The Labour Party Is Broken and Corbyn Is a Symptom

People's War


Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are often equated to one another because of their proximity on the left-right political spectrum. Such glib comparisons always overlook a ‘yooj’ difference between the two — their underlying approach to politics and class struggle. Here is how Sanders summed up this difference:

“Whatever I’ve done in my life — writing, being mayor of Burlington, Congressman, U.S. Senator — I have always believed from the bottom of my heart that everything that I do and what I say represents the vast majority of the people. Sometimes I think there are progressives out there who think ‘well we’re fighting for social justice, we’re this, we’re that, it’s too bad that we’re in the minority but someday the majority will catch up with us.’ I’ve never believed that for a moment. …

“Everything I’ve ever talked about, every idea I’ve ever espoused, I believe is what…

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There is more to Labour than Corbyn and Blair

This good, noble Corbyn vs. the evil, bad Blairites is probably the most unhelpful and self-pitying false dichotomy I’ve come across in a long time. It’s a profound misrepresentation of an extremely complex situation that simplifies and distorts the total rejection of Jeremy Corbyn by the PLP into some ridiculous good vs evil narrative, ignoring Corbyn’s own complicity in sabotaging the Labour Remain campaign and putting his own personal positions above the good of his party.

There are a whole range of positions in between Blairite and Corbynite, some of which are in fact also anti-austerity – most prominently, the soft left (which is where the PLP have drawn their candidate for this leadership contest) – Ed Miliband, Stephen Kinnock (although a hashtag like‪#‎StandUpForSteel‬ being used by the son of that well-known member of team blue, Neil Kinnock? Basically Tory!!!111) and Angela Eagle are not blue Labour. Moreover, do some basic research into the names that honestly none of us know from the Shadow Cabinet, and you’ll also see plenty of soft left and even Corbynite resignations: Karl Turner; Lisa Nandy (who is so left Owen Jones once considered trying to make her leader when Miliband resigned); Kate Green; Luciana Berger. All fall to the left of centre by some margin.

Several former prominent allies have turned on him. Economic advisers such as Richard Murphy, David Blanchflower, and Simon Wren-Lewis have disavowed Corbyn, whilst well-known socialist blogger and columnist Owen Jones has turned on Jeremy Corbyn – for not being radical enough.

Yet when Owen Jones – a prominent Chavista – has been dismissed as a Blairite by angry Corbynistas, then clearly things have gone too far. This is not a case of the Blairites vs Corbyn the underdog, it is a case of a broad spectrum of progressive ideologies – including even some who subscribe to Corbyn’s politics – within Labour, where essentially all have recognised Corbyn is simply unfit to lead the party.

What does Blairite even mean? I always picture a little cult lead by Alistair Campbell, meeting up in hood-and-cloak and using the dodgy dossier as their bible – before sacrificing a Bennite backbencher to a statue of their glorious leader, screaming “elections are won from the centre ground”.

But I don’t know. I mean, if you like budget surpluses, investing in the NHS and the minimum wage, but aren’t so keen on illegal wars, does that make you a Blairite? Can you despise Blair but subscribe to New Labour and be a Blairite? What if you served in cabinet under Blair? What if you thought New Labour was right at the time but now want to move the party in a different direction; a new clause iv moment?

Because of this, “Blairite” is a useless pejorative designed to tie up New Labour and its successes (economic stability and budget surpluses, tackling monopolies, investing in schools and the NHS, introducing the minimum wage, same-sex adoption) with the personal failures of Blair (illegal wars and allowing Labour to drift away from the borrowing to invest mantra of the early years in the later years). It’s a cheap and tacky way to associate even the hint of support for New Labour policy with condoning the personal actions of Blair, and has no place in enlightened and reasonable political discourse.

Finally, let’s get some perspective when attributing motivation. Looking at this through this good v evil, Blairite or Corbynite lens, it’s easy to paint this as a self-interested coup by Blairites trying to get an edge before Chilcot. However, try and view the split with a bit more nuance and objectivity (as much as is possible in such things), and without imposing your own motivations and beliefs onto others, and you will see that from the start of Corbyn’s leadership of Labour, the opposition of the PLP to Corbyn has been that he has only appeals to the core of the party, and to very few outside of this core.

Similar to Trump in the Republican primaries, it is the parochial nature of his appeal that both guaranteed his success in a narrow vote (his “historic mandate” measures at less than 1% of the total number who voted in the 2015 GE) by Labour activists, and dooms him to failure in a general election (YouGov, Ipsos Mori, candidate polling during the 2015 leadership contest, leaked internal Labour polling of 2015 Labour voters all attest to his fundamental unelectability, even in the rare windows when his personal approval ratings were above Cameron’s).

Most of these MPs are probably scared that many of their colleagues and friends (20-60 depending on whose estimates you believe) are going to lose their jobs – in 2020, or perhaps in 6 months if Theresa May chooses to try and overcome the 66% commons vote needed to secure an early general election per the FTPA.

More than that, most of these MPs are scared that their party is on the verge of a split and preparing the country for a massive Tory majority – and the brutal policies that will accompany this. Furthermore, don’t dismiss the EU referendum as merely an excuse for this vote – I’ve no doubt that some “ringleaders” have been plotting for a while, but many from the soft left, including some of Corbyn’s allies, have either resigned from their positions or spoken out against him, generally citing personal reasons.

So basically, as much as we like the greedy, self-serving MP narrative, most MPs have at least some ideological preferences, and even if some in the PLP are 100% Machiavellian, I can guarantee that the overwhelming majority of those voting against Corbyn simply don’t want a blue decade. I don’t support the coup and would just personally leave Corbyn to lose next election as Labour regardless are unlikely to win, but I can fully understand the motivations and actions of those in the PLP, which are largely about the good of the party – and neither motivated by self-interested nor Blairism.

Conor Dunwoody

Corbynomics: Fantastical Solutions to Real Problems


13876195_10206403475116814_8645167642254572660_nCorbynomics: that vision of a fairer society, built upon an economy that worked for the 99%, and trumpeted by the likes of Nobel prize-winner Paul Krugman…what on earth has happened to it?

Trouble has been brewing for a while, but things reached a head with the revelations of Corbyn’s inept management of the PLP during and after the failed coup. Notably, TUC economist Richard Murphy delivered an absolutely stunning attack piece on Corbynomics, where he criticises Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and the Corbyn office as a whole. The formerly fervent Corbynista, described as “the creator of Corbynomics” on the cover of his ‘The Joy of Tax,’ has gone so far as to brand Corbynism as ‘an empty shell that opposes capitalism for the sake of the oppressed but has no clue as to what to yet [sic] in its place.’ [1]

McDonnell tried to dismiss Murphy as merely an influence on fiscal rather than macroeconomic policy, but considering how Corbyn appropriated Murphy’s ideas beyond merely taxation (namely a National Investment bank and People’s Quantitative Easing – more on that below), this seems to be fairly empty spin that is trying to obscure one simple fact: Corbynomics is imploding in on itself.

Murphy was not the last Corbynomicist to disown the approach as a lost cause, with two senior economic advisers to Corbyn defecting to the Owen Smith camp. In amongst all of this, the Corbyn team has been cleaning up their website, with the deletion of specifics of Corbyn’s policies (eg. on investment and tax justice) only heightening confusion over what exactly Corbynomics actually means.

In amongst these chaotic ruins of Corbynomics, we can still try to salvage some kind of idea of which economic policies Jeremy Corbyn favours ahead of the upcoming Labour leadership contest. Due to the confused subsequent information, and in lieu of a proper manifesto, we will have to have to make do with the broad economic vision that Corbyn outlined in 2015: ‘The Economy in 2020.’

The Budget and Austerity

“Austerity is about political choices, not economic necessities.”

Here is the central thrust behind Corbyn’s entire political platform – and it is a stance that is more or less true. Austerity largely was the result of an emotional appraisal of the 2008 financial crisis as resulting from government spending and borrowing, rather than as resulting from bank spending and borrowing.

“The inheritance tax changes will lose the government over £2.5 billion in revenue between now and 2020.”

Fair point – the inheritance tax cuts were designed to appeal to the Conservative voter base, rather than for sound economic reasons. However, the five year timeline Corbyn quantifies this lost revenue with is misleading; £500 million pa is a relatively small amount in terms of the overall budget.

“Another choice was to cut corporation tax – already the lowest in the G7 at 20%. Lower too than the 25% in China, and half the 40% rate in the United States.”

Corporation tax is a difficult measure to get right. Primarily, a country’s corporation tax rate is a measure foreign firms use when assessing how attractive a country is as a place where you want to set up shop; lower corporation tax attracts more corporations, and the jobs and capital that comes with them.

The threat of a race to the bottom in carelessly cutting corporation tax is real. This cannot be understated – especially in light of George Osbourne’s recent pledge to cut corporation to below 15% in the light of the British exit from the EU, in an attempt to maintain continued investment in our economy; British corporation tax stood at 30% in 2007. [2] The IFS estimates that, adjusted for 2015-16 prices, cuts to corporation tax between the 2010 and 2016 budgets have cost £10.8 billion pa, whilst FullFact demonstrates that, in real terms, corporation tax revenues stood 21% lower in 2014-2015 than they did in 2007-2008. [3]

These figures are in real terms (ie. adjusted for inflation) – corporation tax receipts in 2007-08 were £47bn at 2007-08 prices

But perspective is needed here. For one, the IFS report highlights that the bulk of this 21% real drop in corporation tax revenues since their 2008 peak must be attributed to declining corporate revenues, rather than corporation tax revenues – a consequence of the Great depression. Furthermore, corporation tax in 2014-2015 was 6% higher in real terms (17% higher absolutely) than in 2009-2010. [4]

£10.8bn pa is a lot of money, but it is only a small fraction of total GDP – which stood at £1,833,233 m in 2015 – and most of this loss is attributable ultimately to a depressed corporate sector rather than corporation tax cuts. [5] The question is whether the money that is lost directly from corporation tax cuts is significantly less than the extra money invested into the economy.

