Just how dangerous is Corbyn?


Just how dangerous is Corbyn?

It is the Labour moderates, not Corbyn who the Conservative leadership should fear the most, writes Evgeny Pudovkin. 

The last time the hard left took over the Labour party, things didn’t go smoothly. The party’s 1983 hard left manifesto prompted its MP to describe it as “the longest suicide note in history”. Bennites’ reputation for political innocuousness – a movement considered equally kind-hearted as it is soft-headed – had since become a conventional wisdom.

This time may be different. Jeremy Corbyn, perhaps the most left-wing politician in Europe, is two points ahead of Theresa May, the Conservative leader, as the public’s top choice for the Prime Minister. On the economy, too, Labour has tapped successfully into the electorate’s grievances. Britons, the Legatum Institute report demonstrated, are increasingly less averse to the government playing a greater role in the economy.

In the end, it is the anti-incumbency factor that can get Labour over the line. Brexit negotiations are an arduous process. Should the discussions take the wrong turn – or, worse, break down altogether due to either side’s fault – the opposition would stand ready to capitalise on it.

There is then the hurdle of implementing Universal Credit. Moreover, as the Social Market Foundation’s James Kirkup pointed out, with inflation on the rise, the caps on housing allowance benefit, put in place by previous government, will start to bite. That provides Labour with another stick to beat the Tories.

Corbyn’s premiership, in other words, is not something that can be dismissed. Cue the flurry of attempts to discern the contours of its agenda. Neither skeptics nor optimists beat around the bush. The Chancellor Philip Hammond said Labour poses an ‘existential challenge’ to the British economy. Commentators on the left, in their turn, expect no less from their leader than a full-blown transformation of the status-quo.

But can Corbyn’s government really bring about radical change? At first glance, his victory will be historic, installing in Downing Street perhaps the most left-wing politician in British history. Yet a closer look betrays several reasons to doubt the efficacy of the Labour executive.

As things stand, Corbyn’s victory at the next election is unlikely to be decisive. If Labour secures a majority at all, it will be wafer-thin. This, in turn, begs the question of Corbyn’s ability to push policies through parliament. Labour MPs, it is worth remembering, remain as divided as ever on the whole list of issues, be it the economy, Brexit, or immigration. Even the payroll vote defies the whip with worrying regularity.

Can Corbyn make his MPs toe the line? With 428 rebellions to his name as a backbencher in three Labour governments, he emerges as an unlikely as a poster boy of party loyalty. And while Corbyn was at least courteous with the whips, his closest acolyte, the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, exhibited less civility. Since then no love has been lost between him and the Blairites. To say this bodes ill for the party’s discipline would be an understatement.

If Corbyn’s ability to manage his backbenchers raises doubts, then so is the quality of his Cabinet. Clement Attlee’s oligopoly comprised Ernest Bevin, Hebert Morrison and Aneurin Bevan. Tony Blair, aside from Gordon Brown, had a prolific team of ‘spads’ at his side. In comparison, Crobyn’s retinue seems lackluster even on a good day.

Another factor that may constrain Labour is the economy. Whether post-war US loans were necessary for the development of the welfare state is moot. But the Marshall Plan certainly helped Attlee in his quest for universal provision of public services.

Blair, for his part, inherited from the Tories an auspicious economy. The budget deficit stood at 1%, the problem of debt overload then non-existent. The annual GDP growth was 3.1%, the inflation rate under 3% and stable, an opposite of ‘stagflation’.

Can Britain afford Labour’s Caracas economics today? The party’s promises include expensive subsidies to middle-class, re-nationalisation programme, universal welfare provision to the elderly, and new health and educational infrastructure. Of all these items only a fraction will actually be devoted to productive means. The Labour’s preferred option for funding all those pledges – taxing corporations and ‘the rich’ – will not be enough. Thus, the Bank of England will react to fiscal expansionism by raising interest rates. This can impede capital investment and, as a result, aggravate the productivity problem.

To some, that was the Corbyn’s brigade plan all along: to destroy the free-market economy through, in Marxist vernacular, accentuating the contradictions of capitalism. Asked what he felt during the 2008 crash, McDonnell said he felt vindicated. “This is a classic crisis of the economy, a classic capitalist crisis”, he claimed. “I’ve been waiting for this for a generation”.

There are, however, several issues with this “the worse it gets the better” thesis. To begin with, there is a difference between what politicians say and what they do in office. Preaching morals from the backbenches is one thing. Running stuff is quite another. If the government’s decisions damage people’s living standards, they won’t care much for what good cause they are meant to suffer.

