“If I lose just six seats, Jeremy Corbyn will be sitting down to negotiate with the presidents, prime ministers and chancellors of Europe”. So said Theresa May, just ahead of Thursday’s election, in a bid to encourage the Conservative faithful to turn and vote.
Well, May lost more than six seats and Corbyn could soon be running Britain. Whatever the outcome – be it a workable “confidence and supply” deal with the Democratic Unionists” or some Tory backroom blood-letting – there will surely be another election soon.
“The British people don’t have to take what they’re given”. Jeremy Corbyn liked this phrase so much he used half a dozen variants of it in his first Labour leader’s conference speech.
This message – the system is out to get you, but a Corbyn-led government will fight-back – roused a conference hall of trade unionists and party activists in Brighton last week. Across the country as a whole, though, I suspect it fell flat.
Being an economist often means telling people things they don’t want to hear. Or, at least, it should. That was what I told a group of smart young sixth-form economists I met last week at Cambridge University. It’s a message that needs renewed emphasis, given the early policy musings of Labour’s newly-elected leader.
This column has a long-held aversion to quantitative easing. I accept, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse, that some “extraordinary monetary measures” were justified. The Western banking system, after years of hubristic and sometimes fraudulent behavior in the City, on Wall Street and elsewhere, was close to collapse. Lax regulation by successive governments on both sides of the Atlantic meant deposits of ordinary firms and households were dangerously exposed to potentially explosive investment strategies.
Last autumn, I debated Jeremy Corbyn in front of a couple of hundred people at the University of Warwick. “This House supports the aggressive redistribution of wealth” was the motion, with the Labour MP arguing in favour and me against.
Back then, Corbyn was a mere backbencher whose biggest claim to fame was his dogged record of voting against his party. Such are the vagaries of politics that, less than a year later, that same member for Islington North is odds-on to be Leader of HM Opposition after the vote of party supporters closes this Thursday.