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As the above slideshow demonstrates, the indicators are clearly that increasing FDI is offsetting these losses. Less may be raised in tax revenues, but more will be invested by foreign investors. Furthermore, all corporations eligible for the tax reduction are likely to spend more, thus generating new jobs and higher wages; the official HMRC and HM Treasury 2013 ‘Analysis of the Dynamic Effects of Corporation Tax Reductions’ posits that reduced corporation tax enables increased investment, and thus higher output – leading to increased demand for labour. [6] Per the multiplier affect (spending circulates and generates spending elsewhere), generate capital in the wider economy.

Nevertheless, why cut Corporation tax at all, if it is “already the lowest in the G7 at 20%”? There are several reasons:

  1. Investors see markets such as China as “on the up” ie. growing markets where their investment will reap rich rewards in the future, so there is the need for markets like Britain to provide other reasons to attract investors – competition
  2. It allows us to consolidate our existing advantage in the financial sector – to stay ahead of the curve
  3. It may sway Chinese investors who saw a 5% difference between Chinese and UK corporation tax as insufficient to finally make the jump. The same logic applies to investors in other countries with marginally higher rates of corporation tax worldwide, or even investors in countries with lower rates of corporation tax (such as Ireland)

This is all very confusing, but one basic point should be very clear: higher corporation tax does not necessarily mean better economic performance, nor even necessarily higher corporation tax revenues in the long run – and vice versa.

An Economy That Works For All

“Our national infrastructure – energy, housing, transport, digital – is outdated, leaving the UK lagging behind other developed economies.

Modern housing, transport, digital and energy networks are the foundation stone of a modern economy, and we need to ensure they are among the best in the world.

The ‘rebalancing’ I have talked about here today means rebalancing away from finance towards the high-growth, sustainable sectors of the future. “

Corbyn highlights three salient points here:

  1. Our infrastructure is underdeveloped – especially when compared to that of other leading European economies
  2. There is a serious housing shortage in this country
  3. We are too reliant on finance; our economy would benefit from some diversification (a fact which has become even more apparent post-Brexit)

However, as with before, Corbyn struggles both to offer compelling solutions, or to offer credible methods to achieve such solutions when they are proposed.

“One option would be for the Bank of England to be given a new mandate to upgrade our economy to invest in new large scale housing, energy, transport and digital pro- jects: quantitative easing for people instead of banks. Richard Murphy has been one of many economists making that case.”

This suggestion shows Corbyn’s misunderstanding of how quantitative easing currently works in this country and, by extension, why it works in this country.  Currently, quantitative easing is conducted by the Bank of England primarily via the medium of government bonds (gilts), ie. the BofE invests the proceeds of the easing into these gilts. The BofE is free to sell these gilts back to the government, or indeed to private investors, at any time, meaning that they remain in control of inflation levels; keeping inflation as close to 2% as possible is the whole mandate for an independent BofE, to achieve price stability.


Conversely, people’s quantitative easing (PQE) by investment is a more troublesome proposal. The suggestion is instead to set up a National Investment Bank (NIB – more on that shortly), which has its own bonds. It sells these to the BofE, with the proceeds invested in real, concrete assets rather than liquid assets. There are some serious issues with this:

Firstly, disinvestment from a half-finished road or power plant is neither desirable nor feasible. In traditional QE, the government does not need to necessarily buy back, as these can just be sold to any buyer – but it is an option, as traditional QE works by increasing the cost on gilts and encouraging private investors to invest elsewhere, rather than by directly “giving the government money.” Why would private investors invest in incomplete infrastructure if there was a need to slow the rate of PQE?  In the case of PQE, the NIB cannot buy bonds back from the BofE without borrowing in such an occurrence as the funds would have been spent on the infrastructure investment – why not just finance government spending by borrowing if this is what you want to achieve?

Because of this inability of the BofE to control the rate of QE, this proposal would diminish the BofE’s ability to control the level of inflation, and essentially force them to act in a way that would undermine their primary mandate. Indeed, the precedent that investing via QE would set could and probably would lead to an increasing presence of, and acceptance of, high levels of inflation – as Roger Bootle argues, ‘committing to the permanent injection of more liquidity implies acceptance of whatever inflation rate emerges.’ [7]

Besides the more mundane risk of unacceptably high levels of inflation (such as under the ERM in the Major years), there are also the more extraordinary risks of stagflation (especially post-Brexit) and even hyper-inflation if too much inflation is carelessly injected into the economy via PQE. Equally, PQE also encourages the financing of pet-projects, funded by the politically expedient act of injecting inflation rather than increasing borrowing or taxes. [8] To this end, Mark Carney, Governor of the BofE, has broken the BofE convention of neutrality to criticise the idea of PQE, saying that it could “imperil” Britain’s price stability, and highlights that these inflationary consequences would actually hurt the poor and elderly more than any other group – rather at odds with the idea of an “economy that works for all.” [9]

mark carney
Mark Carney – not a fan of “People’s Quantitative Easing”

Furthermore, whilst it is a brief footnote in the post-Brexit world, such a policy of PQE is actually in violation of a Article 123 of the Lisbon treaty. [10] This could still be problematic, however, if an early election is called, and should not be dismissed as entirely irrelevant.

Finally, it is worth remembering the views of Richard Murphy, the economist referenced here as the source of PQE. He believes that “PQE is a plan for downturns. In up turns you can sell bonds for the same Infrastrxuture [sic] investment goal.” [11] Why, then, is Corbyn proposing a measure its creator believes is only appropriate in a recessionary environment, at a time when our economy is still growing? Does he believe we will experience a downturn by 2020?

“Another option would be to strip out some of the huge tax reliefs and subsidies on offer to the corporate sector. These amount to £93 billion a year – money which would be better used in direct public investment, which in turn would give a stimulus to private sector supply chains.”

Firstly, the £93 billion figure used here has been robustly challenged. One reason for this is that the paper it is derived from counts state spending on education and the NHS – state spending that Corbyn, and indeed any Labour candidate, would increase – alongside reliefs and subsidies granted to the corporate sector. [12]

Moreover, as The Economist has noted, measurably more money is invested in research and development resulting from tax credits offered to these corporations than is lost from granting these credits. [13]

Nevertheless, the observation that investing into infrastructure would help private sector supply chains stands true – so why not achieve this without simultaneously undermining the private sector? Funding this investment through borrowing, as proposed by Owen Smith, would be more credible than inventing figures, whilst also more effective than stripping the private sector.

“These funds could be used to establish a ‘National Investment Bank’ to invest in the new infrastructure we need and in the hi-tech and innovative industries of the future.”

We’ve already discussed how and why a NIB that works via quantitative easing is a terrible idea – there’s no need to repeat this point. However, a more traditional ‘National Investment Bank’ independent of the Government but with a mandate (similar to the BofE) could still be a good long-term recommendation to help address the deficient investment and underdeveloped infrastructure in this country.

Nevertheless, this would be an expensive undertaking – more credible funding methods would be needed than those outlined here – it certainly could not be funded through Corbyn’s proposal to cut corporate subsidies and reliefs. Moreover, borrowing would be an inappropriate way to fund such a bank in the long-term.

Regardless, provisions for the kind of infrastructure investment that is being discussed here should have been made a long time ago, under New Labour – their significant investment in the NHS and education was admirable, but much of this money should have gone to improving our unacceptable infrastructure.

“To invest in infrastructure also requires a clear strategy in the construction, manufacturing, and engineering skills to build and maintain that new infrastructure so vital to sustainable economic growth.

So taking this approach, in the coming days this campaign will set out how we propose to invest in adult education and further education more generally to get the high skill, high pay, high productivity workforce we all want – building on our announcements already on university education”

Once more, there are no proposals of any substance relating to manufacturing – just hot air. In light of Brexit and the economic consequences thereof, it has become clear that Britain needs to refocus its economy into having a more prominent manufacturing element – but this is easier said then done.

British productivity has been deficient for a while – a trend which has worsened since the crash

However, there are some promising signs regarding the promise of a “high productivity workforce.” Every political party promises massive boosts to productivity via technological innovation and education, yet this is rarely achieved outside of technology-based bubbles. Nevertheless, Corbyn’s focus on higher education, combined with the aforementioned investment in infrastructure, is probably a good place to start. A good specific policy here would be for Corbyn to promise to overturn Theresa May’s measures that mean international students have to return home upon graduation, as this policy will deprive the UK of educated and skilled members of the workforce – two traits essential in boosting productivity.


“The biggest issue facing British politics right now is whether the top rate of tax should be 45% or 50%…

So I make this pledge: Labour must make the tax system more progressive:

Ensuring that those with the most pay the most, not just in monetary terms, but proportionally too.”

Let’s be clear: a more progressive tax system is beneficial to society as a whole, if not the stratified elite of said society. However, you need to take care that your measures to reform tax are not counter-intuitive – that they don’t actually harm rather than help the bulk of society in whose benefit they are being raised.

A 5% tax rise is not a credible way to increase tax revenues. Notably, in 2014, the IFS supported HMRC’s estimate that increasing top rate tax to 50% may net as little as £100 million pa more, with the potential to swing upwards or downwards of this total. [14] These statistics are contested and the debate continues, but when lost investment is taken into account, the net effect of such a tax increase could be negative.

The famous and oft-debated Laffer curve suggests that after tax reaches a certain level, any further increases will lead either to individuals working less, or evading and avoiding tax; the UK’s top rate tax is currently either at, or very close to, this point

A more extreme example of the dangers of arbitrary tax hikes for the wealthy comes from France, where top rate tax was increased from 50% to 75%. The tax raised 420 million Euros over two years, however earnings from the tax fell by 38.4% between the first and the second year in which it was collected. [15] This relatively unimpressive figure was not deemed a good trade-off for the anti-business image it generated; the government, struggling to attract foreign investment, quietly killed this tax off after just two years.

Perspective is of course needed here: The French tax increase failed, however it was an increase of 25%, whereas most members of the left are only discussing a 5% tax rise. Still, in combination with the unimpressive returns of top rate tax increases under New Labour, the conclusion is clear: increasing top rate tax past a certain point adds very little in the way of revenues.

