Sunday, 18 October 2015

Corbyn can attract middle ground

Cameron`s "bold step on to the centre ground", whilst rightly criticised by some Observer writers for its contrast with years of right-wing policies, has apparently been made possible because "Labour vacated the ground in advance" (Cameron`s vision poses a challenge for Labour,11/10/15). What such an opinion ignores is the actual nature of this "territory". It is a broad area, and whilst Cameron`s anti-union and privatisation policies might appeal to some of its occupants, closer analysis of the parties` proposals, and less adherence to Blairite spin, would offer huge opportunities for Labour. Ellie Mae O`Hagan stressed how Corbyn needs to expose the Tories` "lack of substance", and perhaps a reminder of the pro-union Cospiracy and Protection Act passed by Disraeli`s "One Nation" administration would be helpful, but a more successful tactic would be to emphasise the broadly centrist nature of much of what the media terms his "hard left" proposals (Where Corbyn can attack by being slicker and smarter,11/10/15).
     The popular re-nationalisation of railways and energy should be viewed as part of a long-term economic strategy to reduce the massive £93bn annual corporate welfare bill, while the regulation of private landlords would benefit millions of tenants and aspiring home-owners, as well as the economy in general. Increasing the income tax rates for the very rich is essential for the maintenance of the basic elements of our welfare state, including schools and the NHS; insisting on higher levels of corporate tax simply puts the country on a more equal footing with our competitors; offering more than silly "smell the coffee" soundbites to make individuals and companies pay their fair share of tax appeals to all but the avoiders themselves.
     As many top economists acknowledge, governments` support for trade unions can help reduce inequality, and improve productivity. Quantitative easing for banks to re-capitalise, to the tune of £375bn, was never seen, even though there was no kickstart given to the economy, as economic madness in 2009, so why should it be described as such now, when the aim is to pay for essential infrastructure projects?  Does the middle ground not want to see increased social mobility, or believe that increased bombing of the Middle East by western powers actually increases the possibility of peace in the world? Is there general agreement that hedge funds in the City should be sold taxpayer-owned RBS shares for £1.1bn less than their value at any time, let alone at a time of austerity and belt-tightening?  Do the electorate really want nurses and teachers to be paid so little recruitment agencies have to "scour the globe" because of shortages (School heads trawl the world for recruits as UK teachers quit in record numbers,11/10/15)?
      It is a Tory myth that the so-called "centre ground" is up for grabs, just as the idea that Corbyn`s policies can best be described as "hard left". What is needed is for Labour to be given a fair hearing, and for Tory speeches focussing on "social reform, equality of opportunity and an assault on poverty" to be exposed as the propaganda and political posturing which they most definitely are.

Owen Jones is right in saying how Labour should play the Tories at their own game, and, "as a top priority", adopt a policy of "message discipline" (Let`s hammer our the anti-austerity message until the Tories` ears bleed,14/10/15). But why not take this a step further, and adopt some of the terminology, too? If Labour also had a "long-term economic plan", it would not only stop the silly Tory game of point-scoring by including the words in their obsequious, so-called questions at PMQs, but enable re-nationalisation of railways and energy to be viewed as essential, if the huge annual £93bn corporate welfare bill is to be reduced.
Jones suggests that the "work penalty" should be mentioned by Labour politicians at every opportunity, but this lets the Tories off too lightly. Viewers/listener/readers need to be reminded, too, of Hunt`s accusation that British people don`t work hard enough, especially perhaps, teachers putting in 60 hours a week, and doctors and social workers fleeing their impossible targets to work abroad. The fact that £375bn of quantitative easing was given to banks to kickstart the economy back in 2010, but doing no such thing, should be in Labour`s armoury, when outlining Corbyn`s plans for funding infrastructure.
    A challenge to the Tory nonsense about borrowing has to be made; a government that supposedly worries so much about future generations` debt is perfectly happy for graduates from ordinary backgrounds to leave university owing up to £40,000, and to encourage young people to take out massive mortgages to get on the housing ladder. One rule for young people, another for governments, even though interest rates have never been lower! 
 Corbyn is popular because he is different; his Labour can show it is different, too, by throwing "every bit of artillery" it has at the Tories` preposterous economic claims.

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