It would be easy to dismiss Jeremy Corbyn’s launch of the Labour party’s election campaign this week on the grounds that hardly anyone believes he has the slightest chance of becoming prime minister. But given that David Cameron was given a 0.5 per cent chance of winning a majority, and Donald Trump a 1 per cent chance of the presidency, it would be foolish not to take the main opposition party seriously.
At the very least, Corbyn’s ideas need to be examined in order to understand why Labour finds itself in the position it does, and why no party leader to the left of Tony Blair has won a general election in over 40 years. It’s also worth asking how, more worryingly, the Conservatives seem to be being dragged to the left, as they take inspiration from Ed Miliband’s 2015 manifesto.
There is much truth in Corbyn’s analysis of what is wrong with our economy and society. The gap between rich and poor has not increased in a quarter of a century, but it remains too wide. The economy is, in many important respects, rigged against ordinary people. Rock-bottom interest rates, which suit the needs of a debt-addicted government, have stoked an asset boom which has hideously disfigured the British economy. It has hoisted up the property ladder and forced young people to save (and borrow) extraordinary amounts for modest flats. Those with the most assets — i.e., the wealthiest — become increasingly rich.
There are indeed companies involved in practices which are best described as ‘ripping off’ the public. Tax evaders do place a burden on those who do pay their taxes. There are ‘profiteers feeding off the NHS’ — namely the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) companies which Tony Blair and Gordon Brown enlisted in their great debt–concealment scam.