Friday, 28 August 2015

Corbyn: To The Right of the SDP

James Meadway writes:

There’s been a lot of excitable chatter about Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policies.

Newspaper pundits and Labour Party grandees have queued up to denounce his plans as a return to the dark days of 1983.

This is the year Labour stood in the election on a left-wing platform, and lost by a landslide to the Tories, led by Margaret Thatcher.

The talking heads have a point. Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto is close to one of those from that fateful year.

But it’s not Labour’s. It’s the Social Democratic Party’s.

The SDP was set up by a small group of leading Labour Party figures, disenchanted with Labour’s shift to the left.

They stood, in 1983, in alliance with the old Liberal Party.

They are today best remembered for splitting the anti-Tory vote, and so helping Thatcher to two successive election wins.

This is their 1983 manifesto. And here is what Jeremy Corbyn says about the economy.

The SDP denounced Tory spending cuts and called for carefully selected increases in public spending and reductions in taxation… to increase public borrowing to around £11 billion” and to “to reverse the reduction in public investment”.

Corbyn, too, attacks Tory spending cuts and calls for “public investment in new publicly-owned infrastructure”.

But unlike the SDP, Corbyn thinks “Labour should not run a public deficit”. Corbyn is more fiscally conservative than the “moderate” SDP.

There’s more.

The SDP called for government spending to directly create 250,000 jobs over two years, plus another 100,000 in the NHS and social services.

In total, they wanted to reduce unemployment by 600,000 in two years.

Unlike the SDP, Corbyn sets no target for reducing that level and does not call for the government to directly create jobs.

Corbyn has called for monetary policy to be used to boost investment, in the form of “People’s Quantitative Easing”.

The SDP wanted less “restrictive monetary policy and management of the exchange rate” to help create 400,000 new jobs.

Both the SDP and Corbyn are concerned about what the SDP call “excessive” pay in the private sector, with the SDP pushing for a “Prices and Incomes Commission” to regulate pay.

Both agree on the need for an industrial strategy, backed by investment in high-tech research.

But the SDP also wanted to radically expand the range of worker participation in their businesses, including a mandatory employee right to information.

The difference is clear. Corbyn’s economic policies, today, place him to the right of 1983’s moderates.

If we must make decades-old comparisons, perhaps this is the one to make?

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