What does Jeremy Corbyn stand for? Heiko Khoo provides some insights.
THIS IS HOW JEREMY INTRODUCED HIMSELF in the Newsnight Labour leadership debate on 17 June:
“I was first elected to Parliament 32 years ago, and I’ve spent that time in Parliament representing my constituency and standing up for rights and justice in Britain and all around the world. I believe that is the function of the Labour Party. But I also think that over the years we have lost our way. We’ve become cowed by powerful commercial interests, become frightened of the press, we’ve become frightened to stand up for what we absolutely believe in. I want a more equal society, I want a fairer society. I want a world at peace, not at war. I want the Labour Party to be the heart of the community that is demanding those things and demanding jobs, homes and hopes for everybody so that they can live in a society that is more equal. We’re moving in the wrong direction at the present time. Let’s turn it round and move the other way.”
A SOCIALIST INTERNATIONALIST
Jeremy Corbyn fights against increasing inequality in Britain and the world. He points out that “the richest 1% of the world’s population own 48% of its wealth… while the least well-off 80% own just 5.5% of it”, adding that “the wealth of just 85 people equals the wealth of 3.5 billion others… and that this supranational club of the very rich economic elites is not a solution to the world’s problems. In reality, it is the main cause of them.” (Morning Star, January 2015).
Jeremy is optimistic about political development in South America where “fundamental, exciting change has happened” that “permeates all the way through society.” Speaking in defence of the social policies pursued in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, he said: “Any country has the right to take into public ownership resources, industries and services. That is what a sovereign nation can do. This country has done that. We have just taken several banks into public ownership.
“The underbelly of Latin America is poverty and oppression, and the human rights abuse that comes from that. Individual human rights – the right to vote, the right to free expression, the right to free organisation, the right to religious freedom – are obviously important and are enshrined in the universal declaration, but people have a right to be able to live where they are, free from poverty. For many, the only way out of poverty is to escape, and one sees poor migrants leaving Guatemala, travelling through Mexico to try to get into the US to survive, but being brutally oppressed at various points… We would do well to recognise that the way to prevent that is to encourage the economic development and anti-poverty programmes that are so important and exciting throughout much of Latin America.” (Hansard, 3 March 2009).
DEFENDING THE PALESTINIANS
Jeremy condemned David Cameron’s support for Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. The “Prime Minister has continued an armed relationship with Israel, despite 2,000 people dying in Gaza. Does he not think it is time to suspend arms deals with Israel because of the appalling loss of civilian life in Gaza, the continued occupation of the West Bank and the continued theft of Palestinian land by the Israeli occupying forces.” (Hansard, 1 September 2014).
Jeremy is a veteran campaigner against war and vigorously exposed the lies used to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2014 at a demonstration to stop us joining a war against Syria he said: “Why are we going into yet another war, into a region full of natural resources that the West so covets, using arms that we’ve sold to every regime in the region, proposing more arms, more bombs, more war?”
On the emergence of Islamic State, he said: “Odious as ISIL is, it did not come from nowhere. Is it not a product of our past policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and of the vast number of arms that we have supplied to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region? That gives it highly sophisticated weaponry.“ (Hansard, 12 September 2014).
AUSTERITY AND IMMIGRATION
Jeremy opposes the neoliberal dogma that says austerity is the cure for economic crisis. “Greece is an interesting European example of what happens when the orthodox bankers say that the only way to deal with paying a debt is to impose austerity, privatise public services and lower wages – which of course then lowers tax income and demand in the economy as a whole.” (Morning Star, January 2015).
Jeremy doesn’t buy the story that immigration is a cause of economic crisis. On the contrary, he emphasises “the massive contribution made to our economy and our society by those who have migrated to live here and who have sought and gained asylum in this country.” (Hansard, 28 November 2014).
FREE EDUCATION FOR ALL
Jeremy campaigned against tuition fees in higher education and the abolition of the educational maintenance allowance for 16-18 year olds. He praised student protestors in 2010: “Most of the current generation of university students will continue to pay the existing and, in my view, exorbitant level of fees. They are protesting for the next generation.”
When riots broke out in 2011 after police killed Mark Duggan, Jeremy explained their roots in the alienation of young people and poor relations between the police and the community: “It also comes in part from the more recent cuts that have taken place in students’ allowances and benefits in general,” he says. “So there is an increasing impoverishment of poor young people particularly in the big cities of this country.
What you have to do is to insert a moral value into society and encourage young people to believe that they have some stake in the society. And that is the problem. It is the social alienation, the impoverishment, the disillusionment of the young people.” ( Britain-Lost-Young-Riots )
CORPORATE WEALTH AND HOUSING
“I believe strongly in public investment in public services and public education. We need to tax the wealthy. We do not need a graduate tax or an increase in income tax to pay for it. Some £6 billion has not been collected from Vodafone thanks to a cosy deal with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. That is actually more than the total amount paid through tuition fees over the past year.” (Hansard, 9 December 2010).
On housing, Jeremy says: “In London, houses, newly built flats and other places are being deliberately kept empty on the expectation of a rapid rise in value, so that they can be sold on without the encumbrance of someone living in them… It is a disgrace at a time of housing shortage to deliberately keep places vacant.” (Hansard, 9 July 2014).
Jeremy refuses to join those scapegoating people on Housing Benefit and instead turns the argument against landlords that are “ making a killing at the public expense through the housing benefits system.” (Hansard, 2 June 2009).
Jeremy sees public sector investment for the long term needs of the people as the way out of economic crisis “to kick-start the economy out of faltering growth and to generate real job creation and rising incomes. With interest rates at 0.5%, a £30bn investment package can be financed for just £150m a year, enough to create more than a million real jobs within two to three years. And even without any increase in public borrowing at all, the same sum could equally be funded either through the two banks which are already in public ownership, or through printing money (quantitative easing) to be used directly for industrial investment.” (Labour List, January 2015).
As a solution to the housing crisis, “First, we need a planning policy that enforces the need for social housing content on all sites, including office conversions. Secondly, there must be massive investment by local authorities in affordable council housing, with secure tenancies and affordable rents, not the market-level rent model imposed by the government. Thirdly, we need rent controls… and tenancies of at least five years, to reduce the level of insecurity.” (Hansard, 15 October 2013).
NHS, RAIL AND ENERGY
He suggests that billions handed to GPs through the NHS should be subject to supervision and public control. “Some £80 billion is to be pumped through GPs, who will then buy in services. Who manages them? Who monitors them? Who checks on what they are doing?” he asks. (Hansard, 12 July 2010).
Jeremy believes that “anyone working directly for the public sector in any capacity should be employed by, and accountable to, the public sector.” (Hansard, 13 March 2012). He supports the “principle of having an integrated rail service, with integrated timetabling and ticketing for those who make complicated journeys.” (Hansard, 19 May, 2011).
Jeremy supports massive investment in “British manufacturing’s capacity for solar generation, either for hot water or for electricity… to strengthen those necessary and valuable industries in order to take advantage of a very fast growing market.” (Hansard, 18 July 2011).
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