Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Editorial: Another suicide note?

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The good thing for Great Britain is that it is neither Greece nor Jamaica, and, having voted in May, a general election is not due until 2020. The latter fact is the better for the Labour Party, which last weekend overwhelmingly elected Jeremy Corbyn its new leader.

For under Mr Corbyn's leadership, Labour seems set for a period of internal turbulence and policy incoherence, which will probably make it unelectable to the majority of Britons and which it will need time to resolve. And even if the party is elected on Mr Corbyn's platform, the out-turn is likely to be an economic fiasco. The good thing, however, is that unlike Jamaica's and Greece's, Britain's is a developed economy, whose government debt is just over 80 per cent of national output and whose servicing amounts to only around three per cent of gross national product (GDP). So the damage is unlikely to be long-lasting or permanent.

It is not that we perceive Mr Corbyn to be a bad person. He seems to be a rather decent man who wants to do good for humanity, and, like other recent protest-type leaders elsewhere in the world, has been able to tap into a popular disillusionment with traditional politics. So from an obscure backbencher who struggled to rustle up the required handful of parliamentary nominators for his candidacy, Mr Corbyn was the runaway winner in the election.

It is just that his economic ideas are decidedly facile, and they seem set to be cemented as Labour's platform, given his choice of fellow left-wing ideologue John McDonnell as the shadow chancellor (finance minister). Moreover, Mr Corbyn has indicated that under his leadership, Labour could support a withdrawal from the European Union as well as ditch Britain's nuclear deterrent, Trident. He is also hostile to NATO and, at best, leery towards the United States.

These are not mainstream British views. They form the outlines of a policy agenda that echoes Michael Foot's 1983 manifesto that was at the time described by the MP Gerald Kaufman as "the longest suicide note in history".

In the circumstance, Mr Corbyn, who had a reputation on the backbenches of defying his own party, may find it hard to elicit broad loyalty to his leadership.


greatest relevance to Jamaica


But it is the debate of Mr Corbyn's economic ideas that has greatest relevance to Jamaica. There is the danger that they could influence a misguided crowd that there are alternative options to the reform programme being implemented here. Mr Corbyn has proclaimed an anti-austerity mantra. He has called for the printing of money to sustain public spending and for the renationalisation of several former state-owned assets, including Britain's railway.

Britain has borrowed heavily since the 1990s to support its social-welfare system and has aggressively employed Keynesian economics since the global economic meltdown of 2008 in a relatively successful effort of preventing a collapse of its banking system and reviving its economy. Its debt has soared. But given the relatively low stock of debt with which it started and the UK's cheap cost of borrowing, quantitative easing has been affordable. The same is not true for Jamaica. Nor is it for Greece.

As Greece's Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party can testify to Mr Corbyn, it is quite different to be in government than in opposition, when you are not accountable for even the most outrageous promises.