 2001 onwards and was slightly higher at the end of the term of office than it had been at the start.

Is this evidence of neo-liberalism?  Absolutely not. Neo-liberals are inherently suspicious of government (‘spending somebody else’s money on somebody else’, in the words of right-wing economist Milton Friedman) and they therefore aim to drive down tax and spending. 

The Blair and Brown governments were actually heavily interventionist in many areas too.

They famously introduced a national minimum wage – opposed by many on the free-market right.

They extended rights in the workplace, an idea which sits very uneasily with neo-liberal support for enterprise and entrepreneurship. While it’s true there was no attempt to overturn the tightening of trade union laws introduced by Thatcher, workers were granted greater parental leave, given the right to more paid holiday and empowered to request flexible working from employers.

New Labour created new tiers of democratic government in Wales, Scotland and London – a policy anathema to neo-liberals, who favour a shrinking state and less regulation.

They invested in some of the nation’s poorest communities through programmes such as the New Deal and Sure Start.  Social housing stock was upgraded at a cost of some £20 billion.

And so it goes on. Policy after policy that would fly in the face of anything an economic liberal held dear. After all, if you’re someone who believes in every aspect of human life being dictated by the market, you don’t extend state-sponsored free bus travel for elderly and disabled people, offer state-funded free eye tests to the over 60s or tell people they can wander around museums free of charge, courtesy of the government.

So when you’re told that Blair and Brown were neo-liberals, it’s worth stopping for a moment and considering what real neo-liberalism is.  While New Labour may not have reversed all the market reforms under Thatcher, they signalled a distinct and positive break from the right-wing ideology of her 1980s government, which had been openly influenced by the likes of Hayek and Friedman.

She supported a smaller state, but struggled to achieve it. They supported greater state intervention and modestly increased spending as a proportion of GDP.

She believed in championing the rights of employers. They believed in enhancing the rights of workers.

She wanted less government and less regulation. They gave us more.

Inconvenient facts that Corbynistas never like to get in the way of a good story.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Back to the Future: Part Two

In the second section of my two-part blog, I trace the origins of Corbyn’s political antics today right back to their source: the 1980s.

As a teenager back in 1985, I spent a summer as a volunteer, helping to organise a peace camp in the unlikely setting of Clapham Common, south London. It was a project of Youth CND and the idea was to bring together a team of activists, who would then fan out around the local area and get involved in various small-scale demonstrations and meetings.

The bizarre plan was all made possible by the agreement of Lambeth Council, which consented to the erection of what must have been dozens of tents and a fairly sizeable marquee for the best part of a week.  I remember the Mayor rolling up in a posh car and the Leader of Lambeth – one ‘Red’ Ted Knight – hosting a reception for us at which he made a speech about the importance of ‘fighting for peace’.

No doubt many local residents would have felt Lambeth’s time, money and resources might have been better spent on, say, collecting rubbish or improving the quality of its housing stock. But thirty years ago, it was quite normal for authorities to be involved in a great deal of grandiose political posturing way beyond the remit of their statutory responsibilities.

Boroughs were declared ‘nuclear free zones’, striking miners were welcomed into council buildings and visiting dignitaries from the leftist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua were invited to compare the plight of the people of Managua with that of their counterparts in, say, West Norwood.

Our peace camp was just one of thousands of weird projects which sprung up during the 1980s, often thanks to the largesse of the so-called ‘loony left’ councillors who had seized control of town halls.  It was a time when it was thought legitimate to spend public money on political propaganda – a phenomenon taken to the ultimate extreme by Ken Livingstone’s GLC, which produced truck loads of glossy brochures and splashed out extravagantly on advertising.

Another reason I remember the Clapham Common escapade quite vividly was that it epitomised the divisions among socialists at the time. I was young and idealistic, but was becoming increasingly exposed to the shrill, uncompromising stance of the ultra-left.  Trotskyist infiltration was not only a problem in the Labour Party back then, but also in large social and political movements, student politics and other arenas.

So amid the well-meaning young activists who descended on south London, there was a hard-core of revolutionary socialists who saw Youth CND as a potential recruiting ground. They disliked the rather sedate agenda of activities that the full-time CND staff had devised and planned with my support.  Their aim was to gather the merry band of campers together in the marquee for tedious debates on political themes and to agitate for more direct and confrontational action.

At an ideological level, the argument they advanced was that we needed to ‘make the link’ between the campaign against nuclear weapons and the plethora of other protests against the policy agenda of Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing government.

