Jeremy Corbyn enjoyed a volatile beginning to his tenure as leader of the Labour party. After his victory in the 2015 Labour leadership election, he faced ridicule, criticism, continuous front bench resignations and a vote of no confidence in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum. He survived, and after a strong showing in the June ’17 general election, he now holds a firm grip on power in the party. Backed by activists in Momentum, the talk is of deselection non-conforming MPs and the party has definitively broken with its recent past. No-one would now openly identify as a Blarite, as doing so is tantamount to political suicide.
While a few centrists, such as Tristram Hunt and Jamie Reed, chose to step down rather than tow the line of the far left, most have surrendered to the new order and have caved to demands of increasing ideological purity.
An example is Owen Jones, the high-profile political commentator and Labour activist. He was an early doubter of Corbyn’s electability, but has since desperately attempted to get back in the fold by showing overzealous enthusiasm for extreme left-wing policies. In a recent column he argued for nationalization of the UK banking sector. He proposed a form of co-operative model ‘of democratic ownership that can, in time, be extended to the rest of the economy.’ Not exactly middle-of-the-road stuff. This is what is needed to appease the Momentum zealots. Adopting a worldwide tendency on the left, the modern Labour party is preaching tolerance and diversity while shutting down dissenting viewpoints, quelching free debate and suppressing intellectual pluralism.
Indeed, the party many expect to enter government within the next few years could be accused of turning into something that resembles a Marxist sect. At the recent conference in Brighton, t-shirts emblazoned with the dear leaders image, a portrait of him wearing a halo, chants of ‘oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ and an (abandoned) idea of having him ‘walk on water’ gave rise to talk of a personality cult.
The demise of internal debate in the party has potentially grave consequences. Emboldened by their electoral success with a manifesto described as the ‘most leftwing since Michael Foot’, the Labour leadership can be expected to present an even more extreme programme at the next general election. But the hardcore socialists are unlikely to want to stop there. Should the party gain an outright majority, the writing on the wall seems clear – and ominous. Having dispensed with any internal opposition, once in government the hard left will have free reins to implement increasingly extreme policies in an attempt to achieve the ‘transformation of capitalism’ John McDonnell (in one of his more sedate moments) has described his ambition as (we call him out as a Marxist here). One can expect the left-wingers to make the most of a situation the long-term rebellious backbenchers would have never dreamed of finding themselves in. When one has been waiting for the opportunity to overthrow capitalism for a generation, as McDonnel has, one is unlikely to waste the opportunity once in a position of power.
It is time for Britain to wake up! The idea that Corbyn would be a mainstream social democrat in Scandinavia, as has been claimed, is wrong. While Corbyn may proclaim to want to match Scandinavian levels of income taxation and welfare benefits, he has no tolerance for other characteristics of the Scandinavian economies, such as private delivery of public services or more flexible labour markets (we have argued that the Scandinavian model is both less socialist and less successful than perceived here). There is nothing mainstream about the new hard-left Labour. An unapologetically socialist party is on the rise. Corbyn and his hard-left cohorts have long harboured a radical political vision but had to make due with making noises on the back benches. That has changed, and nothing less than the future of Britain as a functioning economy is at stake. Given 5 years in power, the potential damage from their economically illiterate policies is substantial. To compound the problem, a Brexit-obsessed, dysfunctional, bickering, incompetent Tory party with no courage to present an alternative vision, seems unable to stem the red tide. A bleak socialist future looks increasingly likely.