In a lengthy and impassioned speech at the Labour party conference, Jeremy Corbyn claims his revolutionary agenda for the British economy has become “the political mainstream”, arguing that the political centre ground has shifted hard to the left over the last 20 or 30 years.
In his speech, the Labour leader promised to give rental property tenants new far-reaching rights, buy back ownership of British utilities companies, place strict rent controls on landlords and grant the state the power of compulsory purchase of properties left empty by investors.
That’s on top of reforms unveiled by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell in his conference speech on Tuesday, including buying back over £200 billion of PFI contracts, re-nationalising the railways and borrowing billions to develop a national investment bank.
What surprised me the most while I listened to Jeremy unveil his plan to transform Britain, was how he managed to pull off giving the impression that his reforms were in some way new.
He has taken tried, tested and failed policies – such as large-scale state control of industry, borrowing to “invest” and pilfering of private property – to new heights of popularity.
And that’s a worrying prospect.
I still contend that the majority of the British people remember what socialism did to our wealth and prosperity and how the reforms of the Conservative government under Thatcher lifted our country to levels of wealth and productivity never witnessed before.
But still…we’re talking about the British Labour party – representing Her Majesty’s official opposition – proudly promoting policies that resemble those of Hugo Chavez more than those of a free western democracy.
Maybe that’s what he’s going for. After all, Corbyn is the one who at the time of his election in 1999, described Chavez, the leader of one of socialism most recent victims, an “inspiration to all of us fighting back against austerity and neo-liberal economics in Europe”.
Len McClusky commented that “Europe might want to learn the obvious lessons from Venezuela”. But he said it, not as a warning to avoid follow in their footsteps, but as a call that we should actually copy them.
Chavez’s country of Venezuela is now a country in meltdown. Inflation is at nearly 800 percent. Power shortages and death from starvation are regularly reported. Poverty now sits at 82 percent.
Of course, they can always pull the old “it wasn’t real socialism trick”.
But every time socialism brings an economy to its knees, it becomes harder and harder to argue that the words ‘socialism’ and ‘prosperity’ are not mutually contradictory.
Despite the emotive rhetoric, and the chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” sung at this years conference, under the mask modern Labour represents the same old socialism we’ve worked so move on from.