In their eyes, CND’s political objectives were connected to everything from the printers' dispute at Wapping against media mogul Rupert Murdoch, through to the British army presence in Northern Ireland and the support of the US government for right-wing rebels in Central America. We needed to find common cause with students, trade unionists and Labour Party activists. Their battle was our battle. Our rallying cry was theirs.

Of course, for a broad movement such as CND, such an approach would have been suicidal. Its mass popular appeal went way beyond the socialist and trade union movement and extended to Liberals, Greens and the politically non-aligned.  Its most familiar figurehead was Bruce Kent – an ordained Catholic Monsignor – who was not only a great speaker, but also someone who brought a huge degree of respectability to a pressure group that might otherwise be seen as a fringe left-wing cause.

In short, there was a clash between those, on the one hand, who wanted the widest possible base of support and mainstream credibility, and others who hoped the anti-nuclear movement would be subsumed into a wider struggle for socialist transformation.

The parallels with today’s Labour Party are stark.

Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn know that Labour will only win if it reaches out beyond the traditional left and appeals to former Tory, Lib Dem and UKIP voters. They want mainstream, centre-ground appeal and a focus on winning power.  London Mayor Sadiq Khan provides the most tangible focus  for this strategy today.  He won from the centre with an inclusive campaign and was not deterred by a hostile media.

Fans of the beleaguered Jez, meanwhile, who coalesce around groups such as Momentum, argue that Labour should embrace a hotch-potch of left-wing causes and become a champion of extra-parliamentary social change. They whine that their beloved Jeremy is being undermined by the press and ‘traitors’ in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

These rancorous divisions were absolutely at the heart of socialist politics in the 1980s too, but were losing their resonance by the latter part of the decade. Once we reached the early 1990s, the debate seemed to be almost buried as the centrists finally prevailed.  History demonstrates that the moderates’ strategy was 100% correct, as four consecutive election defeats were turned into three consecutive victories under Tony Blair.

It seems extraordinary that in the summer of 2015, we should turn the clock back. But that’s effectively what happened.  In electing Corbyn, many well-meaning people felt that they were embracing a fresh start and a new direction for Labour. In reality, they were clambering in to a battered time machine, with a dial pointing towards 1985 – an era when many young Corbynistas were not even born.

As I’ve already argued, this is the period in which Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott and other relics of London Labour politics feel most comfortable. It provides a temporal anchor for their Weltanschauung and makes them go misty-eyed. While most people tapped their feet to Spandau Ballet, these left-wing political activists danced to a different tune.  It was one of dogma, demonstrations and defiance. But also marked by defeat.

Much of what is going on today is an attempt to replay the 1980s, with the idea that the result will somehow be different this time around. If you want to understand Corbynism, you need to understand this milieu from which his politics stems.

Earlier on, I mentioned Ted Knight’s visit to my peculiar peace camp three decades ago. In February this year, the veteran firebrand was brought out of retirement for a Momentum meeting at the Karibu Centre in Brixton, south London.  The 82-year-old leftwinger understands exactly the connection between his battles in the 1980s and Corbyn’s agenda today.  

“A Labour cut,” Ted reportedly proclaimed, “is no better than a Tory cut. Any cut is wrong.”
With this remark, he shows us the thread which links Corbyn’s agenda today with the ultra-left policies of a generation ago.

No cuts. No financial prudence or management. Just constant borrowing, spending and taxation.

For the record, Momentum was welcoming a man who was barred from sitting on the council for five years in the 1980s after a district auditor’s report found that he, and over 30 other Lambeth members, had engaged in ‘wilful misconduct’ in refusing to set a budget.

The craziness and confusion continued in Lambeth for some years – first under Linda Bellos, whose association with the Labour Party Black Sections movement brought her into conflict with Neil Kinnock, and then under the leadership of Joan Twelves.

As late as the start of the 1990s, Twelves and a dozen other councillors were suspended from the Labour Group for advocating non-payment of the Thatcher poll tax.  (They also revived the tradition of Lambeth having its own foreign policy by holding a council meeting to oppose the eviction of Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.)

Twelves tried to rejoin the Labour Party last year, but received a rejection letter. Presumably she sensed that the clock had moved back some 25 years as a result of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. Bizarrely, her maverick local MP Kate Hoey – best known for her support of Brexit – backed the radical leftwinger’s case for readmission.