Tax Justice

“A detailed analysis last year produced by Richard Murphy suggests that the government is missing out on nearly £120 billion in tax revenues, per year. That’s enough to double the NHS budget; enough to give every man, woman and child in this country £2,000.”

This is first-class economic quackery based upon hilariously flawed estimates – and an equally shameful misunderstanding (or perhaps deliberate misinterpretation) of said estimates:

To begin with, Richard Murphy’s (remember him?) estimates of a £120 billion total tax gap are well above the £38 billion total tax gap HMRC official estimates. [16] However, despite the huge gap between Murphy’s and HMRC’s estimates of the total tax gap, Corbyn and Murphy both propose to significantly increase HMRC’s funding. Why, then, do they not trust its estimates?

Moreover, Murphy himself conceded his (already excessive) £120 billion estimate relates to the total tax gap rather than collectable funds – only £20 billion of this, per his estimates, is actually collectable. [17] He tries to defend this by insisting that neither he nor Corbyn claimed that £120 billion was the actual collectable amount – but clearly Murphy is not familiar with the concept of lie by omission.

Corbyn’s document makes no mention of the fact that only 1/6 of this £120 billion can be raised, and very obviously implies that the full amount can be collected (read it yourself). At the most generous reading of this, the absence of this fact can be regarded as a reflection of Corbyn’s fundamentally weak grasp on economics – and thus not deliberate. At worst, it must be regarded as an indefensible lie of omission – and thus deliberate.

Poor Ed could never catch a break – especially with his shaky economic policies (plot twist: they just weren’t tough enough)

On this point, it is worth referring to other estimates by similar mainstream parties. Primarily, in 2015 the IFS criticised Ed Miliband for claiming that even £7.5 billion could be raised through combating tax avoidance, whilst the slightly more conservative Lib Dem (£7bn) and Conservative (£5bn) estimates were also criticised. [18]

“Therefore I am announcing today that my fairer tax policies will include:

• The introduction of a proper anti-avoidance rule into UK tax law.

• The aim of country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations.

• Reform of small business taxation to discourage avoidance and tackle tax evasion.

• Enforce proper regulation of companies in the UK to ensure that they file their accounts and tax returns and pay the taxes that they owe.

• Lastly, and most importantly, a reversal of the cuts to staff in HMRC and at Companies House, taking on more staff at both, to ensure that HMRC can collect the taxes the country so badly needs.”

Nevertheless, whilst the amount these measures will raise is nowhere near Corbyn’s laughable suggestion of £120billion, the measures themselves are (broadly) good – although rather vague. “Proper anti-avoidance rule” – what about these rules would differ them from current improper rules? Granted, this is not a manifesto – but Corbyn needs to iron this kind of stuff out before 2020 if people are going to take him seriously.

Most of these other measures, again, are theoretically good but conveniently vague – a trend you should have noticed throughout this document that cannot simply be excused in that it is not a full manifesto. Even as policy flavours, these are lacking.What kind of international cooperation? Who with? How will Corbyn ensure that other countries don’t dodge these measures, to create a haven for foreign investors? (eg. Switzerland)

The proposal to reverse HMRC cuts, however, is as specific as can be expected – and is a good suggestion. Corbyn rightly notes that the government has reversed prior cuts, but not by enough. Increasing funding to HMRC would likely not increase tax revenue by nearly as much as Corbyn believes, but, so long as the funding was used wisely and alongside improved measures to combat tax avoidance, it could make a real difference.

Concluding Remarks – How to Make Anti-Austerity Work

What seems to be underpinning this all is a complete lack of any clear vision; Corbyn has a few policy-shaped puzzle pieces, but no idea as to how these slot together to solve the problem of a broken economy. Corbynomics seemingly amounts to a bizarre collection of populist left-wing policies, shackled to a deficit-cutting, anti-borrowing backdrop. The policies don’t work, they don’t fit together, and they actively contradict this negative anti-borrowing backdrop.

Anti-austerity measures do work. Most of the basic areas Corbyn highlights are correct: we should invest more in infrastructure; our economy is too reliant on finance; our productivity is low. However, the actual policies deployed to target these measures unfortunately fall short. Corbynomics must thus be dismissed as fantastical solutions to real problems – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t devise real solutions.

Top rate tax is just a headline-grabber – increasing it wouldn’t raise any significant amount, and would easily be dodged. If fiscal measures were going to be taken, increasing the top rate tax on dividends – which is far lower than top rate income tax (38.1% vs 45%) – would be shrewd, as the discrepancy between the top rate income and dividend taxes currently allows top earners to cut their tax bill by dumping money into their company’s shares. Intriguingly, the government has already taken measures recently to try and close this gap, but there is still room to increase this tax. [19]

As well as top-rate dividend increases, road tax could also be increased for more expensive vehicles; you can’t dodge a tax on a car you need to get to work

Outside of looking at the rate of corporation tax, Corbyn could likewise look at what the IFS refers to as “corporation taxes” – a group of taxes including petroleum revenue tax, oil royalties, windfall tax on tobacco companies, the diverted profits tax, bank surcharge and the bank levy.

The offshore corporation tax trend since 11/12 is not a progressive one

Following on from this, there is case specifically to reform offshore corporation tax  – if not in rates then in how it is collected – as seen above. Despite an increase in onshore corporation tax revenues in 2045-15 leading to a net increase in 2014-15 corporation tax revenues, offshore corporation tax revenues did fall.

If the goal is a more progressive tax system, then introducing more tax bands would be a laudable way to achieve this. The UK currently only has three tax bands:

  1. basic (20%)
  2. higher (40%)
  3. additional (45%).

The difference between the higher and additional rates are so low that they barely even qualify as separate tax bands, and thus Britain essentially only has two real tax bands, with a 20% gulf between the two.

Compare this to the US income tax system, where there are 7 different tax bands: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%. Reforming our tax system to account for the huge 20% gulf between our rates of basic and higher tax would be a progressive measure of taxation. It would not be a popular with the election-dominating middle classes, but Corbyn has thus far appeared unconcerned with such matters.

Likewise, Corbyn’s suggestions to increase the funding of HMRC and tighten up tax law are credible ways to boost tax revenues. Closing such loopholes are the kind of measures that would work, rather than the entirely-emotional suggestion to increase top rate income tax; the devil is in the detail.

The closest Corbynomics comes to a central thrust is the need to invest – even though this is a case that publications such as The Economist have been making for a long time. Furthermore, even here there doesn’t seem to be any real depth. Its not enough just to invest – investment must be made prudently, and with the long-term as well short-term implications assessed.

Investing in the right areas can resolve other issues. For example, investing in tidal power (and taking advantage of a natural advantage of the UK ie. its large coastline) could give the UK a competitive edge in this area, thus boosting manufacturing (Asia produces cheap, simple goods as Britain produces expensive, complex goods) and equally creating high-skill, productive jobs – whilst also reducing business costs by providing cheaper power (US manufacturing renaissance has been significantly facilitated by shale gas and reduced cost of power). Considering, too, that the pound is unlikely to ever return to its pre-Brexit strength – such measures would help redress our excessive trade deficit and take advantage of cheaper exports.

Justin Trudeau could give Jeremy Corbyn a few pointers on how to fund infrastructure investment


Bizarre, too, is the demonstrably impossible budgeting Corbyn employs. A far more credible approach would be to employ a prudent short-term borrowing strategy, with these funds sensibly invested into infrastructure and other sustainable areas. Indeed, Owen Smith has put forward a £200 bn investment strategy funded in this way. Smith’s plan is probably too much, too soon. Borrowing, however, is currently cheap, and has effectively been utilised with some success by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invest in Canadian infrastructure – Labour politicians should take note.

As to why this all matters? The point of any Labour government is to help working people. For too long, the left has assumed this is all about expanding welfare and securing workers’ rights, with economic actions only considered in terms of tax hikes for the rich and transferring wealth from the private sector, whilst increasing borrowing finances increasing government spending – without due consideration of the consequences of this. Ultimately, we all comprise the economy, and we all suffer if it suffers.

Jeremy Corbyn understands that we don’t all suffer equally when this happens, and he is right to highlight it. Nevertheless, whilst he may have an idea of how to make our economy fairer, he does not have an idea of how to make our economy stronger. It is not a trade off; we can have both. We cannot and must not elect a government that cannot convert its good intentions into credible economic policies  – because a fair economy is worthless if that only means everybody is poorer together.

Conor and Sean Dunwoody

Additional Notes

  • Most of this article was written in early June – and thus pre-Brexit – with the last few additions and amendments made the week 01/08/16; back-tracking and u-turns are likely from the Corbyn office on some of these policies in the upcoming weeks of the Leadership contest (starting with the Cardiff hustings, today at 7PM)
  • Richard Murphy, despite defending Corbyn’s usage of his £120bn tax gap figure at the time, has subsequently expressed annoyance with how the Corbyn team misrepresented the figure (alongside the aforementioned broader attack on Corbynomics – both of which were attacks he made a while after we began writing this article).
  • All charts and graphs without a watermark taken from associated footnoted documents



[3] Institute for Fiscal Studies, ‘The changing composition of UK tax revenues,’ , (April, 2016), p. 18. ;

[4] HMRC, ‘Corporation Tax Statistics,’ (May 2016), p. 9.


[6] HMRC and HM Treasury, ‘An Analysis of the Dynamic Effects of Corporation Tax Reductions,‘ (2013), p. 25.





[11] (comments section, September 2015 reply to ‘paulc156’)


[13] Ibid.









Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Statistics are a wonderful means of formatting reality into a concrete form that we can interpret. They help us realise patterns, trends and measure success and failures. They inform our decisions and actualise big, abstract systems and events into a form we can analyse and interpret.

However, they can and regularly are misused and deliberately misinterpreted – especially via social media platforms such as Facebook – to not illustrate but distort the truth of what is happening.

The Offending Image


The above image is a great example of how this can happen.[1] It is a bold, eye-catching claim – why is poor Jeremy getting so much stick when he tried his best?

It is also completely inaccurate.

