Thank you for your reply to my letter. Your words are a reality check. I have spent decades closely following economics and politics in various parts of the world and reading a lot of history. You, as you say, are not particularly political. You have pursued your career, played in a rock band and done really well. But the result of our different paths is that we think about politics in a different way. I have to admit that your way is probably more typical than mine.
The thing that strikes me, above all, about your letter is how much weight you put upon the personality of individual politicians. You write about whether or not they are consistent and dedicated to the good of the country. You are interested in their aspirations and feelings. You say that Jeremy Corbyn ‘puts people first’ and I concede that you might be right about his sincerity. On reflection — and this may sound odd — your emphasis on personalities may help explain why Margaret Thatcher won three elections. She, like Corbyn, had a passion and a belief in what she thought was good for the country which probably impressed people. Even Tony Blair claimed — with apparent earnest sincerity — to have found a ‘Third Way’ to make Britain a better place.
Your words are an important lesson for politicians. But for me, I hold to the view that policies matter more. Jeremy Corbyn has called himself a socialist and I see no reason to disbelieve him. As a backbencher, he consistently rebelled against his colleagues in the Labour party who are social democrats. If you look on YouTube, you will find a video of him endorsing Hugo Chavez, who was then the leader in Venezuela. Corbyn proclaims: ‘Chavez shows us that there is a different and better way of doing things. It’s called socialism.’ Since that video was recorded, Venezuela — once South America’s richest country — has become an economic disaster where people are suffering malnutrition and shortage of basic medicines. The poor have suffered most. I would like to suggest to you that any of us who want to help the poor should care not too much about kind words or bold aspirations, but above all about what works. I contend that socialism has repeatedly demonstrated that it doesn’t.
Respectfully and affectionately yours, James