It’s important to connect up the dots and to explain to the current generation of Labour activists that the policy agenda offered by Corbyn is in no way new. From the belief in endless and unlimited spending through to support for unilateral nuclear disarmament, the roots can all be traced back in time.  Not to the successful Labour governments of Attlee and Wilson though.  Back to the eccentric and failed experiments of the decade in which I camped on Clapham Common.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Corbynistas claim the 1940s as their own. Think instead of the 1980s.

What a fool I’ve been.

I seem to have spent a fair proportion of the past year debating with supporters of Jeremy Corbyn online.

I know.

It’s time I’ll never get back. But because I care about the Labour Party, I just can’t help myself.

As I’ve said in previous posts, the Corbynistas are the oddest collection of people, who defend their cause with a religious fervour. They are frequently bombastic and blinkered, often rude and rambunctious and, very occasionally, soppy and sentimental.

But sadly, one fairly common trait is a very muddled sense of history.

Many people who spent recent years slagging off the Labour Party are now members of it and claiming disingenuously to have its best interests at heart. And quite a few don’t really seem to know very much about previous Labour governments.

We realise, of course, that the name Blair is synonymous from their point of view with ‘war criminal’. I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of the Iraq issue here. Chilcot – remember him? – knocked together 2.6 million words on the subject.

I’m more struck by some of the ignorance about Wilson and Callaghan.

I sense that many of the new members and registered supporters of Labour only have the vaguest notion that the progressive governments of the 1960s and 1970s ever existed.

And if pressed for an administration in which they can show pride, they return to 1945. Even the three-quid brigade of budget interlopers have heard of Attlee, although a number of the people who reference him can’t spell his name.

It’s worth pausing for a moment to reflect on this obsession with the 1940s.

The last government these people believe did anything positive for working people came to power over seven decades ago. Bizarrely, it seems to be the reference point for leadership challenger Owen Smith too.

According to John Bew of King’s College London, Corbyn’s claim to be the natural heir to Attlee is tenuous to say the least. The academic’s excellent article in the New Statesman last year explains how the post-war Prime Minister detested the ‘faddish radicalism’ that the current Labour leader represents.

Bew reminds us that the 1945 administration was not only responsible for the NHS and the creation of the modern welfare state, but also presided over severe austerity and wage freezes – the stuff of nightmares for any ordained Jezuit. And that’s before we even consider the question of defence and the UK’s nuclear capability, which was first approved during the Attlee years.

So when Jez’s supporters talk of their politics being an extension of timeless Labour principles, they are actually being highly misleading. The philosophy of the Islington North MP is actually quite distinct from the mainstream of the Labour Party, with its particular emphasis on protest, pacifism, liberation politics and extra-parliamentary action.

This particular ideological strand was bubbling away in the 1970s in local government and exploded onto the main political stage during the first years of Margaret Thatcher’s administration. It is actually what became popularly known during the 1980s as the politics of the ‘loony left’ – a phrase we hear mentioned rather less today, perhaps because of understandable concerns over its political incorrectness.

To me, the connection between what’s happening today and the events of the early 1980s are glaringly obvious. That’s because it was the experimental and radical policies of these urban leftists that first attracted me to the Labour Party and protest movements as a young teenager.

At the age of 14 or 15, my hero was one Ken Livingstone – the man who notoriously staged a ‘palace coup’ within the ruling Labour group of the Greater London Council in 1981 and proceeded to become a serious thorn in the side of both Tory and Labour leaders alike. He championed cheap fares on the buses and tubes and challenged the Tories over policing in an era of disaffection and riots. He even turned London into a so-called ‘nuclear free zone’.

In many respects, I was the equivalent of today’s typical young, idealistic Corbynista. I looked for radical change in a bitterly divided and unequal society and liked what I saw at the GLC.

I wasn’t connected with one of the hard-left factions such as Labour Briefing, which had been instrumental in organising activists in constituency parties. I was involved after the event: a hanger-on, with a strong commitment to single issues such as nuclear disarmament and the campaign against Apartheid in South Africa.

My drift away from this type of protest politics was a gradual and natural process throughout the 80s. By the latter half of the decade, I was involved in the National Union of Students and I saw the disruption and perpetual agitation of Trotskyists and fellow travellers, which is enough to make anyone weep.

Critically, I also saw Labour lose elections very badly.

The allure of the left was fast disappearing for me and I found myself becoming more pragmatic and more desperate than ever for a victory over the Conservatives. After the sickening defeat in 1992 to John Major, when I was chairing Frank Dobson’s Constituency Labour Party in inner London, I was already at a point where I would have embraced the politics of Tony Blair.