The page in question, “Another Angry Voice” (which regularly fills my newsfeed with this kind of shit) is run by an “independent blogger from Yorkshire,” rather than a reputable organisation or group of people. It doesn’t bother to footnote where its bold claim is from, so its baffling to see so many people treating any statistic it shits out likes its gospel. Unlike said page, I will footnote and substantiate everything I write here.

For those who do appreciate claims of this magnitude to be substantiated, the 123 stat is  derived from here:

I wont beat around the bush here: the way AAV – a supposedly tell-it-as-it-is page with a 270,000-strong audience – has presented this statistic is as reprehensibly dishonest as the techniques the Murdoch press employ. The media coverage report from where it is derived is a report on just that – coverage. When they say media appearances, they do NOT literally mean interviews and filmed talks, but media coverage in the following forms:

Television: Channel 4 News (7pm), Channel 5 News Tonight (6.30pm), BBC1 News at 10, ITV1 News at 10, Sky News 8-8.30pm.

Press: The Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, The Sun, Star and the I.

To reiterate: the study is NOT into media appearances, but into media coverage. There may be statistics that do show Jeremy Corbyn to have made many, many media appearances, but I have not been able to find any.

To present, therefore, these statistics in terms of how hard these candidates campaigned represents either a deliberate desire to mislead, or woefully lacking reading comprehension on AAV’s part.

Even there, however, and even if subsequent statistics did emerge showing Jeremy Corbyn had made a significantly larger amount of appearances than Angela Eagle and Alan Johnson, the signs from the media coverage of Jeremy Corbyn are altogether that he failed to perform in the EU referendum.

Corbyn’s Performance Relative to Other Prominent Figures

Assessing Corbyn’s media prominence relative to his other party members is a pretty bizarre barometer to judge the commitment of these individuals; Corbyn was always going to receive more media attention as party leader – and thus the face of the second-largest party in the country – then relatively-unknown MPs like Angela Eagle and Gisela Stuart. After all, it is not the job of anybody but the party leader to lead the party.

Comparing Corbyn’s performance compared to the other most prominent figures in the referendum, however, makes a lot more sense:

Table 2.1: Top thirty media appearances (6 May – 22 June)

Position Name Number of appearances Percentage of items in which they appeared
1 David Cameron (Conservative IN) 499 24.9%
2 Boris Johnson (Conservative OUT) 379 18.9%
3 George Osborne (Conservative IN) 230 11.5%
4 Nigel Farage (UKIP OUT) 182 9.1%
5 Michael Gove (Conservative OUT) 161 8.0%
6 Ian Duncan Smith (Conservative OUT) 124 6.2%
7 Jeremy Corbyn (Labour IN) 123 6.1%
8 Priti Patel (Conservative OUT) 65 3.2%
9 Gordon Brown (Labour IN) 52 2.6%
10 John Major (Conservative IN) 47 2.3%

Compare the difference in the amount of appearances between Corbyn and Cameron – a staggering 376 (18.8% of the total number of ALL media appearances). It is very easy to blame this on the right-wing tendencies of the media, and this did play a huge part in this. The report notes:

“National press coverage was highly polarised, with pro-IN papers emphasising pro-IN campaigners and arguments, and pro-OUT papers emphasising pro-OUT equivalents. In aggregate terms, this produced a ‘coverage gap’ of 60%: 40% in favour of OUT campaigners. However, when these differences are weighted by circulation, the difference extends to 80%: 20%.”

However, this does not absolve Corbyn from blame – it is the job of the leader to make his message heard. Extensive media coverage requires not just a high number of appearances, but also (i) high visibility and (ii) high quality in these appearance, which Corbyn simply did not provide

In terms of visibility, Corbyn refused to appear in the main televised debates – with viewing figures of 2.7 million and 3.9 million in the ITV and BBC debates respectively providing an excellent opportunity to make yourself seen. [2] Even with a right-wing media, if you create the news then you will be covered; Jeremy Corbyn failed to make any significant appearances.

This isn’t just about the real problems of sharing a platform with Conservatives. Ultimately, Corbyn simply failed to ever engage with any of the big-hitters of Leave (such as Boris and Farage), leaving it instead to figures such as Sadiq Khan and Angela Eagle.

As for high quality appearances? Appearing on The Last Leg and saying you are only 70% in favour of the EU does not constitute this (it is quite an amusing appearance nevertheless). [3] Compared to the genuine passion a speaker like Gordon Brown or Hilary Benn provides, Corbyn – who implicitly admits his heart wasn’t in the Remain campaign – just fails to inspire. Ultimately, he failed to provide anything with near the impact of the rapturous applause Boris Johnson received in the final BBC debate.

Corbyn’s Minimal and Antagonistic Involvement With Labour Remain

Furthermore, suggesting that the only complaint people have had with Corbyn’s campaign was the amount of media appearances he made is disingenuous. Corbyn’s involvement in planning the campaign itself has been heavily criticised, with Chuka Umunna claiming that Corbyn, or indeed anybody from his office, failed to attend even a SINGLE Labour Remain meeting.[4] It’s a shocking claim and we only have Umunna’s word for it, but both the BBC and the Guardian (albeit not in an editorial) reported that leaked Labour documents – supported by multiple anonymous Labour sources – implied Corbyn’s office had deliberately sabotaged and watered-down the campaign.[5]

For example, Labour campaigners were told to redirect people they met from immigration, whilst multiple Labour remain materials had reduced focus on immigration than what was agreed at meetings. Claiming that “Corbyn was one of the only ones who spoke to the public as if we’re adults,” [6] therefore, does not really fit when, under his leadership, Labour refused to engage with the singular main issue of this referendum – immigration. Positively campaigning for the benefits of EU immigration, whilst admitting some areas were under too much pressure due to Tory policy, would have been a far better move here – as Tim Farron did with some aplomb.

Finally, the Labour Remain campaign launched too late – as many observers at the time remarked. Corbyn, again, must take the blame for this.

Concluding Remarks

So there are three main problems with this picture:

  1. It doesn’t show what it purports to show – it is MISLEADING
  2. Even if it did, it ignores explanations for these trends that do not fit into its narrative – it is BIAS
  3. It ignores wider trends – it is PARTIAL

It is far from alone in possessing these flaws; there are broader implications from this picture that means that these three problems must be kept in mind with whatever you’re reading.

Firstly, the best way to avoid misleading statistics is to never read a statistic at face value – even if the statistic is actually real, it might not mean what you think it does. Statistics are essential to interpreting trends and patterns, but must be analysed in context and alongside other statistics.

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Secondly, consider bias – obviously in the attitudes of whoever is presenting evidence, but also in the attitudes that might influence how you approach the evidence; always avoid confirmation bias. People largely believe what they want to believe, and we’re all guilty of this – even those of us like this author, who like to lecture others on this. Check every statistic you read, even if it supports your own view.

In fact, especially if it supports your own view.

Finally, in terms of ignorance of the wider context and partial evidence, the last point I would make is very simple: don’t trust random shit you read on the internet. Most of it – especially the political stuff – is pure, refined, 100% bullshit made by people who probably have less of an idea what they are talking about then you do.

Conor Dunwoody


[2] BARB website – BBC 1 week June 20th and ITV week June 12th



[5] BBC report; Guardian article


Blairism, Protest Politics and the Moderate Path

A man as popular as an oozing haemorrhoid – and as persistent, too

“In defence of Blairism, by Tony Blair.” It is hardly surprising that, with a title like this, Tony Blair’s latest venture into political commentary features plenty of his trademark self-indulgent, self-pitying excuses. It is likewise not surprising that Blair has been reduced to writing his own history. After all, who will stick their professional reputation on the line in defence of this man, who bears joint responsibility for two disastrous wars and has become, albeit unfairly, blamed for the worst financial crisis in recent memory?

Nevertheless, I do believe that, beneath all of the hand-wringing and blame-dodging present in Blair’s latest treatise, there is an undeniable kernel of truth to what Blair is saying here that people will inevitably ignore because of who is writing it rather than what they are saying.

It pains me to admit it, but Tony Blair is right that this fixation with principles and ideals is damaging the Labour Party. It is obviously not the case that the principles themselves are the issue, and indeed a Labour with no principles would not be Labour at all. However, Blair is absolutely right to point out that principles should act as a guide for practical action, not as an ideological anchor that impedes progress and prevents debate; ideals should inform rather than dictate the policy of Labour.

And of course people will always say that there is no point in victory for the sake of victory, of becoming your enemy to defeat it. There is, of course, a certain truth to this – Labour always has and always must offer a better way than the Conservatives.

However, moving away from a traditional socialist position doesn’t doom Labour to simply offering a slightly different shade of blue, nor does it doom it to the timid, insipid, centrist-for-the-sake-of-centrist brand of politics offered by the likes of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper; Tony Blair is right to point out that New Labour was radically different from the Tories. For one, the minimum wage was a truly radical policy that only Labour could have introduced, with the Tories issuing dire warnings of mass unemployment should the National Minimum Wage Act go ahead. Furthermore, the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act also show that within a moderate and realist party, you can still introduce powerful policies and offer a better way than the Tories; the current Conservative government has tried to undermine and repeal both acts

Moreover, whilst massive investment into the NHS and the education system may have failed to tackle the root problems both these systems face – the strain of an ageing population on the former and the anti-meritocratic nature of the latter – it did nevertheless improve upon the quality and availability of healthcare, as well as the GCSE pass rate.


These achievements cannot be forgotten, because they embody what Labour is truly about, and always has been about – helping people.

This cannot be achieved outside of government. As Blair highlights, the moral purpose of Labour is of little worth unless it can be applied practically. And as he also highlights, sometimes it takes more courage to compromise on ideals in the face of reality than it does to cling to them from the safety cushion that is protest, back-bench politics.

And the political wilderness of the backbenches, where protest reigns over governance and idealism over realism, is where Jeremy Corbyn has spent his entire political career. Even Michael Foot, the closest parallel to Corbyn in modern politics, had extensive experience in high-level politics when he became leader of the party.

