Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Dear Mr. Corbyn, If You Want To Win The Next Election...

I'm writing an open letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn because we need a leader who will represent the country, not selected special interest groups, implementing policies that benefit us all instead of enriching one group at the expense of another. tl;dr: get off the see-saw and do something wonderful instead. I've got some ideas...

Dear Mr. Corbyn,

congratulations on winning the leadership of the Labour Party. At last, after years of being Tory Lite, the party can get back to doing what it was supposed to be doing since the Blairites took over: representing working people. This is good, we need a real, genuine choice after years of being stuck with Three Shades of Blue. You certainly are popular despite the press assertions that the opposite is true. How I laughed when I learned that at least one Liberal Democrat has defected to join your ranks! The media had breathlessly insisted that a wave of disaffected Labour MPs would be flocking to the Liberal Democrat party, but I've yet to see the evidence thereof.

You're in the honeymoon stage at the moment, basking in the afterglow of victory with the party faithful at your side. I'd like to see that number increase to give Labour a real chance of winning the next election. What you don't want to do is alienate the supporters you have while putting the rest of us off. With that in mind I have a few suggestions.

1. Get off the class war bandwagon

I see this over and over and over again. This is what I call dinosaur politics. This is not about the landed gentry V the rest of us. Consider that former hedge fund manager who just jacked up the cost of a drug required by patients with compromised immune systems. He may be rich and privileged now but that wasn't always the case. The point is, if you do the class war thing, you're barking up the wrong tree. The real enemy is the multinational corporations that actually control all the wealth.

This is where you lose people

The trouble with Socialism is that many Socialists can't let go of the class war paradigm in which the bourgeoisie and the rent-seeking landed aristocracy collude to keep the proletariat poor to keep themselves rich. This makes it hard for thinking people to take you seriously AND it explains the outright persecution of the educated professionals whenever there has been a left-wing revolution: an us-and-them paradigm has no place for a middle ground and the last thing it needs is people who can effectively articulate what they think.

This is how you can win them over

If you want to get right-leaning conservatives like me who hate what austerity is doing to this country — and to the world — on board, stop over-generalising about and scapegoating us. I'm not going to vote for a party that swaps the fox that guards the henhouse for another fox. It's time to leave that nonsense behind and to encourage people to believe in an inclusive community in which all are welcome, whatever their background.

2. Develop an ideology that describes the world we actually live in

One of my biggest bugbears about Socialism is the fact that it defines the world in terms that didn't even fully apply when it was in the process of being conceived. If I'm right, then in a nutshell it's about who owns and controls the means of production: the people who do the actual work or the owner/boss who pays them as little as they can get away with. This is not the world we live in. The fact is, the advent of the consumer society and the decimation of our manufacturing industry has left us with an economy built mostly on retail and services. Call centre workers like myself do not produce anything but purchase orders, we don't actually create wealth as such so the arguments used to support the traditional Socialist positions are clunky and tend to fall flat. Result: many of the Socialists I've interacted with appear to be from a different planet to this one.

This is where you lose people

The black-or-white thinking that demands the demonisation of property ownership and private enterprise is predicated on the notion that your ideology is flawless and covers all eventualities. It doesn't. You can't centrally plan an economy and expect it to work because there are too many variables, e.g. fluctuations in global market, natural disasters, wars, etc. You certainly can't control the market from both ends: the forces of supply and demand are ever-present. This is why blue jeans were in demand at the height of the Cold War and no amount of railing at the decadent West could stop it.

This is how you win them over

Small businesses, even medium-sized and large ones, are not the enemy of the workers. While it's true that we need essential services such as healthcare, social services, fire and rescue, education, and infrastructure to be tax-funded, the rest of our demands and needs, particularly things like food, can be met via market forces. There is nothing wrong with companies like BUPA as long as they do not infringe on the National Health Service's ability to provide healthcare free to all at the point of delivery. When you renationalise the railways (and I think you should, they're awful!) please consider letting the likes of Mr. Branson continue to run Virgin Rail services alongside our tax-funded ones. He can pay rental fees for using the lines and help ease congestion on busy lines by running his trains on them. People can choose whether or not to use them and he'd end up competing on service as much as price.

I realise the way I'm talking here is anathema to dyed-in-the-wool Socialists but sir, the world has moved on from the days when little kids worked in factories, at least here in Britain, and if Socialism is to become relevant it needs to at least describe the world we live in accurately. It doesn't. And it needs to provide solutions that match up with our needs or we will exercise our privilege as political consumers and shop elsewhere.

