The Labour Party conference in Liverpool didn’t disappoint in the slightest – it was just as bonkers as I expected it to be, but no less dangerous for that.
We witnessed a Jewish MP escorted into her own party conference under police escort; praise from a Shadow Cabinet Minster for Militant Tendency, the extreme left entryist group which brought Liverpool to its knees 40 years ago, and the mass waving of Palestinian flags (although no Israeli ones – no one fancied getting lynched).
But we reached peak lunacy with a positively unhinged rant from an MP who called for an insurrection to overthrow our democratically elected government – to ecstatic applause from fellow delegates including Shadow Cabinet members.
Laura Smith – yes, she really is an MP, I checked – actually said: “If we can’t get a General Election we should organise with our brothers and sisters in the trade union movement to bring an end to this government with a general strike.”
Richard Burgon, the Shadow Justice Minister, no less, said that despite appearances he had not given the speech a standing ovation – he had just stood up and clapped. I think this is what is called a distinction without a difference.
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, although deeply sinister, was the best he has delivered at conference in my view. In contrast to previous years’ ramblings, this one had a solid structure and even a few whispered words of endearment to his Mexican wife – in Spanish. How sweet!
The magic grandpa has clearly found himself some better speechwriters and media trainers.
As to the content – he refused to apologise to the Jewish community for his long record of anti-Semitic words and actions, he attacked Israel (although he said absolutely nothing about Iran, which has a far worse human rights record) and he threatened the free Press because he doesn’t like what we write about him. Par for the course, really.
As for the even more extreme Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell – Lenin to Corbyn’s Kerensky – he threatened to force large firms to hand over shares to the government and workers, a move that would drain investment from the UK in an instant and kill our current jobs miracle stone dead.
Brexit was served with a large slice of fudge. Hours after McDonnell and union boss Len McCluskey had explicitly ruled out a new referendum with the option of remaining in the EU, the Shadow Brexit Minister Keir Starmer, explicitly ruled it in.
Pressed on how he will reconcile these two diametrically opposing positions within the Shadow Cabinet Corbyn lamely responded that “all options are on the table”, which means precisely nothing. It is all as pellucid as mud.
Labour’s strategy is to convince Remainers they will fight for Remain, and convince Leavers they will fight for Leave. In other words they are taking the voters for fools. It appears to be working, at least to some extent.
The policies put forward by Labour this week will not work. We know this as a demonstrable, empirical fact. Whenever the socialist experiment has been tried, from the Soviet Union to Venezuela, by way of East Germany, North Korea, Cuba and Zimbabwe, it always ends in precisely the same way – in economic collapse, poverty and brutal repression. Every single time.
It is easy to scoff at some of the more loony left excesses of the Labour party conference and dismiss Corbyn as a serious candidate for Number 10 – but that would be a big mistake.
Labour is putting forward policies on the railways, the public utilities, childcare and the behaviour of the big multinationals and banks that resonate with the public.
Those of us long in the tooth know from bitter experience that big state, high tax, centralised, top-down solutions to these problems will not work – but younger people who have flocked to Corbyn’s banner know no better.
Before the 2017 General Election we witnessed a wave of enthusiasm for Labour that destroyed Theresa May’s 24-point poll lead and cost her an overall majority. If another election is called that wave will be unleashed again – and it could well put Corbyn and McDonnell into Downing Street in a few short months.
As the Conservatives gather for their conference in Birmingham this weekend they should be well aware they have to dramatically up their game.