By comparison, Tony Blair is the most electorally successful leader that Labour has ever had in its 115 year existence. Hate him all you like, but who knows? Perhaps the Labour leader with three general elections under his belt knows a bit about how to win them.

And this is the point that has to be made, because any leader who fails to win an election will ultimately be judged a failure. Unfortunately, for all his principles, the truth is that Jeremy Corbyn is simply not capable of leading an opposition to the Tories. Already, he is leading a capitulation to it. His brand of politics is simply too disparate with those of the electorate for Corbyn to ever lead Labour to an electoral victory. Last month’s ComRes poll puts Labour down two points, and although the Oldham by-election (a result that was never in doubt) has papered over the cracks, it will do nothing to solve the irrevocable disconnect between Corbyn’s ideas and those of the electorate.

Labour lost the last election for two simple reasons: people couldn’t see Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, and people didn’t trust Labour with the economy. How replacing Miliband with a well-meaning but ineffectual, life-long backbencher with poor dress sense and poorer leadership qualities will remedy the first of these problems is questionable. What is not up for debate, however, is that the naïve, anti-business economics of Corbyn and John McDonnell will not remedy this broken trust in economic matters.

“All of it is about applying values with an open mind; not boasting of our values as a way of avoiding the hard thinking the changing world insists upon.”

In such a circumstance, Labour will not win a general election. And through failing to make the compromises necessary to oust the Conservatives – who it must be remembered are also travelling on an increasingly worrying right-leaning trajectory – Labour will not be fighting for the people who need it, it will be abandoning them.

If there is one final point worth closing on, it is this: the principled opposition of the 1980s did not further the cause of left-wing politics, rather it crippled it. The “no compromise with the electorate” approach adopted by Michael Foot allowed Margaret Thatcher to dominate British politics for a wretched decade, and has left us with a country still living in her shadow.

Perhaps some of the changes Thatcher introduced were necessary. The World was moving towards a global economy; British industry was faltering; our economy was flagging. Had Labour properly engaged with these concerns, had properly respected the electorate and the realities of our democracy, perhaps they would have been able to offer their own solutions. Perhaps they would have been able to oversee necessary change without unnecessary cruelty.

What was not necessary, however, was the crippling of the trade unions; the antagonism of the North and of Scotland; the homophobic cruelty of section 28; the privatisation of our rails; the rampant deregulation of our financial sector facilitating the global financial crisis of 2007.

These were the consequences of the last time Labour chose principles over governance, with Labour’s inability to truly oppose the Conservatives in those Thatcher years felt now more than ever – look at how far the Tories have gone already in just the first year of majority government. 

Of course, Blair himself would defend and continue some of these Thatcherite policies – there is no doubt that lessons need to be learnt from the failures of New Labour. However, we cannot also forget the mistakes that preceded it, for repeating the mistakes of the 80s is not a vision of hope – it is a delusion. Labour needs to discover how to honour its past without becoming trapped in it, and therefore learn from both its successes and failures to thus truly embrace the modern era. The Britain Jeremy Corbyn envisions died in the 1980s; Labour cannot let its ghost haunt the party any longer.

Conor Dunwoody


ComRes poll –

GCSE and A Level resultsCentre for Education and Employment Research, University of Buckingham/JQC

Military Intervention, Syria and the Trolley Problem

Ok, disclaimer: I disagree with the proposed air strikes in Syria. I don’t think they’re well-thought through, with no clearly-defined ground strategy needed to dislodge IS forces, nor any end-plan besides hurting IS. It reeks of Cameron trying to flex his muscles and appear as the man of the moment, rather than any genuine belief these strikes will either reduce attacks in Europe, or help those fighting IS. The most shameful part of all is that he is using the tragedy of the Paris attacks to push through something on his long-term agenda, in effect trying to score political points on a matter that is quite literally of life and death.

However, I can’t help but feel a little frustrated at some of the posts I’m seeing about the topic. It’s not that I disagree with the judgement that the strikes are wrong, but that I disagree with the reasoning behind so many of these judgements.

Far too many people are opting for an idealised, pacifist view on a a complex issue, and have clearly never even considered that military intervention may be necessary and even the right thing to do. To put it another way, too many people made their minds up the moment they saw the words “bomb Syria” without even thinking why, besides the idea that military intervention is inherently wrong.

Too many assume that civilian casualties are somehow avoidable, when in these situations they are not. 200,000 people have died in the Syrian war, which is a figure that will continue to rise. Lives are being lost every day, and in such a circumstance there is no inherent victory to pacifism. The reality of a situation such as the one in Syria is that innocent lives will be lost regardless of what we do, so the only choice we have is to minimise this – the ruthless arithmetic of war sometimes boils down to a hundred people dying so that a thousand can live. Sometimes, the only choices you have are bad ones, but that doesn’t give you the right to refuse to choose out of an arrogant unwillingness to dirty your hands.

It’s the classic trolley problem – a choice between killing one person to save another five, or letting the five die so you don’t get the blood of the one on your hands. The analogy isn’t perfect, but it does have relevance to our situation – we are at a crossroads. As a military power in NATO, we have the power to act. We can either chose to act and accept that some innocents will die, or sit back and allow untold more innocents to die. Either way, a country in our position will ultimately bear responsibility for those that end up dead – be it through our misguided action, or through our misguided failure to act.

Of course, I’m not saying that these strikes will really help the civilian population in Raqqa – I don’t think they would, and again I personally don’t support them – and things are of course nowhere near as simple as the trolley analogy. The strikes probably will harm as much as they help, and aren’t combined with the ground strategy needed to dislodge IS forces. Neither do they reflect an underlying strategy to tackle global Jihadism that is desperately needed in the battle against IS.

Really, though, whether or not the strikes would work is irrelevant to the point I’m making. The point I’m making is that they could work, but that too many people appear unwilling to ever entertain such a possibility – which is truly worrying. Coming to any conclusion on an issue of life or death from a closed perspective is incredibly, incredibly dangerous. Without considering all the possibilities and all the eventualities, you are risking a narrow course of action that reflects dogma rather than reason.

By refusing to properly engage with both sides of the debate from the start, you end up ignoring any evidence and points that jar with yours. In effect, you are thinking and behaving with the exact same mindset as Tony Blair and George Bush did in 2003.

So basically, there is absolutely nothing wrong with opposing military action in Syria – but please, please do so with an open mind.

Conor Dunwoody

The War of the Roses

war of the roses

There is less than a month left until the victor of the Labour leadership contest is announced, and the media has been filled with pieces talking of Labour reaching a crossroads where they have to choose between head and heart, between opposition and governance. These pieces are as original in their content as they are useful in application, which is to say not at all. This hackneyed false-dichotomy of heart or head shows a complete misunderstanding of what this content is really about. To win once more, Labour needs to find a candidate who can speak from the both the head and from the heart, who can both lead a principled opposition whilst also presenting an electoral challenge to the Conservatives. To do anything less would be a betrayal of both the public Labour seeks to lead, and of the party members Labour claims to be led by.

This of course is a lot easier said then done, and requires a leader of both style and substance, the kind of leader from the ilk of Blair and Cameron. So far, none of the current crop come anywhere near – and this extends to socialist frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn has certainly forged a strong emotional connection with the heart of the party – from the unionists to the progressive principles the party was founded upon – but leading the polls within the Labour party, skewed younger and more red than the rest of the country, is a somewhat flawed measure of determining appeal to the wider public.

In reality, outside of the left-wing bubble that is the Labour party membership, Corbyn simply is not viewed as presenting credible alternatives to the current Conservative policies, especially in the key area of the economy. Even within his own support base, Cobyn is perceived as far less likely to be a future Prime Minister than either Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper: 43% of Labour members can see Andy Burnham as a future Prime Minister, compared to just 26% for Corbyn.

ispos mori poll2

This perception of Corbyn as so unelectable is down to more than just his brand of politics, with his political record simply inadequate for somebody running for this position. Though Corbyn has served as an MP for some 30years, he is a life-long back-bencher, always a voice for protest rather than of governance. Even in its overtly-socialist malaise of the Thatcher years, Labour was fronted by men who were more than just protestors – Michael Foot served in cabinet and as Leader of the Commons before he became leader of the party, whilst prominent socialist Tony Benn served both in cabinet and as Chairman of the Labour Party.

Furthermore, both Foot and Benn clearly projected authority as compelling orators and strong personalities. Whilst nobody can doubt that Corbyn is genuine in his ideas, he lacks the gravitas to convince the public he has the strength of character to push his ideas through parliament, or the diplomatic nous to go toe-to-toe with Putin.

This goes beyond just Corbyn’s ability to lead, too, and into whether he even really is the kind of character who wants to lead; he has shown no desire to hold any position of responsibility in his long political career, and moreover only gained the necessary nominations from MPs to enter the contest as he argued he was only there to “widen the debate.”

Yet despite the fact that seemingly none of the MPs who nominated Corbyn want him to lead the party, and despite the fact the man himself entered the race with no intention of leading the party, it is Jeremy Corbyn who is currently topping the polls, not Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper. People can see Burnham or Cooper as a future PM, but they do not especially want them as PM. Credibility is nothing without connectability, and many in the Labour party seem perfectly prepared to remain in opposition if that is what it takes for the party to reconnect with its roots.

The Blairite candidate Liz Kendall has been leading the “anyone-but-Corbyn” charge, however her own campaign poses little threat to Corbyn. Indeed, that Kendall has joined the likes of Blair and Brown in condemning Corbyn has probably done just as much to help his cause as hurt it; within Labour, her ideas are seen as a betrayal of everything that the party stands for, so the fact she opposes Corbyn just further polarises Labour loyalists away from her Blairite rhetoric and towards Corbyn’s camp.