McDonnell and Corbyn are thus bound to moderate their act, at least to some extent. And even if they do go rogue, both the media and civil servants will simply sit and watch. The government will face hostile briefs from civil servants. The dissent among the MPs will grow.

Seen in this light, Corbyn’s government is hardly the most threatening option for the Tories. The real danger still lies in Labour choosing a more moderate leader. Someone who, while emotionally invested in a leftist cause, is also intellectually alive to political realities.

The moderates have learned tricks from Corbyn’s playbook – employing radical rhetoric, promising middle-class subsidies, remaining evasive on Brexit and migration. They can also get stuff done. If one of them succeeds, he or she might lock a Tory out of Downing Street for more than a tenure.


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  • Evgeny Pudovkin
    Evgeny Pudovkin
    Evgeny Pudovkin is a journalist. His main interests include British domestic and foreign policy, Russia and foreign affairs.
    • Sinik

      I would agree that with each year bringing 800,000 new and naive voters to the polling booths, whilst 800,000 more experienced voters shuffle off this mortal coil, it is only a matter of time and ignorance before Labour get re-elected. I also agree that Labour will have a slim majority which will prevent them changing any laws. It’s difficult to see how Labour can get any major changes approved given its own Blairite MPs are likely to be set against punitively high levels of taxation, and large-scale nationalisation the country cannot afford. However, McDonnell and the Unions are the concerning factor here. Neither Unite nor McDonnell have any time for democracy and both have shown a fondness for political violence when it has suited them. There may be literal blood-letting if the Corbynites don’t get what they want – quite likely aimed at their own side.

      I do believe that 5 years of McDonnell and Corbyn in positions of actual power could put Labour out of power for a generation, possibly more. The electorate will be schooled by bitter experience of a hard-left government, just as always happens.

    • Joshuaatthewalls

      The problem is that they will push out any sensible MP’s by stuffing the Constituency parties with Momentum trolls . Then we will be left with intellectual idiots like the Hypocritical Lady Nugee AKA Emily Thormberry and the towering intellect of Diane Abbott.

    • obbo12

      In shock news Russian says a man who is anti nato isn’t a threat. What Evgeny Pudovkin means is Corbyn isn’t a threat to Russian territorial expansion

    • Andy

      Corbyn is a Fascist and like all Fascists needs to be defeated. To that end the Labour Party needs to be destroyed and we need a genuine Liberal Party to take its place.
      The only good thing any Socialist ever does in this world is the leaving of it.

    • britbob

      The problem is with Jeremy Corbyn is that once he gets something into his head like all nuclear is bad there is little scope for any compromise. Hence the Copeland disaster. Similarly, he fosters this belief that Argentina has a genuine Falklands grievance…
      Corbyn and the Falklands – Alicia Castro said regarding Corbyn: “In the end, he is one of ‘ours’. Even today, when he comes to our embassy, he arrives with the same bicycle and the same enthusiasm. He is a friendly person with a sense humour, who knows how to listen.” Alicia Castro, Argentinian ambassador quoted in Daily Telegraph 14 Sept 2015.
      I suppose the world has to go back to its 19th century borders because of a political whim?
      Falkland Islands – The Usurpation (1 pg): https://www.academia.edu/34838377/Falkland_Islands_The_Usurpation

    • Felt

      Corbyn IS dangerous because his place men infect our establishment. The hapless Tories under calamity DisMay meanwhile, are doing all they can to ensure he is the victor of the post LEAVE sell out election.

    • David Kane

      More pertinent is to ask, just how dangerous and deluded is Theresa May. In America Trump has just responded to the latest Islamic atrocity by shutting down Muslim immigration to America. In Hungary and Czechoslovakia there is no Islamic terrorism because there is no Muslim immigration. In contrast Mrs May and the home office have seen fit to allow another 425 returning Jihadists to join the 23,000 jihadists on an MI5 watch list, back “home” to Britain where they will be given rent free council houses and public sector jobs, some will no doubt be allowed to join our diversity police force. The country they left to go to Syria in order to destroy (read:”2030: Your Children’s Future in Islamic Britain” by David Vincent, Amazon and Kindle) is Britain, the country they hate with the laws they hate run by “Conservative” saps who are actively helping them achieve their aims. Mrs May and her government are a disaster, and one has to ask: If Corbyn and his Islamic terrorist supporting friends were now in her shoes, what would they be doing differently?

