After the disastrous loss of Copeland in the February by-election – surely one of the factors that fed into Theresa May’s decision to go to the country early – Jeremy Corbyn said that he and his party were at an early stage in a “cumbersome” process of framing new policies, apparently through a process of roadshows, the national policy forum and, of course, “conference”.
“There’s also a question of democratic policy-making. That is slightly longer and more cumbersome than calling a few experts into my office to tell me what policies should be,” he said.
Well, no time for cumbersome democratic procedures now. I’d love to know the name of the poor soul who will be tasked with writing the document: if they tarry too long and leave a vacuum, then the Conservatives will happily define Labour’s policies for them. This Labour will very soon need to resolve some the most difficult issues that have already divided and demoralised the party, and to get workable policies, with or without expert help.
Granted some of Labour’s individual policies, such as that on free school meals, are eye-catching, funded and liked by the public. But not all are yet. What, then, will Labour’s policy offer be on the following:
First, Brexit. Is the party really going to campaign for a “Brexit that works for all” as Corbyn indicated? If so, then the Labour leader will have precisely the same approach and even slogan as the Prime Minister, and the same basic policy as Ukip, with none of the right wing parties’ unity and credibility on Europe. The voters will want to know:
- What will a Labour government’s negotiating priorities be?
- How would a Corbyn government limit EU migration, if at all?
- Will Labour offer the country a referendum on the terms of Brexit, with the option of staying in the EU when a deal is done?
Second, defence. Traditionally tricky for Labour and nothing new there. The questions are obvious :
- Will Labour undertake to fund a like-for-like Trident replacement?
- Will Labour honour the Nato commitment to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence?
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
1/11 He called Hezbollah and Hamas ‘friends’
True. In a speech made to the Stop the War Coalition in 2009, Mr Corbyn called representatives from both groups “friends” after inviting them to Parliament. He later told Channel 4 he wanted both groups, who have factions designated as international terror organisations, to be “part of the debate” for the Middle East peace process. “I use (the word ‘friends’) in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk,” he added. “Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No.”
2/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy’
Partly false. David Cameron used this as a line of attack at the Conservative Party conference but appears to have left out all context from Mr Corbyn’s original remarks. In an 2011 interview on Iranian television, the then-backbencher said the fact the al-Qaeda leader was not put on trial was the tragedy, continuing: “The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy.”
3/11 He is ‘haunted’ by the legacy of his ‘evil’ great-great-grandfather
False. A Daily Express exposé revealed that the Labour leader’s ancestor, James Sargent, was the “despotic” master of a Victorian workhouse. Addressing the report at the Labour conference, Mr Corbyn said he had never heard of him before, adding: “I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not doing the decent thing and going back in time and having a chat with him about his appalling behaviour.”
4/11 Jeremy Corbyn raised a motion about ‘pigeon bombs’ in Parliament
This one is true. On 21 May 2004, Mr Corbyn raised an early day motion entitled “pigeon bombs”, proposing that the House register being “appalled but barely surprised” that MI5 reportedly proposed to load pigeons with explosives as a weapon. The motion continued: “The House… believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.” It was not carried.
5/11 He rides a Communist bicycle
False. A report in The Times referred to Mr Corbyn, known for his cycling, riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle” earlier this year. “Less thorough journalists might have referred to it as just a bicycle, but no, so we have to conclude that whenever we see somebody on a bicycle from now on, there goes another supporter of Chairman Mao,” he later joked.
6/11 'Jeremy Corbyn will appoint a special minister for Jews'
False so far. The Sun report in December was allegedly based on a “rumour” passed to the paper by a Daily Express columnist who has written pieces critical of the Labour leader in the past. The minister did not materialise in his shadow cabinet.
7/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn wishes Britain would abolish its Army’
False. Another gem from The Sun took comments made at a Hiroshima remembrance parade in August 2012 where Mr Corbyn supported Costa Rica’s move to abolish it armed forces. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world…abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army,” he added. The caveat that “every politician” must take the step suggests Mr Corbyn does not support UK disarmament just yet.
8/11 Jeremy Corbyn stole sandwiches meant for veterans
False. The Guido Fawkes blog claimed that the Labour leader took sandwiches meant for veterans at at Battle of Britain memorial service in September but a photo later emerged showing him being handed one by Costa volunteers, who later confirmed they were given to all guests.
9/11 He missed the induction into the Queen’s privy council
True. After much speculation about Mr Corbyn’s republican views and willingness to bow to the monarch, his office confirmed that he did not attend the official induction to the privy council because of a prior engagement, but did not rule out joining the body.
10/11 Jeremy Corbyn refuses to sing the national anthem.
Partly true. The Labour leader was filmed standing in silence as God Save the Queen was sung at a Battle of Britain remembrance service but will reportedly sing it in future. Mr Corbyn was elusive on the issue in an interview, saying he would show memorials “respect in the proper way”, but sources said he would sing the anthem at future occasions.
11/11 He is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese
True. The group lists its purpose as the following: “To increase awareness of issues surrounding the dairy industry and focus on economic issues affecting the dairy industry and producers.”
Third, Scotland, already the subject of disarray:
- Will a Labour government allow a referendum on Scottish independence before Brexit?
- Is Labour in favour of a fully federalised UK with devolution for the English regions?
- Will Labour do a deal with the SNP to get into power, and at what price?
Fourth, the economy and public services. Lots here but here are some key questions:
- Will Labour publish a “shadow budget” with their tax, spending and borrowing plans audited by the likes of the Institute for Fiscal Studies?
- How much will Labour borrow compared to Conservative Plans?
- Will they retain the triple lock for pension rises?
- How much spending will Labour guarantee for the NHS?
- Will Labour commit not to raise income tax or national insurance or VAT?
- Which benefit cuts will they restore and when?
- Will they take all or part of the railways over a period into public ownership, ie renationalised?
- Will they scrap tuition fees and free schools?
At the moment none of these questions has been answered definitively. When the late Gerald Kaufman dubbed the 1983 Labour manifesto the “longest suicide note in history” it was more than an epochal quip. It arose because the Labour shadow Cabinet and National Executive Committee couldn’t agree on key aspects of policy on – yes, you guessed it – Europe, nuclear arms, and the economy.
So the Labour apparatchiks decided to stitch together a compendium of Labour conference resolutions, some, naturally enough, mutually contradictory. It was, to borrow a phrase, a “cumbersome” process and was memorably compared by Conservative Central Office to the similar policy pledges from the Communist Party of Great Britain. There was even a Saatchi poster with the relevant quotes and the comment “Like your manifesto, comrade”.
At this rate, Labour may or may not end up with the longest suicide note in history again, but certainly the most cumbersome one. Jeremy Corbyn has already told us at least that.Reuse content