Kendall doesn’t fare much better in terms of support from the wider public, with her attempts to christen herself as “the candidate the Tories fear” backfiring in the face of opinion polls showing the public neither particularly like her, not perceive her as prime ministerial; a recent Ispos Mori poll showed just 16% of the public perceive Kendall as prime ministerial, which actually puts her below Corbyn and 11% below Burnham. Despite an endorsement from party darling David Miliband, Kendall still only has a paltry 8% share of first preference votes per the latest YouGov poll. A more recent poll by Survation puts Kendall at a somewhat more favourable 12%, whilst a YouGov/London Evening Standard poll puts her support at 6%-12%, depending on how the question was phrased. The most damning indictment of Kendall’s irrelevance, however, is that the most recent YouGov/Times poll did not even bother to ask respondents about their support for Kendall.

ispos mori poll

Yvette Cooper has too many factors against her to really establish any kind of connection, either with her party or with the wider electorate. Some of this comes down to how she is perceived as being close to the dark side of both New Labour and Miliband’s Labour. Obviously, her marriage to Ed Balls strongly connects her to the economically unpopular positioning of Miliband’s Labour. Furthermore, Cooper is connected to the fiscal irresponsibility of New Labour through her role as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2008-2010 which, when combined with her outright refusal to concede any sort of overspend during the New Labour years, will lead to the public perceiving her as lacking economic credibility; ironic, considering Cooper’s repeated claims that she is the most credible candidate.

However, this doesn’t account for Cooper’s failure to connect with such large swathes of the party. The reason for this does not lie in any past misdemeanours, but in the failings of the present; Cooper has run a weak and incredibly vague campaign that offers nothing to the party. Compare this to her competitors: Corbyn has offered mass reindustrialisation and nationalisation; Burnham devolution, public rails and universal care for mental health; Kendall has offered to cut back on Labour’s welfare spending and forge much closer ties with businesses, small and large.

Cooper has offered nothing substantial, failing thus far to even launch a manifesto as Corbyn and Burnham have. The most “radical” (in her own words) policy she has offered is universal free child care. Whilst admirable, such a policy is hardly the sign of a greater vision, and is in all honestly probably a calculated move by her campaign team to push Yvette’s ability to connect with the female vote. Indeed, Cooper has frequently tried to play up the gender card this debate; when asked in first televised debate what qualities she shared with Nicola Sturgeon that would make her a good leader, her only response was to say that she was a woman and stress the need for Labour to finally elect a female leader. She has even gone as far as to accuse Burnham’s supporters of sexism over a headline that maliciously misquoted Burnham-supporter Lord Falconer.

Combine this with late calls for Burnham to pull out for “failing to offer an alternative to Corbyn” (whilst herself not publishing a manifesto) and making grubby deals with Kendall to minimise Corbyn’s share of second and third preference votes, and it is unsurprising that so many within the Labour movement prefer the more positive campaign of Corbyn.

This blandness is certainly calculated, as a means to get a high amount of second preference votes and maintaining an appeal to voters across the party. However, this same blandness is what created the vacuum of ideas necessary for an idealist like Corbyn to thrive in. Trying to sell herself as a safe pair of hands and as a woman who can provide a new and more inclusive face to Labour simply was never going to be enough when she has been so bereft of anything resembling a vision, for the party or the country, in this campaign. Cooper may share her broadly centrist position with Blair, but she lacks any kind of overaching vision.

None of the rivals to Corbyn have been great in this regard, but Cooper has been the worst of all – Burnham has his ideas of a widespread devolution of power widening the scope of politics, whilst Kendall has a somewhat-muddled but undeniably consistent focus on forging an economically prosperous Britain built upon meritocratic principles. Conversely, Cooper’s platform is incredibly negative, with another of her driving soundbytes being the need to “not lurch left or right” – the kind of wretchedly insipid rhetoric that instantly draws unfavourable comparisons to the disastrous “look left, look right and cross” 2015 election campaign of the Lib Dems. Politicians like Tony Blair succeeded because their ideas were too nuanced to be defined as simply left or right; politicians like Nick Clegg failed because their ideas were too confused to be defined as anything.

You don't win elections by defining yourselves against what you are not
You rarely win votes solely by defining yourselves against what you are not – positivity is needed also

As for Andy Burnham, the early frontrunner? His early indecision and refusal to think big allowed Jeremy Corbyn to seize the momentum, forcing Burnham onto the back-foot throughout the campaign. He has spoken so frequently of Labour as being “scared of its own shadow,” but has himself only gained the courage to announce sweeping policies like renationalising the rail after the surge in Corbyn support, and consequently Burnham has forced himself to play the part of reactionary rather than progressive as a result of this earlier non-committal stance.

Furthermore, Burnham has also created an image of himself within the party’s memberbase as inconsistent and weak, lacking the moral strength to oppose the austerity of the Conservatives. He has not always possessed the courage to follow through with his convictions in the same way that Corbyn has, most notably seen as he criticised the Conservative welfare bill, but refused to vote against it. Indeed, he has been nicknamed “flip-flop Andy” by some in the party.

I still, however, genuinely believe Burnham to be the best choice for Labour, and the only choice if they are to have any real hope of challenging the Conservatives in 2020. Yes, his campaign has had its flaws, but Burnham himself still possess the image and presence of a man who could one day become Prime Minister, with polls consistently demonstrating this. For one, the aforementioned Ispos Mori poll showed 27% of the public see him as a future Prime Minister, over 10% ahead of Kendall and Corbyn, and also comfortably ahead of Cooper. A more recent ComRes poll shows that he is the candidate perceived as most able to improve Labour’s electability (Corybn is unsurprisingly seen as the least).

There are numerous reasons for this; he’s an experienced politician who has served in cabinet, but is not closely associated enough to either New Labour or Miliband to suffer from association with their mistakes. Indeed, he has been able to turn this association into a strength, by using his position in the treasury to argue he knows Labour overspent. On that note, his ability to even admit there was an overspend already sets him apart from Cooper and Corbyn, and puts him as a prime contender to try and shed the perception of irresponsible, borrow-happy Labour

However, if anything can be learnt from the overwhelming success of the media smear campaign against Ed Miliband in the run-up to 2015, it is that the British electorate is extremely fickle. More important than Burnham’s track record or policies is his actual image. Sure, he talks more in soundbytes than English, but look at how the other candidates tried to show their human side on the recent debate on Victoria Derbyshire: Cooper is a career-politician straight out of Oxford, who admits she has “no hobbies” besides being a mum. Kendall likes running. Corbyn enjoy lobbying for human rights and cycling. Cycling. Comparatively, Burnham has a strong image as the MP for the constituency where he grew up, can relate his former position as Sports Minister to his love of football, and a ready smile.

Does this mean I believe Burnham is the perfect candidate, with the perfect campaign? No – far from it. However, I believe he is the only candidate who can reconnect with the public whilst also keeping the party onside – both at elite and grassroots levels – and the only candidate who can only truly offer the British public an alternative to the Conservatives in 2020, because as well as enjoying endorsements from major figures on the political landscape (Neil Kinnock, David Blunkett and Lord Falconer, as well as the Mirror), he has managed to offer a positive vision for the party and the country, without resorting to the negativity of Cooper and whilst staying true to Labour’s core values in a way Kendall has not.

If there is one point worth closing on, it is this: the principled opposition of the 1980s did not further the cause of left-wing politics, rather it crippled it. Standing back and allowing Thatcher to dominate has left us with a country still living in her shadow.

The crippling of the trade unions; the antagonism of the North and of Scotland; the rampant deregulation of our financial sector facilitating the global financial crisis of 2007; the privatisation of our rails. These were the consequences last time Labour chose principles over governance, the inability of Labour to truly oppose the Conservatives in those Thatcher years is being felt now more than ever. Repeating the mistakes of the 80s is not a vision of hope – it is a delusion. Labour needs somebody who can honour its past without becoming trapped in it, who can learn from both the successes and failures and thus truly bring Labour into the modern era. The Britain Jeremy Corbyn envisions died in the 1980s; Labour cannot let its ghost haunt the party any longer.

Conor Dunwoody


Ispos Mori “Future Prime Ministers?” poll:

YouGov/Times poll (17th-21st July):

YouGov/Times poll (6th-10th August):

YouGov/London Evening Standard poll:

ComRes poll:

An Analysis of the Greens’ Manifesto

The so-called “Green surge” predicted during this election has perhaps not seen a radical shift of the electorate towards their proposed “alternative politics,” but the Greens are definitely at their highest ever level of exposure after Natalie Bennett’s participation, albeit a fairly anonymous one, in two of the three main leaders’ debate. Indeed, the Green party of England and Wales are now the fourth largest party in the UK by membership, behind Labour, the Conservatives, and the SNP. [1] (you read that right, the Lib Dems are indeed now fourth in terms of party membership)

Will this be their breakthrough election though? Or are they only going to succeed in sapping the Labour vote and maybe losing them a few MPs? Regardless of how well the Greens do or do not do, their increasing political presence demands our attention, and thus our scrutiny.

I decided to have a good read of their manifesto to help me decide whether what they’re promising is viable – I’ve always seen the Green party as hopeless idealists that can peddle anything, simply because they have no hope of being in any position of power.

I was surprised to find some interesting, and dare I say well thought through, ideas in their manifesto, and it seemed like every other page they pointed me in the direction of something they had achieved at a local level (so maybe my earlier judgement of them never being near power was slightly harsh).

However mixed in with the good, were quite a few of the idealistic, ill-conceived ideas I was expecting. Below is analysis of the main problematic policies included in their manifesto (which is freely available on their website):

A complete rejection of Nuclear power, despite it being one of the best means of producing low carbon electricity

This makes absolutely no sense to me. Nuclear power, despite being expensive, is the best proven form of low carbon energy generation.

And yes, Nuclear power is a proven [2] means of generating low carbon electricity, I found it astounding that the green manifesto stated the following:

Nuclear energy is not green. Nuclear energy is neither zero carbon nor renewable and there is serious debate about whether it is even low carbon.

I don’t know what basis they had for stating this, but Nuclear energy has been proven a very low carbon source of electricity (on par with Wind and Hydro, and by some estimations better than Solar PV). Technically speaking you could say that Nuclear isn’t ‘zero carbon’ owing to the construction of the plants, and extraction of Uranium etc. but then again, neither are Solar, Wind or Hydro if you factor in Carbon produced during construction.

