Saturday, 30 January 2016

A piece on Corbyn, written for Tories

I support Jeremy Corbyn but I know that many find the prospect of him in power a scary one. He has been labelled - “an unreconstructed Trot” and a “danger to our national security”. However, many might be surprised to discover that they agree with him much more than they thought.

Are you happy that companies like Google are allowed to “make a deal” with the Revenue to pay a derisory amount of tax? Tens of billions of pounds are lost to the nation by these “sweet-heart deals” and the use of tax-havens, which are only accessible by the very rich. Meanwhile, decent taxpaying British companies find themselves undercut. Successive governments have acted as if we have no choice except to put up with this, like we put up with the weather. This issue is a priority for Corbyn, who is advised by leading experts in the field.

The damage caused by recent floods in Yorkshire would have been prevented if money had not been “saved” in 2011 by not building recommended flood defences. The taxpayer will now pay much more as a result of this false economy. Corbyn has been very clear that while he is committed to reducing the deficit, when it comes to floods: - “Cuts in public expenditure are not the answer. You’ve got to be prepared to invest in flood defences…”

Did you think it was wise - economically, politically and in relation to national security - to invite the Chinese Communist Party into the heart of our nuclear power industry? It would make more sense to borrow at historically low interest rates to invest for the nation and to keep future profits in the UK. This is very much the kind of investment Corbyn advocates. Germany under Angela Merkel does the same. 

Much of the UK rail network is currently operated by the state-owned companies of France, Germany and the Netherlands. Arriva, for example, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway company. These companies put up the fares, take the subsidies and then it is the taxpayers of their countries who benefit from the profits. Corbyn wants to bring back the railways into UK public ownership, as and when the franchises come to an end. There is widespread public support for such a policy.

In the last 12 months the estimated cost of the Trident replacement has gone from £100 billion to £167 billion and it is expected to go much higher. Corbyn’s intervention has already ensured that the country will now have a proper debate. His view that there should not be a Trident replacement, is not “extreme”. It is shared by Tories like Crispin Blunt MP, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who has said: - "The price required (to replace Trident), both from the UK taxpayer and our conventional forces, is now too high to be rational or sensible."

Millions of Britons live in poverty. Many are forced to use food banks. These are not “scroungers”: many are people with disabilities; many are children; many live in households where someone is working hard for long hours and earning below the Living Wage. Corbyn’s approach is straightforward - such poverty is unacceptable in one of the richest countries in the world. A one nation Tory like Harold Macmillan would probably have agreed.

Corbyn is not getting a fair and balanced hearing in the media. Partly, this is due to his own mistakes and inexperience and an admirable (or foolish) refusal to make it a priority to please the media. It is also because he is taking on the most powerful interest groups in the country.

Corbyn did not spend years plotting to reach the top. He is principled. Even his political enemies generally acknowledge that he is decent and sincere. He lives a simple, somewhat frugal lifestyle. He does not spin. He tries to answer questions - sometimes to his own detriment. In many respects, he is the kind of politician that people have been saying they want.

Some of the world’s most eminent economists are advising Corbyn on his economic policy. It cannot fairly be described as “extreme”. Corbyn is a far more sophisticated and pragmatic politician than the lazy, abusive label of “unreconstructed Trot” suggests.

Corbyn is not weak on national security. He is wary of launching wars. He alone of current front-ranking UK politicians opposed the Iraq War. The threat from IS can to a great extent be traced back to that disastrous decision. People may not agree with them but Corbyn’s views on national security deserve to be listened to with respect.

Some scoff at Corbyn’s frequent references to a “kinder’ Britain.  But Britain is a harsh place for many and both rich and poor would benefit from a kinder approach.