Dear Uncle James, Thank you for your note (‘Letter to a Corbynista’, June 24). Firstly, of course we’re still friends, so there is no need to worry about that. The world would be a boring place if we all agreed on everything, and probably a backward one too if no one was challenged on their views.
I should also explain my background for the benefit of readers not related to me. I come from a Conservative-voting family, I’m privately educated and I work as the financial controller of a multinational group. If there is a stereotypical Labour voter, or even a ‘Corbynista’, I’m not sure I’d fit the mould. In fact, some of my colleagues expressed surprise that I voted Labour, and had expected me to be a Conservative. I should also point out I’ve never actually voted for Labour before — I voted Lib Dem in the previous two elections and would consider myself more of a liberal than a socialist.
I can’t claim to be a political expert by any means. Like many people I take an interest in what is going on, but I’ve also felt for most of my adult life that when it came to general elections, there wasn’t much of a choice on offer. Sure, there were differences between the main parties, but it didn’t feel as though they were particularly significant.
When it came to the 2015 general election I was particularly uninspired, and I know from talking with friends at the time that I was not alone in that. I voted for what I considered to be the ‘least worst’ option, but with no particular enthusiasm. We ended up with a series of political leaders whose only interest has seemed to be in furthering their own careers with little or no concern for the people they represent. If David Cameron and George Osborne really cared about making this country a better place, why are they not still MPs? Instead, their departures from parliament following the loss of senior offices strike me as the kind of reaction you’d expect from a child who throws a tantrum and storms off after being told to share their toys with the other children.
Then we found ourselves with a prime minister who either doesn’t seem to know what she believes, or alternatively says whatever will advance her own interests. A year ago, she said that we would be stronger inside the EU, but now her idea of strong and stable government is not only to take us out of Europe but also the single market and customs union as well.
Our government’s attempts to cling to power whether or not ministers believe in what they are saying, and no matter how much damage this does to the lives of ordinary people, could be considered similar to the one-party socialist states you referred to. In contrast to this, Jeremy Corbyn has been politically consistent and transparent.
Despite all that, I don’t want to give the impression that I saw Corbyn’s Labour party as the lesser of two evils again, because that’s not the case. I was happy to vote for a party whose leader puts people first, who wants to make the country a better place for those who live in it, and has also spent his career trying to do just that. In contrast to some of the other politicians I mentioned earlier, he admitted he had no previous aspirations to be prime minister, instead focusing his efforts on trying to make a positive difference through fighting for justice and human rights and challenging discrimination.
Do I think Corbyn is some kind of divine saviour who will instantly make the world a perfect place? Of course not, but I do think he’s going about things in the right way: whereas some people focus on nuclear weapons and when to use them, he focuses on the need for dialogue to achieve peace. When others demonise parts of our society, he stresses the need to end all forms of discrimination and to treat everyone with respect. Let’s also not forget he’s just been elected to parliament for the ninth consecutive time by his constituents, who see he genuinely cares about the people he represents.
This year, for the first time in my life, I was actually excited about voting in an election, and I think it’s amazing Corbyn is able to inspire people in a way that the Conservatives and others have been unable to. I have friends (including some in their forties and fifties) who had never voted before, but voted for Labour this time because, for the first time, they agreed with what the leader of a main political party was saying.
I have read your letter with interest but I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear I have a different view on some of the concerns you raise. I think the comparisons with the USSR and North Korea etc are rather extreme. I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting that Corbyn or John McDonnell aspire to one-party socialism, or to a communist state, nor could they achieve this even if they wanted to. Corbyn and McDonnell may themselves be socialists, but they are part of a diverse political party, many of whose members are left-leaning centrists.
You say that every socialist country has been an economic failure and that to care about the poor is to care about the preservation of capitalism. However, the UK under a Corbyn-led Labour government would still be a democratic, capitalist country, with a socialist prime minister who has a track record of fighting for social justice and minority rights.
The policies that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party propose appear to me to be closer to the Nordic model of social democracy, which is very different to the socialism you describe. As I understand it, they would be considered fairly mainstream in Scandinavian countries, which also happen to enjoy some of the highest living standards in the world. I also remember you telling me before about some of the things that Sweden in particular does better than us, especially when it comes to education.
While I appreciate your concern for my future and those of my cousins, I can’t share your fear that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn is the first step towards political oppression and the repeat of what you describe as a ‘Communist Holocaust’. I do, however, think there is a much greater chance that he might improve the lives of many people and make our country a more compassionate place to live in. Your nephew, Sebastian (you kindly called me John last week, but I’m happy to use my real name).
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues