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.










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

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











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 –