Nuclear fusion would undoubtedly be the best solution in terms of low carbon power, and I would argue that Nuclear fission, whilst imperfect, is a bridging step towards Nuclear fusion. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any mention of Nuclear fusion in the Green manifesto.

I think that in their single mindedness regarding Nuclear power, the Green party are missing out on massive potential for reducing carbon emissions relatively quickly (expect more on this topic from me in the near future).

A ban on all Genetically Modified Crops, and Organisms

I don’t fully understand the reasoning behind this, the Greens plan on banning the use of many pesticides, yet are also unkeen on GMO, which could alleviate many of the problems that pesticides do. Besides the fact that they could also make more effective use of land, freeing up more for devotion to wildlife that the Greens’ want to focus on.

The Earth needs to support an ever increasing load, with many predicting a food crisis by 2050. GM crops have significantly higher yields, so rejecting GMOs due to pseudoscience and unfounded fears is completely unhelpful in this regard.

Besides, we are all in essence already eating Genetically Modified Organisms – farmers have been selectively breeding livestock and crops for centuries.

Ensure that all schools, hospitals and other public buildings have solar panels by 2020

Of all the means of renewable electricity, I think Solar power is perhaps the least suited to our country.

When is electricity demand at it’s highest? In the Winter, when the weather is rubbish and the amount of daylight can be less than 4 hours a day [4].

The only way to ensure that electricity supply is reliable is to ensure backup supply for all solar panel installations, an incredibly inefficient way of producing electricity.

Surely tidal power (which provides a reliable and predictable amount of power) or Wind power (which can probably be used without full backups if enough storage capacity is installed) are much better alternatives than solar power considering our country’s geography and climate?

Phase in a maximum 35 hour working week

Implementing a maximum 35 hour working week has real potential to harm economy; what if someone wants to work over 35 hours a week? This is potentially a win-win for employer and employee as the employee gets paid overtime, and the employer gets much needed work finished.

Such a brute force strategy seems like a poor choice to me. Surely it’s better to ensure there are enough jobs available for people to choose a job based partly on which hours it requires? This benefits both the employer and employee, allowing people who would consciously choose to work more than 35 hours a week to do so.

Implementing a ‘Basic Income’ – an incredibly expensive policy

A corner stone of the Green parties long term plan is the introduction of ‘basic’ or ‘citizens’ income, everyone in the country would be paid roughly £72 a week by the government, with children receiving a reduced rate payable to their parent or guardian (presumably on top of child benefit, which the Greens are promising to more than double), and single parents, or disabled people receiving a higher rate. [3]

The greens plan for this to mostly replace the benefits system, and by their estimate this will save money owing to a reduction in administration costs, .

According to the greens:

EC731 The Citizens’ Income will eliminate the unemployment and poverty traps, as well as acting as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work

I’m not entirely sure why they think this, as £72 a week is certainly not enough to live on, and is considerably less than the average UK wage.

The costings for this are incredibly sketchy, the greens have yet to release information on how they plan to fully cost this, but a rough estimate would put the cost at around £240 billion a year, more than the current welfare bill (including pensions). It has also been estimated by some that implementing such a scheme would disproportionally impact the poor, the current benefit cap for a single person is £350 a week, [5] significantly more than the £72 citizens income.

However this puts the greens at odds with themselves, they state:

When the Citizens’ Income is introduced it is intended that nobody will be in a position that they will receive less through the scheme than they were entitled to under the previous benefits system.

Apparently the implementation of such a system will save money, yet nobody will earn less than they did through the previous system, and a significant number of people will earn more then previously. Frankly, the idea of paying the wealthy £72 a week they don’t need is the kind of ridiculous policy the Greens’ have largely managed to shake off with this manifesto. The welfare system isn’t perfect, but it provides support for those who need it rather than wasting money on those who already have an abundance of it. This system will cost even more than a welfare system already widely-perceived as bloated, and hurt those on low-incomes.

As for addressing homelessness: you’re advised not to give homeless people money, but to give food and blankets. Many homeless people have severe problems with alcoholism, gambling and drug abuse, and giving them £72 to further these habits will help rather than hinder. More useful than just throwing money at these people would be to build more homeless shelters, and/or do more to address the root causes of homelessness. The citizens income’ is to homeless as a band-aid that’s been swabbed through dirt is to a wound – sure, it might make the problem somewhat less visible and give the impression of taking positive action, but in reality it will just make the situation worse.

Regardless, £72 is not enough to live on. The homeless would not be able to suddenly find accommodation, pay bills, pay rent and put food on their table with this paltry amount.

So, a quick recap: This well-intended but ill-conceived policy would leave those already on benefits out of pocket, give £72 a week to the fat-cat bankers the Greens’ are so critical of, and give the homeless enough money to facilitate alcoholism and drug-abuse, but not enough to actually live independently on. Colour me confused.

Plans to completely scrap tuition fees

This would be incredibly expensive to implement, consider there are currently more than 2 million university students in the UK [6]. The NUS estimates that the average amount university charge in tuition fees is £8,354 a year. [7]

So for 2 million students, that’s a cost of £16.7 billion pounds a year. Let’s say the government recoups half of that – that’s roughly £8 billion pounds we’re talking about here, a very significant sum of money. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Green party want to write off all outstanding student debt, costing further billions in the long term.

From my perspective student loans aren’t that bad, the repayment system seems very fair, even with a headline grabbing yearly fee of £9000.

You only repay 9% of what you earn over £21’000, to put that into context, if you earn £25’000 a year, that’s repayments of only £30a month, and if you earn £30’000 a year you only repay £67 a month.

I can probably agree it’s not ideal, but it hardly feels like an injustice, and considering the state of the public finances I think it’s hardly responsible to throw so much money away.

(for those curious, you can find much more information on the Government website regarding repayments

Raise the top rate of income tax from 45% to 60%

We have a wonderful example here in the form of France, which levied a 75% tax rate on its top earners. Whilst the tax did raise a small amount of money (around 260, then 160 million euros a year) it paled in comparison to the total amount of the French deficit (around 80,000 million) and was recently quietly killed by the very government that instituted it [8].

The problem with such a punitive tax is that it can dissuade investors and executives from investing, as well as encouraging emigration of the wealthy . The net effect could well have been negative on the French coffers – near 600 earning above the 800,000 euro threshold for this 75% tax emigrated from France in 2012, meaning at a rate of 50% (at the absolute least) 24 million euros of income was lost. [9] In reality, the kind of people emigrating included Gerard Depardieu, a man with a $200million net worth. Therefore, even if you were discounting the effects of lost investment, it is apparent that any earnings from this tax would have been minimal indeed.

Massively increase borrowing whilst targeting zero growth

The green manifesto states quite clearly:

The plans in this manifesto require borrowing of £338 billion (in real 2015 terms) over the Parliament as compared with the Coalition’s plan in the 2015 Budget to borrow £115 billion.

£338 billion is a huge amount, especially considering the greens aren’t big on economic growth long term (an increasing debt burden can be bearable, providing the economy is growing at least in line with said debt burden).

Is it really reasonable to claim you stand for young people, whilst also stating you’ll rack up enormous debts that they, alongside future generations, will likely have to deal with at some point?

What’s more, is that a lot of the parties policies on the economy just don’t stand up. For example, the IFS recently questioned Labours plans to raise £7.5 billion from crackdowns on tax evasion. Considering this, the Green party plan to raise £30 billion from cracking down on tax evasion is downright ludicrous. It’s almost like they just picked a number to suit their spending plans.

Their new wealth tax too, is apparently going to raise £25 billion per annum. Considering France managed to raise (averaging the two years of their wealth tax) 0.06% this amount (also excluding loss of revenue from emigration and lost investment), you can colour me highly sceptical.

Plans to end Trident

This seems incredibly short sighted to me, especially considering the recent events in Ukraine.

The argument behind this seems to be that nuclear weapons won’t protect us from terrorists – whilst this may be true, there are still a number of threats that nuclear weapons would protect us from – look at the ongoing debate involving Iran. I believe that a nuclear deterrent is still surprisingly effective at deterring countries from declaring war against one another.

The diplomatic repercussions for this would also be massive. Would we still keep our seat on the permanent UN security council? Unlikely. Would our position in NATO – a nuclear alliance – be jeopardised? Likely. Would other countries be more inclined to listen to our opinions? No. Would it harm us diplomatically? Yes.

I feel that the electorate is incredibly exhausted when it comes to the issue of foreign policy, and understandably so after the fiasco of Iraq and Afghanistan, but does that mean that we should be frightened to act on the world stage? Or would we prefer to leave this to the US, China and Russia?

An economic case could also be made for Trident – the submarines are designed by a UK company, and manufactured in the UK, using somewhat high tech manufacturing gear.

In closing

In conclusion, I found some nice policy ideas, but unfortunately still plenty of the idealistic posturing that makes me so averse to the Green party. I still think they need a good dose of realism before they become a party I can really take seriously.

The Greens do seem more serious than in the past though, and some of their policies on Climate change (notably their policy on a nationwide insulation program), and the environment (notably on soil erosion) do stack up. Here’s to hoping their next manifesto is a bit more believable.

Sean Dunwoody











Hillary Clinton – A Force for Change or More of the Same?

Hillary Clinton announced on Sunday what everybody knew had been coming for months: she would be standing as a presidential candidate for the democrats. As many political commentators are crowing, this was more of a coronation than anything else, for there is simply nobody else with the clout within the party that would appear to be running. Neither does there appear to be any dangerous outsiders joining the race; there will be no Obama-esque figure to thwart Clinton this time. Considering that Clinton will almost certainly be the democrat candidate that ends up driving their push for another stint in the white house, it’s worth exploring the highs and lows of the career of a woman who may end up as the head of state of our most prominent ally.