I recount this history to set a context.

Corbyn’s politics are not old, as they didn’t really exist before the 1970s. But they’re most certainly not new. In parallel with Tony Benn’s battle for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party at the start of the 1980s, they began to permeate the structures of branches and constituencies. They became dominant in a number of town halls, particularly in London, causing the national Labour leadership great embarrassment.

Embattled Labour Leader Michael Foot was drawn into a near-impossible dispute in the Bermondsey by-election of 1983, when he was challenged to disown Labour’s candidate Peter Tatchell – best known today for his advocacy of LGBT rights. The would-be MP was to be the victim of a scurrilous campaign by the Liberal/SDP Alliance and faced a torrent of abuse for his sexuality. But at the time, he was also someone who epitomised the new, radical urban left and its distinct policy agenda.

Here’s how Tatchell describes his pitch to the party selection meeting in his book, ‘The Battle For Bermondsey’:

“I emphasised the importance of extra-parliamentary struggle to carry out a left-wing programme which included withdrawal from the EEC and NATO, troops out of Ireland, extended public ownership under workers’ control, a 35-hour week and an £80 national minimum wage, opposition to nuclear power, abolition of the House of Lords and private medicine, democratic control of the police, positive action for women and ethnic minorities, repeal of racist immigration laws, unilateral nuclear disarmament and its replacement by a system of territorial defence with a citizens’ army, and a new international economic order to secure development and justice for the exploited poor countries of the world.”

Sound familiar?

This would have been the type of programme that Corbyn would happily have endorsed in the same period, as candidate for Islington North. To be honest, he would still accept much of it today, although if we were very lucky, he might couch the odd phrase or two a little more diplomatically.

The point is there is a clear thread that runs directly from this strand of political thinking at the beginning of the 1980s right through to 2016.

Neil Kinnock, who took over as Labour Leader after Michael Foot’s defeat in the 1983 general election, is best known for facing down the Trotskyist Militant Tendency – an organised workerist movement with its own parallel structures, which had a policy of direct infiltration of Labour and trade union branches.

But Kinnock had a hard time all round.

He also had to grapple with the old-style Communist politics of miners’ leader Arthur Scargill, whose centre of gravity was closer to the Soviet Union. And what is less well remembered is that the Welshman was also locked in a battle with the ‘trendy’ metropolitan left and its much parodied ‘loony’ policies.

No issue at this time was more sensitive than that of Northern Ireland. The Republican bombing campaign in mainland Britain was a constant topic of conversation.

In an article in The Times in December 1984, Anne Sofer – a GLC Member who defected from Labour to the SDP – asked whether Kinnock ever read the Labour Briefing publication. Her question was prompted by the content of the paper in the aftermath of the bombing of the Tory Party conference some three months earlier.

While she acknowledges that the Briefing editorial board did admit to being ‘stunned’ by the atrocity and offered their sympathy for the ‘dead and their kin’, she also quotes them as running a headline on their editorial which read: ‘Get Thatcher’s Terrorist Troops Out Of Ireland’.

The paper said that it ‘refused to parrot the ritual condemnation of violence’ and further argued that it was ‘important to harness the murderous conflicts which we find all around us as creatively as we can’.

The following month, in the letters page, readers showed no alarm at these quotes. Far from it. They expressed concern that the paper had gone soft.

‘I wasn’t aware you borrowed editorials from The Daily Telegraph’, wrote one correspondent. Another justified the bombing on the grounds that it ‘tore into the ruling class and only them’.

Sound familiar?

Yes, these were the leftist trolls of the early 1980s. Unable to access social media, they had to resort to old-style pen and paper. They couldn’t see the impact of their words in an instant, but had to wait a month for a photocopying machine to whir into action.  We can only be grateful there were no retweets. Their words are preserved in Sofer’s book, ‘The London Left Takeover’.

I visited Brighton within a week of the Tory Party conference in 1984 and saw at first hand the devastation wrought on the Grand Hotel. I was shocked. But someone in Briefing wrote: ‘Is it legitimate for anti-imperialist guerrilla army to attempt to wipe out the Cabinet of the oppressor nation?’

The clash between this political culture and the one Kinnock was trying to build in the Labour Party nationally was enormous.

