Corbyn: more red flag than red box

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has stuck to his guns, but many voters will find his policies hard to swallow. Emily Hohler reports.


John McDonnell (left) and Jeremy Corbyn (even further left)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's claim to have launched a "new politics" was undermined by revelations that passages of his first party conference speech were written in the 1980s, and "rejected by every Labour leader since Neil Kinnock", says Peter Dominiczak in The Daily Telegraph. The author, Richard Heller, said that the speech, which he posted to Corbyn's office a fortnight ago, was published on his website in 2011.

Corbyn's "signature tunes" that he "loves Britain" and "wants a kinder politics" weren't all they seemed either, says The Times. The first sounded like a protestation following his recent public refusal to sing the national anthem. As for the second, the idea that politics will somehow become kinder has "been greeted with a cynical chuckle by those in the Labour party with experience of fighting the hard left".

On the critical issue of the economy, meanwhile, he was "vague". He failed to mention the deficit (the government's annual overspend). He opposes austerity, by which he means public spending cuts, but did not spell out that higher public spending will be paid for by higher taxes. His conference slogan, "Straight talking. Honest politics", did not, it seems, extend to this.

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Nor did he talk about immigration, even though it cost Labour votes to Ukip at the election. And he failed to analyse why Labour failed to win in May, says Oliver Wright in The Independent.Corbyn simply wasn't talking to Britain, says Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian; or "not the Britain sat at home watching on telly, which voted in May for more austerity". Corbyn's difficulty is his "insatiable appetite for pavement politics", says Matthew D'Ancona in the same paper. He's more interested in the red flag than the red box. But as voters demand "gritty policy and opposition politicians who look ready to govern", this strength will become his greatest weakness.

If Corbyn didn't talk about the deficit, his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, did. McDonnell had promised in advance that his speech would be "boring", and it was, says Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph. This was a deliberate attempt to put aside his reputation for tasteless jokes and inappropriate remarks and dispel the idea of Labour as "reckless splurgers".But while he might have looked and sounded like a 1950s bank manager, with his talk about Britain living within its means, there was plenty in his speechto "unnerve voters", says Asa Bennett in the same paper. Business people, big corporations and buy-to-let landlords can expect a "clobbering" (in the form of higher taxes and more red tape). He also spoke of a need to overhaul the Bank of England and use "active monetary policy" to stimulate demand.

In the "hope of lending his tired thinking some semblance of gravitas", McDonnell has recruited seven academic economic advisers (listed on the page opposite) who argue for "more spending, more taxes and more borrowing", which does not "bode well" since the UK's robust recovery has proved those experts wrong, says The Daily Telegraph.

Nor should we forget that many of McDonnell's ideas have been put forward before, says John McDermott in the Financial Times.Some are "straight from 1970"; equally, many were in the Labour manifesto of 2015. For example, McDonnell's predecessor Ed Balls "tried doggedly to argue that Labour did not deny the importance of the deficit but wanted to cut it in a fairer way". Are the electorate willing to "accept ideas that many feel have already been rejected"?

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.