The Good

  • Following the US’ first black president with its first female president would be a clear sign of progress in contrast to much of the socially regressive rhetoric of the Republicans. Moreover, her policies do show a focus on gender-related issues, and she has been an active campaigner for women’s rights since the 90s
  • Clinton previously campaigned for health reform when her husband was in office, so it is hoped would continue to tackle the shambolic US health system
  • Has promised action to redress unfair elements of US society, such as increasing the minimum wage (the federal minimum is just $7.25/£4.93 an hour, although many states pay higher)
  • Favours achievable targets relating to gun control, such as outlawing assault weapons
  • Back in 2001, she called for the abolition of the electoral collage frequently criticized for being undemocratic, with Clinton instead favouring a president elected entirely based on the popular vote
  • Is committed to combating climate change, unlike many of her Republican opponents – Clinton is committed to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol committing nations to reduce their emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases
  • Has urged more financial and military aid be sent to Ukraine

The Bad

  • Hillary Clinton is far closer to Israel than her predecessor, who has become increasingly infuriated with Israel’s diplomatic blunders and recent denouncement of the Iranian nuclear deal. Clinton would represent a move towards closer ties to Israel, and thus provide further protection for continued Israeli injustices – she herself supported the creation of the Western Bank Barrier
  • Voted in favour of the 2001 USA patriot act, and has also remarked that human rights are secondary to national security
  • Previously showed a lukewarm approach towards gay marriage, only conclusively “coming out” (hurhurhur) in support of gay marriage in 2013 (sadly coming out in support of gay marriage is the closest you’ll get to a presidential candidate coming out in this generation of US politics)
  • Criticized Obama in 2008 for supporting Iranian negotiations, only to later voice support for the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal
  • Voted in favour of the Iraq war only to later criticize US involvement
  • Formerly supported the Cuban embargo
  • Weak track record as secretary of state, particularly in her “new slate” approach to Russia that the Republicans have gleefully jumped upon in light of events in Eastern Europe
  • Criticized Edward Snowden as a traitor and terrorist, but nevertheless sees no hypocrisy in winning cheap points by making vague statements about how NSA surveillance made people feel “betrayed”

The Ugly

  • Famously refused to concede defeat to Obama when this was obvious to all by invoking memories of Robert Kennedy’s assassination
  • Signed an act making flag burning illegal
  • Blasted Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games as “a major threat to morality,” despite all research into this area showing no link between violence and playing violent video games
  • Was embroiled in a scandal earlier in the year due to her usage of a private email account whilst Secretary of State to withhold documents from the State Department


Hillary Clinton would definitely be preferable to some of the frankly dangerous candidates the Republicans are fielding, however she herself is much more of a moderate than she is a reformer.

That’s not to say that she is not genuinely committed to some level of reform. Conversely, she appears ready to tackle some of the most pressing issues that the US people are facing – a low minimum wage, stalling progress in the fight for women’s right, a health system that doesn’t work for the people, and an inability amongst the political elite to take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions.

However, how radical are many of her “reformist” notions?  Her policies on gun control, whilst having the advantage of being realistic, don’t actually propose anything as radical as real, effective management of the distribution of firearms. A federal minimum wage of $7.25 demands reform. Whilst many of her other past attitudes, such as in ratifying the Kyoto protocol and reforming the US health system, are admirable, they are also hardly a radical departure from fairly standard democratic principles and policies, nor a departure from those of the current president.

Moreover, Clinton has shown a lack of integrity on important issues that simply cannot be ignored: She has contradicted herself on the Iranian nuclear deal, on same-sex marriage, on the Iraq War. Her attitude towards creating a fairer American society is at odds with her defence of one of the world’s greatest injustices in the annexation and segregation of the Palestinian people.

Outside of these inconsistencies in policy and outside of her sometimes borderline-Machiavellian pragmatism, Clinton has spoken consistently in favour of measures that range from regressive to just downright bizarre. Be it her unclear position on the surveillance of the NSA, her unfounded scaremongering on the societal effect of violent video games, or her chest-thumping jingoism on flag burning, all of these oddities reveal a figure who still overall speaks in the language of the current US political class.

Despite this, she would still be my preferred choice for US president when the competition features the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Based on the current crop of hopefuls, she undeniably is the best hope of any kind of real progress – but that is faint praise indeed.

Conor Dunwoody

Sources (I’ve only linked to the more obscure points I’ve raised)

On potential for Obama to be assassinated –

Support for Western Bank barrier –

On the abolition of the electoral collage –

On Ukranian aid –

On Violent Video Games –

On Edward Snowden and the NSA –

On Flag Burning –

Foreign Aid, International Markets and UKIP

Nigel Farage recently promised UKIP would slash our annual £11billion budget for foreign aid by £9billion. On the face of it, this may seem tough but fair – why help those outside the UK when we have a rising level of children living in poverty, a strained NHS and a struggling middle class?

It is briefly worth noting that foreign aid is unrelated to the EU, which UKIP of course see as the source of all our ills. Rather, the tyrannical oppressor here is the evil empire of the UN, which has set targets of 0.7% of GDP to be spent on foreign aid. Currently, our spending on foreign aid is just shy of this target, and has increased by over 0.1% in the past two years. Interestingly enough, every other major party leader in the UK is committed to reaching this goal of 0.7% spending on foreign aid. Why, then, do we see such a commitment to foreign aid, even from the conservatives so well-known for their attitude of self-financing? Moreover, why would the cut-happy coalition not just continue spending in this area, but actually increase it whilst preaching austerity?

There are all sorts of arguments for foreign aiding rooted in a moral perspective, and ones that I’d agree with. These range from our culpability as a former colonial power to our responsibility as a strong nation to help those less fortunate. Also of importance here are the potential diplomatic ramifications that would resulting from severing aid with the third world.

However even from a perspective solely of self-interest, Farage’s ideas are illogical, dangerous and wilfully misleading. A breakdown of how we spend our foreign aid budget is telling here. 22% of our 2011-12 bilateral aid budget (bilateral aid being aid sent directly to foreign governments) was devoted to health, which includes spending in aid of stopping the spread of HIV, malaria and more recently Ebola. An example of how the DFID (Department for International Development, who spend 88% of our budget for foreign aid) use their funding is the £7.5million Emergency Ebola Response Fund. Stopping the spread of diseases such as Ebola and HIV can be important for a number of reasons:

  1. Stopping the spread of particularly virulent diseases such as Ebola reduces the potential for this disease to spread to the developed world
  2. Diseases such as malaria, HIV and Ebola can wipe out huge chunks of developing populations, which has a negative effect on these economies and thus limits potential growth for the international economy
  3. One thing Farage recently complained about was foreign nationals coming to the UK for free treatment of HIV – many of these are asylum seekers, and if a more concerted effort was taken to eliminate diseases such as HIV in the developing world, this would not be a problem in the first place

Also included under health is “reproductive, maternal and newborn health,” which accounted for 6% of our bilateral aid spending in 2011-12. This kind of spending reduces family size in developing countries, and can be seen to great effect in Bangladesh, which has seen the crude birth rate fall from 47 (per 1,000) in 1970, to 35.1 in 1990, to 20.3 in 2012. Smaller family sizes and stabilising populations are key to the development of such economies, which is one reason why we invested £18.6million into improving Bangladesh’s “reproductive, maternal and newborn health” in the period 2011-2.

In fairness, UKIP have committed to token investment in health-based aid on their ever-changing list of policies. One focus of foreign aid that is key and not referenced as sacred enough to avoid cuts on UKIP’s online list of policies, however, is education. The importance of investing in education is reflected in our spending on foreign aid; of the £4.2billion the DFID spent on bilateral aid in 2012, 11.3% went into education. Last year, this figure had risen to 13.4%. Education is important to help developing countries produce skilled workers that can drive forward their economies, thus resulting in more developed trade partners for our country. £44million was invested in Bangladesh’s education system in the period 2011-12, with the DFID concluding that this had led to more girls enrolling in school, as well as improving net enrolment in primary education.

The third and final area of foreign spending I would highlight is wealth creation, which accounted for 13.2% of our bilateral aid budget in 2011-12. Put simply, wealth creation is the idea of accumulating assets that will generate income and thus stimulate economic growth, and much of our spending on foreign aid has gone into creating the infrastructure to allow wealth creation in developing nations. Our investment in this area in 2011-2 was matched by spending 9.6% of our bilateral aid budget in creating “global partnerships.” This is vital to producing more developed trade partners, and an example of wealth creation out of self-interest can be seen through the billions the US poured into the European economies after the second world war via the Marshall plan. Frankly, to not invest in these countries in the short term will be detrimental to the long-term health of the international market, with these nations representing untapped potential for growth. The justification for spending £57million on wealth creation in Bangladesh from 2011-12 was “supporting private sector development, jobs and skills, as the foundation for more sustainable, equitable and higher growth and development over the long term.” Perfectly reasonable justifications, but who needs those when you can just use scaremongering tactics to appeal to base populism?

UKIP are nothing if not short-sighted, however, and this is epitomised through the fact that £240million of the DFID’s bilateral aid budget for 2011-12 went towards prevention of climate change, which obviously benefits the UK as much as anybody else. I won’t bother exploring this point in detail as UKIP don’t subscribe to the idea climate change to begin with, promising amongst other things to end subsidies for green energy and close down the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Parallels can nevertheless be seen in UKIP’s attitudes to climate change and their attitude towards the developing world, though, with both short-sighted in the extreme. After all, why create a better future for the next generation when you can just line the pockets of this one?

It is thus abundantly clear that UKIP’s rhetoric on foreign policy is not just divisive, but also misleading and dangerous. Their approach to foreign aid would represent not just a rejection of moral responsibility, nor just a diplomatic blunder. More than that, these proposed cuts are part of a tunnel-vision approach to the global economy that would stunt future economic growth, and in doing so hurt us along with the nations denied aid; any short-term savings we might gain, already negligible in the grand scheme of government spending, would be inconsequential considering the damaging long-term repercussions of failing to invest in the developing world.

Conor Dunwoody


UK party leaders consensus on meeting foreign aid targets –

DFID mandate –

DFID Ebola spending –

2011-12 and 2011-12 foreign aid spending –

(1) Broad overview:

(2) Detailed analysis, including individual aid to countries such as Bangladesh:

2014 DFID spending –

Bangladeshi Birth Rates –

UKIP policies on foreign aid and climate change –