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August 27, 2019


Sesh Nadathur

"Also, there’s an adverse halo effect: Corbyn’s associations with terrorists and Putinphiles cause some to fear that such bad judgement will infect his policies generally."

Well, yes. This fear is not unfounded and is also not an example of the halo effect cognitive bias, because how to deal with terrorists and Putinphiles is directly relevant to the job of being Prime Minister.


For me (and I appreciate this might fall directly into the Enfield/Whitehouse category you outline) it's a question of competence and the transparency of his ultimate objectives, as much as it's his immediate economic agenda. Can he even deliver his own party to secure an economic or political platform? Does his ideological certainty allow him to adapt when things don't go according the plan? And what is the end-state he's building towards? I don't fear a loss of relative income - I'm quite happy to pay more tax, too. I'd just like to know that in doing so, I'm genuinely helping to make a fairer and more sustainable society, not one that's just generally poorer with fewer rich people; and less efficient. Put another way: Ed Miliband never exactly blew my socks off. But I felt like he knew enough about how stuff works to implement policies that would deliver; and was broadly capable of bringing along different sections of the Labour party. (I might have been wildly wrong about that. But y'know... truthiness and all that...)

TL; DR: perhaps irrationally, I trust Corbyn much less than other left-wing political leaders I've been offered.


Why? Because there's little to no political/citizen education in our schools. We're a nation scared of politics, vulnerable to gangsterism.

Jamie Thunder

I think you're underplaying the phenomenon of Corbynphobia among much of the centre left. These are, after all, people who broadly support wealth redistribution!

Why then do they not sign up to the modest Scandinavian social democracy the last manifesto advocated? A few theories below, which may be in play alongside those you mention (including the centre left's own loss of status in the Labour party and political life more generally):

1) The antagonism of Corbyn and his supporters towards the achievements of New Labour (and particularly Blair) distorts their judgement
2) The lack of trust that Corbyn, McDonnell, and Milne actually mean what was in the manifesto rather than a rather blunter and more radical domestic policy programme
3) Concern that some specifics of current Labour policy will be actively harmful (blindness to anti-Western state violence) or at best a poor allocation of political and state capital (rail renationalisation), in a way that will limit the effectiveness of a Labour government.


I've had conversations about this with quite a few people that are not keen on corbyn (from all across the policitcal specturm)

Not one of them had a clue what economic policies Corbyn is proposing.

If you tell them that the policies are standard socila democratic, they respond in one of the following ways:
- he's incompetent/dim, so I don't trust him anyway
- he says that, but him and mcdonald are hard core marxists, they're saying this now but it'll be different if they get in
- they might work their, but how are we going to afford it now when we've had to have austerity for the last ten years

On this last point, nothing will persuade them from the idea that austerity was necessary because there was no money left.

simon gray

Many distrust his presumed failure to lead and if he is not leading then who is?
There has always been a belief among many UK voters that hidden within Labour is a fifth column of soviet style communists whether that is The Militant Tendency or Momentum and Labour consistently fails to shrug off that impression. The middle classes accepted Blair because he was one of them Corbyn is not and in that lies the origins of the phobia.

Chris Carter

If objecting to his decades of happily associating with antisemites and terrorist supporters, happily taking money for appearing on RT and Iranian state TV, makes me "self-righteous" then so be it.

Can the left really do no better?


If I sit and think about it, yes, at an intellectual level Corbyn's policies could be construed as 'normal social democratic'. Then why the hell doesn't he say so instead of making it sound as if Red Robbo is about to stalk the land. Why doesn't he say 'we want to be like Sweden or Holland or Germany', all reasonably civilised places we can identify with.

Then politics is also 'show business for ugly people' and I regret to say Corbyn and his team score well in this regard, they don't look good. This may sound highly prejudiced but politics is a selling job with a bit of economics tacked on. I am afraid I would not buy a washing machine from them if they worked in Currys.

Ed Milliband was nothing special but looked the part (more or less) and Blair looked the part and was even useful for a couple of years before he went off the rails. Even Thatcher was useful for a couple of years before she too got delusions, but even deluded she, regrettably, still looked the part and fooled many.

In the end it is all about message and appearance, if you can't get your message across and look the part you are a failure.


Ed Miliband didn't get the job because he didn't look the part


"What concerns us is not just the absolute level of income but rather our income relative to others. Back in 1995 Sara Solnick and David Hemenway found (pdf) that more than half of people would prefer an income of $50,000 a year when everybody else gets $25,000 than one of $100,000 when others get $200,000."

Is this not a highly rational choice? Money is just a claim on limited resources, so in any given society the person with double the amount of income tokens that everyone else has will be wealthy by the standards of that society, regardless of the actual numbers of money tokens involved.

After all would you prefer it if the government printed lots of £££ and gave you £2m and everyone else £4M vs if it gave you £1m and everyone else £500k? Which scenario would result in you having the higher standard of living? The bigger house, the fancier car?


"Is this not a highly rational choice? Money is just a claim on limited resources, so in any given society the person with double the amount of income tokens that everyone else has will be wealthy by the standards of that society, regardless of the actual numbers of money tokens involved."


One of the core drivers of populism I think is that people have realised that practically everything is kind of ultimately zero sum. You can probably trace the slide of neoliberalism into smug decadence to the time the Thatcherite barefaced imposture "a rising tide lifts all boats" was replaced by the Mandelsonian admission/gloat "they have nowhere else to go."

Sean Matthews

The New Statesman Editorial team has been known to wonder out loud about the Problems with Corbyn's historical relationships and enthusiasm for the IRA, Iran, Putin, etc.

But then I suppose The New Statesman is an well-known vehicle of oligarchic-rightist Propaganda (bit like the Guardian, only more so), so it's wonderings can be dismissed out of Hand, correct?


“After five years of a Corbyn government, would the relative socio-economic position of older, wealthier white men be as high as now?”

I just looked through the Top 15 of the Sunday Times Rich List 2019. Here’s my crude attempt to categorise those on the list by ethnicity (there is an overlap between the first two categories):

Jewish: (4) the Reubens, Len Blavatnik, Roman Abramovich, Michail Fridman
Russian: (4) Len Blavatnik, Alisher Usmanov, Roman Abramovich, Michail Fridman
White Brit: (4) Jim Ratcliffe, James Dyson, the Westons, the Duke of Westminster.
Indian: (3) the Hindujas, Lakshmi Mittal, Anil Agarwal
Non-Brit European: (3) the Rausings, the Heinekens, the Bertarelliscal

The takeaway is, even though White Brits make up 85% of the UK population, they only make up around a quarter of the UK’s super-super-wealthy.

Right now, according to the ONS, Brits of Chinese and Indian origin both earn more than White Brits. After five years of a Corbyn government I suspect that differential will persist, and maybe even grow. Will, say, Somali Brits manage to emulate Chinese and Indian success, and overtake White Brits? I have no idea.

We don’t know exactly what factor enables some ethnicities to do so much better than others. Even though Confucian, Jewish and Sikh Brits are all on average richer than C of E Whites, it doesn’t follow that converting to Confucianism, Judaism, or Sikhism will necessarily increase White earning capacity.


@georges, where do you get stats on CoE brits?


Corbyn’s associations with terrorists and Putinphiles...

[ This is crazily false, a calumny that Chris Dillow should be ashamed of having written and apologize for. Stop slandering Jeremy Corbyn. ]


I think the Wolfie Smith schtick pollutes the brand. As others point out if he set out a series of measured reforms stripped of the 'radical' window dressing, far-left cant and identity politics, he'd get a better reception. But aside from that, the presumption the Corbyn/McDonnell agenda will be 'fairer', 'more democratic' and 'more sustainable' etc... is highly questionable. The 'Not Economics Frankly' organization Meadway is associated with has a reputation for substituting modish wishful thinking in place of inconvenient economic realities.

My suspicion is such a programme is better designed to be captured by the interest groups the far left favour than actually delivering wealth more efficiently than (mixed) capitalism and markets can (cue theology about false consciousness and how 'democratic' solutions led by approved comrades can better deliver what people need rather than 'blind faith' in markets).


I have often wondered this. The hatred of the man you can see on the FT comment boards and usually it's followed - as above- weirdly, with "he's an antisemite, a marxist etc etc." which anyone with half a brain would realise cannot be correct. His track record is pro-Judaism and hardly marxist.

So thank you for having a go at deciphering why the hatred is there as opposed to just intellectual disagreement. I have heard much the same sentiments as D above.

I am also not finding the same level of hatred leveled against Johnson. Contempt, yes, sometimes, but there really should be more given that he is a known liar- perhaps people value form over substance nowadays?!

In summary what I think you are saying is that people fear they may lose but my mother said she doesn't like him because he looks scruffy. I honestly think you may be over-intellectualising and that actually the hatred might come down to something as simple as not wearing a tie?