In the second half of this two-part post, I’ll highlight some more of the issues, conflicts and personalities that shaped Labour politics in the 1980s – many of which still have profound resonance on the battle for the soul of the party today.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

How moderate MPs have ended up dragging Labour leftwards

One of the things we automatically assumed about the Labour leadership race was that it provided one last chance to drag the party back into the mainstream. Jeremy Corbyn would be faced down by concerned MPs with a clear political agenda to make Labour electable once again. And if they failed – and Jez’s numerical strength within the party proved too much – at least the rebels would have laid down a clear marker for the possible launch of a centre-left alternative.

But something rather bizarre and unforeseen appears to be taking place.

Rather than shifting the centre of gravity back to the middle ground, this election is actually pushing Labour even further to the left.

Owen Smith, the MP for Pontypridd, managed to persuade his colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party that he should be chosen as the challenger to Corbyn, rather the much more experienced Angela Eagle.  Part of his pitch was that he could appeal more readily to the ‘soft’ Jez fans, who admired the current leader’s ideological zeal but despaired at his lack of competence.

Angela Eagle, Smith reminded his fellow MPs, had supported the Iraq War and the bombing raids on Syria. She was closely associated with the former Labour governments of Blair and Brown. The Welshman would come along with a clean pair of hands and make a direct appeal to the wayward and left-leaning party members.

What Smith didn’t make clear was just how much he would pander to the hard left.

First of all, there was the excruciating beatification of Corbyn as an individual. Jeremy had been ‘right’ about so many things, argued Smith in his leadership launch speech. This praise somewhat perplexed other parliamentarians, who were under the impression that the incumbent leader’s sole achievement had been to drive a 116-year-old party to the brink of extinction.

Before long, we were told that Corbyn was to be offered a non-existent Presidential role in recognition of his non-existent contribution to the Labour Party.  This status of spiritual leader presumably implies that his philosophy is to guide the movement’s political direction, even after he is relieved of any practical control.  It’s a little like removing an incompetent teacher from the classroom because he can’t keep control and follows his own curriculum, but then giving him an armchair in the staffroom from which to lecture his colleagues on best practice.

The second alarming aspect of Smith’s campaign is the challenger’s confident and bold assurances that he is an unashamed left-winger. This positioning has come as something of a surprise to people who have observed his more moderate pronouncements in past years.

Exactly how far was Smith prepared to take his posturing? 

Well, when asked, he stated that he was ‘massively to the left of Blair’. When I hear this claim, my first worry is that he may be lying, in which case I really don’t want to vote for him.  My next worry is that he may be telling the truth. In which case, I really, really don’t want to vote for him.

And then, of course, there are the policies.

As far as I can tell, there is only one area in which Smith is clearly to the right of Corbyn and that is on defence and security. The former Pfizer executive has made clear that he supports the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent and implied that he would launch the Trident missiles if required. 

While such talk will undoubtedly be reassuring to many of the voters Labour hopes to win back, Smith’s economic programme certainly won’t be.  It’s a hotch-potch of glib socialist soundbites, involving significant increases in borrowing, as well as higher taxes and renationalisation.

And now comes the interesting bit.

Corbyn is clearly alarmed that Smith might gain a foothold among some of his former supporters with all this radical talk. So Jez’s response is to is to try to outflank the former shadow cabinet member from the left.

It’s like a polarising game of proletarian poker.  I’ll see your spending plan and raise it.

Two particular contributions in recent days from the Corbyn camp have jumped out at me. The first is a commitment to compulsory collective bargaining by trade unions in organisations employing more than 250 people.  This involves the repeal of a piece of Blairite legislation from the late 1990s.

Corbyn is so bloody-minded and full of bitterness towards Blair, that he wants to cast aside the legislation of his own party.

He then talked about restricting the Prime Minister’s right to deploy special forces without parliamentary scrutiny.  This policy would not only be highly unpopular, because it would tie the hands of the UK in responding quickly to a crisis, but it is also thoroughly disingenuous, as Corbyn has never supported any military action by British forces at any time.

Smith’s leftward drift isn't genius, but more of a genie released from a bottle. If the would-be leader ousts Corbyn, he will be committed to a range of policies which are considerably more radical than those offered by Ed Miliband in 2015. Even if he only stuck to half of them, Labour would struggle to break the 30% barrier in a national poll.

If Jeremy comes through the election, on the other hand, he will claim a mandate for an even more outlandishly radical platform than the one which brought him victory last year. At that stage, all bets are off on how far Labour’s ratings may slump.

It reminds me of Michael Heseltine’s attack on the Labour government in 1976, in which he described the march of a ‘one-legged army, limping away from the storm they have created’. 

Left... left... left left left.