3. Embrace capitalism — and tame it

One of the reasons why Tory propaganda against Socialism has been so effective is that it's rooted in truth. I remember the Winter of Discontent that gave us Thatcher. And I remember Thatcher. You know your party has got it wrong when the unions that supposedly give it power turn against it. James Callaghan's government had no plan for dealing with extreme weather events, and when the bubble caused by Tory policies burst, Labour's plan for cleaning up the mess was scuppered by the oil price shock. You know this, you were there. But did you see it coming? Capitalism is not going to go away, and fighting it is futile.

This is where you lose people

When you demonise capitalism you effectively demonise human nature and deny the reality thereof. Competition is good and healthy, there's no reason why we shouldn't have it. When I hear Socialists bashing capitalism on principle it annoys me because right behind that is "Property is theft." And immediately I remember that state capitalism is a feature of communist regimes. It IS capitalism if your side does it.

This is how you win them over

Argue that the market is not free and that when there's little in the way of competition to balance the needs of the demand-side with the supply-side, the government needs to intervene. The market does not self-correct; the supply-side either runs out of paying customers and moves on or closes down. This is a failure in the market, not success. An economy that requires some people to be poor to ensure that others are wealthy is the wrong economy.

There is no such thing as a free market, but market forces do exist and should be respected. Workers should be paid a fair share of the wealth they create by the services they provide, perhaps via a profit-sharing scheme. CEO pay can definitely be capped at 20 times the rate of the lowest paid worker so when the boss gets a pay rise, so does everyone else. The minimum wage needs to rise to £10 an hour by 2020. When people start to scream about inflation you can gently remind them that the money flowing into the nation's coffers can pay back our national debt and fund our state-sponsored services. Private and social enterprise can work perfectly well with the government but the key is to not let them take over essential services to the detriment of the public.

4. Represent all of us

One of the reasons I joined the Pirate Party in the first place is because, even though I'm basically conservative, the Pirates represent my interests better than any of the other parties do. The reason is, they don't demonise whole sections of society like the Socialists and the Neoliberals do.

This is where you lose people

The trouble with the balkanising my-way-or-the-highway politics we have now is that you're either on the see or the saw, the left or the right. Perpetuating that may win you people who hate the Tories (I prefer you to them) but it has the same effect on people who hate Socialists. Again: let go of the dinosaur politics and work on winning over the educated professionals who work hard for their things. It's not a sin to take holidays abroad, to own a car, or to own a big house. What puts off people who might otherwise join you is the fear that you'll tax them into the floor for earning a decent wage.

This is how you win them over

Don't demonise them, invite them to join you and work to represent their interests, too. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to a better income stream and the rewards of a managerial role; encourage people to strive to be the best they can be. Don't bash the Royals, etc., they're not the problem, neoliberalism is. The attitude that some people must be poor that others may be rich is at issue. This is not true. There's plenty of room for the very wealthy as long as the rest of us can attain a decent standard of living.

5. Don't use the "R" word

The Right love to bandy the term "redistribution" about, the idea being that they think you're going to take their wealth and share it out among the denizens of Benefits Street (it's a Tory propaganda programme that bashes the poor). This is framing the debate in scare quotes. Don't let them do that.

This is where you lose people

Punitive tax rates ultimately hurt all of us, even if the very wealthy don't flee the country. The truth is they are clever enough to manipulate the figures to make it look as if they're bringing in less income than the high rate threshold. They also stash their money abroad in tax havens. 

This is how you win them over

Frame the discussion in terms of a shared economy in which we all have a stake, from the greatest to the least, from the richest to the poorest. Talk about return on investment, rich people love that phrase. Once you have explained what's in it for them they may well continue to argue but they won't win it. Instead of being the opposite of neoliberal, be better at what they promise to deliver than they are.

Final thoughts

You are doing very well at the moment, Mr. Corbyn. Your followers believe you can do no wrong and to our vast amusement the mainstream press is flipping its wig at the thought of you winning the next election. Given our Prime Minister's apparent love of making a huge fool of himself over policy, etc., chances are you will. But to guarantee moving into no. 10 Downing St., you will have to convince the nation that you can deliver on all of the things the Tories promised us: a reduction in the debt/deficit, increased employment, a higher standard of living, more affordable homes, and in addition to that, a robust welfare state and well-funded NHS. And if you deal with problems as they are even if the solutions go against your personal ideology, so be it. Let's just get them solved!

My wish list

Get rid of Trident, fracking, surveillance, and reduce the power of the military-industrial complex. Break the power of the international financiers currently making a mess of our economy. End the war on drugs and treat it as a health issue. Increase spending on green energy. Provide housing for the homeless by letting them take over derelict buildings and do them up themselves. Refuse to ratify TTIP, TISA, CETA, or any of the other alphabet soup FTAs. And for the good of the nation please initiate reform of our unfair "intellectual property" laws.

Yours sincerely,

Wendy Cockcroft (Mrs).


  1. We need change, Chris. Austerity doesn't work! Thank you for commenting. :)