Most of my readers are not in the UK, so perhaps this posting requires some background information.
The UK media are currently working themselves into a lather concerning the candidates for election to be the next leader of the Labour Party. This position will carry with it the title of Leader of The Opposition. The erstwhile incumbent, Ed Miliband, resigned after Labour was (unexpectedly to the pollsters) thrashed by the Conservative Party at the General Election in May. The Labour leadership election is not till 10 September, but what is exercising the chatterati now is that the pollsters – yes, the same ones that had the result of the General Election spattering egg all over their faces – have a firebrand left-winger, Jeremy Corbyn MP, in the lead. (If you are a regular reader of this blog, and that name seems faintly familiar, it could be because we fairly recently critiqued a speech by his brother Piers.)
The received psephological wisdom seems to be that the only way to win an election these days is to pepper your pre-poll public pronouncements with all manner of declarations that place you in the political centre-ground. Once elected you are free to junk all those promises and no one really minds any more because everyone has come to expect it. In short, all the politicians representing their countries in international corridors of power, have therefore – by definition – to be duplicitous little shits. That’s the received wisdom; and if you look around the world stage you have to admit that … well anyway that’s the received wisdom.
Jeremy Corbyn makes absolutely no attempt to occupy the centre ground or pretend that he is anything other than an extreme left-wing firebrand, and therefore – so the ‘experts’ have it – he is unelectable.
In November 2013 Corbyn spoke at a debate in the Oxford Union. This blog has previously covered a speech by Daniel Hannan at the same debate. The motion was This House Believes Socialism Will Not Work. Corbyn spoke in opposition.
Corbyn is a very good speaker indeed.
It’s not just the fluent, paperless confidence that makes him so good; it’s also the quality of transparent sincerity. I work very hard to get my trainees to convey those same qualities and this speech shows why. You can’t help believing that he means what he says.
He doesn’t have much chance to get into his own flow because people keep interrupting him with interjections, heckling and points of order, and in fact this causes him to over-run his time and be bombarded by the time bell. But he still manages to promote his arguments, and he combats the time-bell with the words, “I’ll conclude with this thought”.
I happen to think his opinion is profoundly misguided. I don’t want to take time here to make the distinction between corporatism and free-market capitalism, but he seems not to recognize the difference. I do not believe in equality for the same reason that I do not believe in Santa Claus. Neither exists; and trying to force equality is a doomed mistake, as Milton Friedman said –
“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”
Socialism operates through coercion instead of freedom, and the experience of the consistent failure of all the worldwide socialist experiments, up to and including North Korea, show that the movement thrives on stated intent rather than being able to cite any results. I marvel that any socialist any longer genuinely believes that the stated intent has any hope of materializing. It is almost as if freedom is suppressed for its own sake – like in North Korea.
Nevertheless Corbyn manifestly believes in it, and we can listen and know that he means what he says. That is a refreshing quality these days for a politician aiming for the top of his tree. I would loathe to live in a country governed by a party led by him, but that ain’t going to happen at least for a few years.