A welcome shift from 50 shades of Thatcher

Posted By: September 19, 2015

Patrick Murphy.Irish News(Belfast). Saturday, September 19, 2015

The British press generally agree that Jeremy Corbyn should be publicly flogged. Some newspapers disagree. They believe that flogging is much too good for Mr Corbyn and that he should be hanged, drawn and quartered instead – although some Daily Mail readers would suggest that it should not necessarily be in that order.

Mr Corbyn has apparently committed two major crimes and lots of smaller ones. He is accused of not being a Conservative (or even a conservative) and he has been elected as Labour Party leader.

The man is clearly guilty on both counts and he can consider himself lucky that he is not also facing the treasonable charge of upsetting that nice Tony Blair. (You will remember Mr Blair as the man who designed the Good Friday Agreement, before going on to become a war monger in the eyes of many.)

However, it is his vast range of smaller crimes which make Mr Corbyn very guilty indeed. Three of his proposals are particularly reprehensible: re-nationalising the railways, abolishing the monarchy and advocating a national education service.

The outcome of British Rail’s privatisation has been higher fares, lower quality and increased government funding. In 2013-14, for example, taxpayers contributed almost £4 billion to private train companies, which then paid out £183 million in dividends to shareholders. So taxpayers’ money is being used to reward those who can afford to buy shares.

A month’s unlimited travel on state-owned German rail costs about £280. A one-day return from Manchester to London on Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains costs £329, without any guarantee of a seat.

When National Express withdrew from running the East Coast line in 2009, the government was forced to take it over. The state-owned company returned a net contribution of £23 million to government in 2013-2014. So what did David Cameron do? He gave the franchise to Richard Branson.

It gets worse. In 2010, German state rail bought Arriva, a private rail company in Britain. So the British government is now subsidising the German government to provide some rail services.

For wanting to change all that, Mr Corbyn obviously deserves to be tied to the track in front of Southern Rail’s 7.29 am service from Brighton to London. (However, since that train never once arrived on time in 2014, he will have plenty of opportunity to free himself.)

Corbyn also believes that Britain should be a republic. (No, you may not suggest that this means there are now more republicans in Westminster than in Stormont. That comment would make you an anti-peace process element.) It is clearly treasonable for him to oppose a law preventing a Catholic from becoming monarch.

(Maybe his rail nationalisation proposal is a cunning plan to scrap the royal family’s train, which costs £114 per mile to operate. One royal journey in 2014 from Windsor to Wales cost £30,000.)

Corbyn’s most insidious idea is a free national education system, from the cradle to the grave, including university. (Government would have to stop sub-sidising private rail companies to fund it.)

If introduced here, his dastardly plan would reduce our two education departments to one. It would also deny a university vice-chancellor the power, for example, to abandon modern language courses.

Instead, university provision would be guided by a co-ordinated plan, based on wider social and economic objectives, which would help to shape curriculum content and delivery from nursery education onwards. (If that were proposed in Stormont, there would be a petitions-of-concern epidemic.)

These (and other) views make Labour unelectable, according to many newspapers. They fail to notice that Labour is already unelectable and, in any case, should political parties base their policies on press popularity or the principles of equality and fairness?

However, Corbyn will face electoral challenges for a different reason. Like many on the left, he is good on political theory but weak on its practical application. His task now is to turn theory into practice, which requires qualities including leadership, communication and organisation. He was poor on all three on Wednesday.

In addition, he has already conceded the centre ground to the Tories and his faith in the integrity of all trade union leaders will be sorely tested.

Not everyone will agree with Mr Corbyn’s views, but by shifting the political agenda to a normal left-right debate, he has moved British politics away from 50 shades of Thatcherism for the first time in 30 years. A new political debate is welcome – but do not expect to read fair coverage of it in the British press.