I wonder whether we will see Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, the newly anointed leader of the Labour Party, attending the Defence Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition at London’s Excel centre at some point during the coming week? Without my first having been able to check the official schedules I am going to take a flyer at that question and suggest that most probably the answer is no!
As many of you know I will be at the Excel Centre for the rest of this week at the DSEI event, one that brings together the best of what the UK and the rest of the world has to show in terms of defence and security products. UK Ministers and our senior military will be joined by many military delegations all of whom realise the rising nature of threats and recognise the need to strengthen their own security and national defence. Commentary will return early next week.
Having written on the subject of the new Labour leader Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and particularly in respect of his defence views last week (thank you to all those many of you who sent words in agreement) I will not dwell on the matter of his dangerous nay nonsensical views on this particular other than to add yet another that I was reminded of this morning, that three years ago Mr. Corbyn had apparently suggested that the British Army should be scrapped. My case surely rests!
Whilst I would normally be quite content to leave political columnists and others to opine and perhaps brood over something that should never have been allowed to happen in the first place had not Mr. Ed Miliband blundered in changing the rules and that may yet send the Labour party into permanent obscurity but on this occasion I cannot let the mater pass quite so easily. To absolutely fair to Mr. Corbyn and to his henchman, Mr. John McDonnell and who I might add with little if any finance and economics knowledge has now been appointed ‘Shadow Chancellor’ neither man had two months ago dreamed possible that Mr. Corbyn could and indeed, would win the leadership contest. My concern here is also one that industry will also need to be concerned – it is the Labour Party split that could now occur in relation to continuing UK membership of the EU and potential this has to damage that prospect in the referendum vote that, just as night follows day, will now need to be held by the end of 2017.
What will be will be of course and no matter what occurs on the floor of the House of Commons the rest of us have little or no choice but to live with it. For the Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne on one hand I may be able to suggest that they can be very pleased with what has occurred in terms of Corbyn’s election as Labour leader but on the other I might suggest that they should possibly have some fear of what a disunited opposition party in the hands of a left-wing radical can do to public opinion particularly of the young.
I would also predict that what Labour has done in electing Jeremy Corbyn will play into the hands of the Liberal Democrats just when most people thought they really were sunk as a political party.
Defence plus maybe Foreign affairs and managing of the economy apart, the really big fear that I have is that although Mr. Corbyn supposedly supports continuing UK membership of the European Union he will quite possibly split the Party view on the subject and in doing so inadvertently damage the prospects of the UK actually staying in.
I suppose that if you can take the view that Mr. Corbyn is unelectable as Prime Minister then, apart from the damage to public perception of the need to have strong defence in the UK (caused by his desire to pull the UK out of NATO, to scrap the nuclear deterrent and apparently, the Army too not to mention cutting the defence budget and where he used to stand in relation to allowing taxpayers to ‘opt out’ of defence, you have little to worry about.
Some of his views such as renationalising the railways and nationalising the banks may enjoy a small degree of public support for a while but rest assured that when they realise the many billions of pounds that this would cost the taxpayer and that it is as far as I am aware against the rules of the EU they will change their minds. Such policies in the modern age are a complete nonsense and I do not imagine for a moment that the ‘city’ will worry itself about any of the new ‘backward’ looking Labour leaders crazy ideas other than, as I have said above, the prospect of damaging ongoing EU membership by splitting the party.
In terms of wealth creation the voting public would in my view not allow the clock to be turned back. And while I accept that the election of Mr. Corbyn shows just how low this nation of ours has sunk to I am not going to despair that all is now lost. Far from it as I rather imaging a handful of Labour MP’s will desert the party and fly over to the Conservatives, Lib-Dems or more likely, choose to sit as independent Labour MP’s for the rest of the term. Mr. Corbyn is far more left wing leaning than even Ramsey McDonald was and to contrast him as being the most radical leader since Clement Atlee is as far as I am concerned an insult to the latter who certainly believed in defence and fair play.
I have always believed that you get what you pay for in life and you only ever get out what you put in. The Labour Party is paying a high price for failure of its last choice of leader in the form of Ed Miliband and the manner in which he won that contests over that of his far more suitable brother, David. I predict that Mr. Corbyn might last two and maybe three years as leader but that he will never contest an election as the party leader. Somehow, just as the late, great John Smith appeared from seemingly nowhere to lead the beginnings of a Labour revival after the 1992 election rout for a couple of years before his own untimely and very sad death at the age of just 55 in May 1994 following two heart attacks, I venture to suggest that Labour will find someone else that they can rally around over the next couple of years. That person may well just David Miliband.
CHW (London – 14th September 2015)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS