Who’s Afraid of Jeremy Corbyn?

jeremy-corbyns-labour-leadership-bid-gathers-pace-as-supporters-flock-to-rally_1What is it about Jeremy Corbyn that sends shivers up the collective spine of his fellow MPs?  An alternative to  Maggie  Thatcher’s,  Tina (There is  No Alternative) embrace of the Market, that’s what.

His election this month  as the UK Labour Party leader signals a dramatic change of direction for New Labour which had under Tony Blair, found its home in the centre of politics. But the centre in the UK and New Zealand, has become extreme and to some extent dictatorial.

It’s what happens when politicians fall head over heels for Market dogma as they have here since 1984. Even after MMP was introduced, Prime Ministers Bolger, Shipley and John Key have all rammed through measures like asset sales, which the majority of Kiwis opposed.

None of this would fit Corbyn’s agenda which is or once was, standard Labour policy here and in the UK. Yet even the possibility of Corbyn’s election seems to have maddened former PM Tony Blair, who said it would lead to the Party’s ‘annihilation’. Goodness. But then could it be that Blair wasn’t so much ranting at Corbyn as bemoaning the loss of his sometimes questionable legacy.

So what are Corbyn’s policies? He wants to scrap university tuition fees. How rad can you get? He is opposed to that market favourite, austerity measures. He wants higher taxes (50%) on the very rich.  The Independent reported that the research company YouGov found 56 per cent of the public support a 75 per cent top rate of tax similar to that proposed by France’s Francois Hollande, with only 31 per cent opposed.

He wants to renationalise the railways, and 60% of the population back him on the issue. The Independent also reports that two-thirds of Britons support his views on nuclear disarmament. Corbyn opposes the £100bn renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear system and has campaigned across the world for the scrapping of weapons of mass destruction. Weapons of mass destruction? Wasn’t that the rationale from the George Bush/Tony Blair script to justify the invasion of Iraq?

Finally there’s something more for the Tories/New Labour to angst over. The Independent reported online research by YouGuv showed that Corbyn is one of the most popular public figures in the country – while David Cameron is the most hated.

Across the Atlantic Corbyn’s policies have been examined by the New Yorker which ran a story   headlined ‘Five Things Jeremy Corbyn has right’. http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/five-things-jeremy-corbyn-has-right   Among them: figures which show austerity isn’t the answer. The New Yorker’s story article went on to quote a public letter written by 35 economists and last month.

It said: It is the current government’s policy and its objectives which are extreme. The attempt to produce a balanced public sector budget primarily through cuts to spending failed in the previous parliament. Increasing child poverty and cutting support for the most vulnerable is unjustifiable. Cutting government investment in the name of prudence is wrong because it prevents growth, innovation and productivity increases, which are all much needed by our economy, and so over time increases the debt due to lower tax receipts.

So who’s afraid of Jeremy Corbyn? Ideologues in Britain’s government who  want to see the state whittled down to a shadow of its former self.   Now, even with the press largely on their side along with numerous right-wing think tanks, they have been confronted by a popular and, in their eyes,  perilous  possibility: change.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.