by Ian Moss
The Labour leadership campaign has seen some pretty unedifying accusations about the commitment of members and candidates to the core purpose of Labour.
The hard left, gathering behind Jeremy Corbyn, are whipping up anger against those that have a different view of the best policy solutions to further Labour’s principles, to their pure form of socialism.
But policies such as public service reform are not important because they might be popular with voters, they are important because they help the very people that Labour is there to represent.
The policies the Corbynites are aggressively wedded to tend to be about structures – public ownership or democratic control. That is because Corbyn is a homeopathic politician in a world that is medically complex, happily doling out homespun remedies passed down from history instead of engaging with evidence and trying to find modern solutions.
A principle is ‘improve education outcomes for those from disadvantaged backgrounds” or ‘improve health outcomes whilst ensuring free healthcare at the point of access’. It is not a principle to ‘defend a certain organisational form of institutional delivery decided at a specific point in history’. Whilst the Corbyinte left may share the principles of the reformist right, he and his supporters appear to have no curiosity about what evidence exists on how those principles would best be implemented.
Corbyn stood up on television last week and said that the 50p tax rate would raise £5bn, a figure plainly picked out of the air and not close to the sceptical position on positive revenues suggested by the IFS, the recognised independent authority on this issue.
When pressed on this, his response that his source was “some research” “by “clever people”, made it clear that this is not a man with an inquisitive mind. (His ‘research’, of course, is arithmetically impossible, given the aggregate income of people earning over £150,000 in the UK, even in the unlikely event that they all paid it).
On all of the fundamental questions of how to improve outcomes for people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, Corbyn offers the usual measurements of the hard left of how much money can be spent and how much the state can control.
On welfare, NHS and Education there is no vision of reform, indeed reform is in itself a bad thing – something only “Tories” would contemplate. Unless reforms means to revert to structures where the users of public services were allowed to exercise no choice or control over the services they depend upon.
Tony Blair in 2006 bought competition into the National Health Service, offering patients the choice between providers. The evidence shows this saves lives. The hard left treat such reform as a fundamental betrayal of Labour’s principles.
Just consider that for a moment – a reform that has been shown to cause fewer deaths in the NHS is an anathema to the Corbynites that view public service reform as an ideologically Tory obsession. If Jeremy Corbyn is going to leave all attempts to improve public services to the Tories, those that rely upon them will not be looking to Labour to help them any time soon.
Of course we all have inherited views and prejudices – like I believe there is only one right way to roast a chicken and Heston coming along with his test tubes and thermometers is New Labour cooking gone mad. Only in the end I would hope that we can all agree when we have a serious problem that needs to be fixed there should be a bit of expertise on hand to help do it.
The internet enables those that believe in absurd propositions to find a whole community of people that will back them up with some great pseudo-science to arm them in debate. Anyone with a social media account can see the result of this community of misinformation every day in the hyper-concerned postings of the disappointingly credulous. This same echo chamber of inaccuracy is what currently allows the hard left to believe a great electoral future is available for their policies based on wild counter-factuals on how voters might behave when faced with a regressive, leftist policy programme.
Of course one of the most obviously absurd positions Jeremy Corbyn takes is that he supports actual homeopathy and he signed an Early Day Motion to that effect. I have no doubt that he is a very firm believer in the placebo effect; that is what he offers in politics- simplistic views on tax, on public services and on welfare that will not work, and offer no credible analysis of how to improve the lot of the people Labour is there to represent.
The rhetorical history of grievance Corbyn is peddling in this contest – that Labour isn’t left wing enough; that it hasn’t offered an alternative to the Tories; that the way to resolve all problems is more spending and more state control – may be tested again. But on this, the evidence of voters faced with a fiscally irresponsible left wing Labour party has a repeated experiment in history that returns the same result. From that evidence there is no doubt that the public, in a clear majority, know that the homeopathic remedies don’t work.
Ian Moss has worked across government and is now in public affairs