Bernard Ingham: This Corbyn menace

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn.  Ian Hinchliffe /
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn. Ian Hinchliffe /
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He and his like are the reason I turned my back on Labour.

IT was the likes of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leadership candidate, who killed my Labour sympathies. There was no flash of light on my road to Damascus. Instead, my deep, inbred attachment to the party of my non-conformist forefathers was progressively eroded.

I thought the Bevanites a disloyal, self-indulgent bunch and the 1960s’ battles with CND ridiculous. Even a callow youth like me from Hebden Bridge could see that the Russian bear would have been all over Western Europe but for Nato’s arsenal of nuclear weapons – and probably would be now under Vladimir Putin.

But if there was one single moment that sealed my political transition, it was in 1965 when the Guardian moved me at three days’ notice from Leeds to London to cover labour affairs. That, in effect, meant a daily diet of strikes.

What I saw from close quarters in the conduct of those stoppages – the increasing abuse of trade union power at the expense of the public, the working man (when he was allowed to), British industry and the British economy – alienated me.

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The party ceded the moral high ground of its responsible rank and file to the narcissism, stupidity, essential thuggery and brass-necked corruption of the trade union barons. This was no foundation for the new Jerusalem.

Leaving the party when I joined the civil service in 1967 came as a release.

I worked for Barbara Castle when Labour’s cabinet capitulated to trade union power over the White Paper In Place of Strife, which merely sought to complement that power with responsibility. That really put the skids under my political drift.

Ted Heath did little to accelerate it with his exercise in futility – endless meetings at Chequers with TUC leaders that I attended – and his eventual U-turn in which he ditched his ill-fated Industrial Relations Act and transformed Selsdon Man’s free market into one of the more rigorously controlled economies in Western Europe.

I did not expect much from Margaret Thatcher in 1979 after the loss to industrial disruption of 128 million working days during the 1970s. I doubted whether Britain was governable any more and thought I was in for a very rough ride as her Press secretary.

She surprised me. She not only stopped the country from going to the dogs but showed Arthur Scargill where trying to oust a democratically elected government would get him, to the long-term distress of his largely cowed members. She stood for principles, not expediency, and along with the Falklands victory brought hope by controlling inflation and the public finances, paying off debt, enabling people to buy their council homes and promoting entrepreneurial flair with lower direct taxes.

More generally she made the responsible worker’s case for him. If we want to improve our condition we all have to work productively for it. The government does not have a penny of its own. It all comes out of your pockets.

Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk do not believe a word of this when the rich are there to be taxed till the pips squeak. He seems to have advanced not one single step since I became politically alive. He is a creature of the unions – at least six public sector unions are backing him – and an unadulterated CND republican class warrior with a taste for nationalisation, utterly vacant over how the wealth will be created to sustain his big, “kinder” welfare state.

Worse still, he seems to care nought about the £75bn budget deficit still to be eliminated after Gordon Brown’s mismanagement or soaring public debt now totalling £1.5 trillion.

He is an unmitigated menace both to current and future generations.

I have nothing but contempt for those so-called moderate Labour MPs who nominated Corbyn on the specious basis that they wanted to open up the political argument in the party. If ever there was a confession of their political incompetence, that is it.

But that is not all. Corbyn has been propelled into prominence at a time when it is a toss up who is more wildly Left: Corbyn or the Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru, the Greens or Sinn Fein. Corbyn’s Trots are on Cloud Nine and will not be easy to root out again if he wins the Labour leadership. Did their scourge, Neil Kinnock, live in vain?

After my long, hard road to reality can it be that Labour has, like the Bourbons, learned nothing and forgotten nothing? Our body politic seems to be more infested with destructive, wild-eyed socialist nutters than we thought. You have been warned.