I don't hate Corbyn, but I associate him, with the fringey token politics he has spent most of his career actively associating himself with. I think of it like student politics; everyone rolls their eyes at the modish, virtue signaling, novelty gestures from NUS branches when they support trendy (but sometimes highly dubious) causes , but they don't have real power and I expect most of them to grow up and for their beliefs to mature and become rounded. But people like Corbyn seem stuck in that childish phase, which is okay out in the fringes, until they come within sniffing distance of real power and you think 'do I really want trendy student politics running the country'?

Winter is coming

This is no doubt true. I have been fortunate enough to run a small, somewhat successful business. This has not made me happy, though. I realize how thin the line between success and failure is, and thus cannot quit worryingly no about everything turning pear shaped.

The better I do, the more I worry. Hence economic anxiety does not necessarily correlate with objective economic resources, rather the opposite I suspect,


I agree with the comments here. People don't really know what Corbyn's policies are. But his administration comes across as a rabble.

Although people have long had enough of professionalism and spin, people feel Corbyn, Abbott et al is going too far.


just show me one photo of Corbyn at a meeting of Scandanavian social democrats. Or one of him meeting socially with Scandinavian social democrats. Just one.

there aren't any, because he hasn't met them, isn't interested in them, has no intention of implementing their policies.

Dave Timoney

"Wolfie Smith", "trendy", "rabble", "not wearing a tie", "inconvenient economic realities". This thread is beginning to read like one on the Spectator site.



Were there many photographs of Gordon Brown or Tony Blair with Scandinavian social democrats ?

Dave Timoney

@Dipper, I think you're making a couple of errors, first in assuming that Corbyn has no sympathy for Scandinavian social democracy, and second in assuming that it is mild in nature (the one contention proving the other).

That's the way it may look today, after the neoliberal makeover that affected most European SD parties, but in Corbyn's formative years it was marked by radical policies such as the Meidner Plan.

Chris Carter

Really, that Corbyn has a history of dubious friends is not "crazily false".

I have no idea whether he has mentioned "social democracy" very much - "socialism" is more his thing. And he and his acolytes are also "crazily" stupid.

Dave Timoney

There's obviously an element of truth in this - there are plenty of comfortably-off gobshites who reckon Corbyn is Lenin reborn - but I suspect that Corbyn's real psychic threat is not in his plans for modest redistribution but in his own modest person.

The degree of contempt for Labour leaders has tended to correlate with their imputed class. Those that have posed as men of the people, like Wilson & Brown, have generated more "passionate, visceral hatred" than those, most obviously Blair, who presented as middle class.

This is not just snobbery - the charge against Wilson & Brown was one of hypocrisy, after all - but a belief that political leaders should exhibit particular virtues that definitionally exclude the ordinary (w/c virtues are reserved for the rude mechanicals on the backbenches).

Despite his own m/c roots, Corbyn presents (sincerely) as an ordinary bloke. This is reinforced by the media's questioning of his competence & their contempt for his modest lifestyle. The message is that he simply isn't the right sort to head a party, let alone a government.

I think a lot of modest, ordinary men (particularly those in middle age for whom ambition is all but dead) find Corbyn unsettling precisely because he suggests that rising to the top may not require genius or hard work, but may in fact be largely a matter of luck.

This is not to imply that Corbyn doesn't deserve to be PM. He does, and the refusal of his critics to envisage him as such says more about them than it does about him. But it does suggest that a lot of people resent him because his good fortune reflects poorly on their own.

In other words, he isn't only a threat to relative wealth & privilege but a reminder that just desserts fails in two directions. You may not have deserved your status, but equally you might have done a lot better with a little more luck.


"What concerns us is not just the absolute level of income but rather our income relative to others."

I have heard this claimed before, but I don't believe it's true. In the real world, people who might occupy the middle of the pack in developing nations are perfectly happy to emigrate to developed nations where they would occupy a lower rung on the socio-economic ladder. Rarely does the opposite happen, with working-class Westerners moving permanently to developed nations to lord it over the natives.

"Back in 1995 Sara Solnick and David Hemenway found (pdf) that more than half of people would prefer an income of $50,000 a year when everybody else gets $25,000 than one of $100,000 when others get $200,000."

Putting more zeroes on the end of your salary does not make it stretch any further. Any of us could move to Venezuela and become a billionaire overnight, but those billions couldn't buy much. And we could all add an extra zero to our income and we'd have more money, but the same amount of stuff. So this seems rational; people are evaluating these quantities based on assumed purchasing power.

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