    • JohnInCambridge

      Perhaps because Lenin had visited London, he had no hope that revolution could be fomented here. The great hope of the Bolsheviks was Germany but there a home-grown and equally ruthless set of gangsters destroyed their hopes. Russia was totally unsuitable for their purposes; its economy had no ‘crowning heights’ to take over. It took total hypocrisy and total tyranny for them to gain and hang onto power for 70 years. What made Britain proof against Bolshevism was the lack of existing tyranny. Although Engels was a Manchester industrialist he seems not to have noticed that life had been getting steadily better for the ‘proletariat’. Victorian England had many idealists and, although Bolsheviks despised them (and still do), they prevented the level of despair which might have fomented revolution. Also, social mobility had always been a factor in Britain and if it was glacially slow, many families did gradually move up through the ‘class system’. It is laughable how nowadays many blatantly middle-class individuals hang onto, or invent, ‘Mockney’ accents and claim to be ‘working class’ even as their salaries get into 6 figures and above. So why do I think this article is too optimistic? It is the determined ignorance of the young and the excessive power conferred on them by social media and the rank cowardice of the current generation of politicians. This is proving a poisonous mixture. One other important factor is the blithe unawareness of Corbyn and his cronies of the Law of Unintended Consequences.They think that they can nationalise a few industries and ramp up taxes till the pips squeak and that nobody elsewhere in the world will notice. The Spaniards thought they were going to beat up enough Catalonians to get them under control just like Franco, but the world was watching and they had to backpedal. Corbyn’s incompetence alone will ensure an economic downturn but flight of foreign investment will make things much worse very quickly. The 70s and Red Robbo may well look positively benign by the time sense prevails… not that the young lefties with their certainty that Margaret Thatcher was a criminal have a clue about that period anyway.

      • Whitehouse75p

        the 70s were like 50 years ago man

        it’s the 80s people are worried about – pony tailed yuppies buying up london while kids up north go hungry in the streets

        corbyn’s talking about better wages and lower rents, and guys like you and presumably this mad right ring blog written by a russian… are still obsessed with nazis and commies, like that even means anything for england any more

    • ethanedwards2002

      Not just Corbyn what about his cohorts? What about his goon squad the Momentum nutters?
      Scary stuff.

    • PierrePendre

      Modern voters may have forgotten, or never knew, what the 1970s were like but if the Corbynites destroy the free market economy, they won’t be able to erase people’s comparative memory of what a free market economy was like. It’s also true that if you are badly off in a free market economy cushioned by a welfare state, you will probably be worse off in a welfare state unsubsidised by the taxes a free market economy generates. The poor whom Labour in office always betray will rapidly suss this out. There are too many unknowns for us to predict accurately at this stage what a Labour government would be like which would depend on the size of its majority and the Left/Right balance in the PLP. Even if McDonnell were able to enact his wildest dreams, the verdict of the economy on any government is always decisive. A two point difference in Corbyn’s favour at a time when May is still lamed by her election gaffe doesn’t indicate a country keen to sovietise itself. It’s not even a reliable anti-incumbent indicator. Labour might do better with a middle of the road leader but the moderates lack the firepower to take on Momentum either in parliament or the CLPs. Corbyn’s bumbling teddy bear appeal could well be cancelled out by McDonnell’s aggression; the more noise he makes, the more he frightens swing voters.

      • geo

        I well remember the 70’s. I remember the endless strikes with fraudulent and intimidatory “show of hands” votes. How bloody awful the nationalized industries were. I remember wanting to send £35 to the USA for a magazine subscription … and having to fill in forms to get permission to send the currency out of the country. and I remember what a laughing stock of europe we were.
        I’ll be reminding as many people of this as I can the closer we get to an election. The special snowflakes who thing socialism is so good would wither and die – they are about as hardy as a hothouse flower in a scottish summer would be.

    • Martin Adamson

      The mere fact that you’re talking about Parliamentary tactics and procedures shows that you don’t understand what the threat is. Marxists did not take over Imperial Russia, eastern Europe after 1945, China, Vietnam, Cuba etc etc by winning elections. They took over by subverting the media, educational establishments, the Police, the Civil Service, the Judiciary and the other key institutions of the State. That’s where the threat is – those key institutions are already dangerously hollowed-out, and it won’t take much more effort to collapse them entirely. Once that happens, we’ll find out just how little Parliament and elections are worth.

      • gélert

        The key institutions you refer to have been corrupted by the Common Purpose training that is mandatory for all their upper echelons.

    • fred finger

      Corbyn is the puppet, as shown by his continual lecturing approach. His ideal is standing on a soap box and spouting off, with his constant theme of all things must be solved by dialogue. To show his lack of integrity, he wants to be PM, but says he will NEVER press the button. A person of integrity under those conditions would refuse to become PM, but he does not have integrity. He spouts off about all the things he will fix, but the reality of where the funds will come he knows they are a pipedream; he has no integrity.

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