23 September, 2020

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Jeremy Corbyn: A Primer For Lankan Readers

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Britain is stunned that a bearded septuagenarian is front runner for Labour Party leadership all because the man had principles and stuck with them through a 32 year parliamentary career. How shocking! Isn’t party leadership reserved for hypocrites like teflon Blair, vulpine Gordon and hither-and-thither Miliband? Labour youth and rank and file are trekking back; membership has risen by 80,000 since the last election and 150,000 additional supporters have registered. About 550,000 are now eligible to vote in the leadership contest. The party machine is on a witch-hunt to weed out pro-Corbyn applicants; the attack by the rightwing press and the rightwing of the Labour Party is so heated that predictions are difficult. Nevertheless, when the 12 September deadline is crossed the stunning feat of a principled leader at the helm of the Labour party may have come to pass. Most Lankan’s have not heard of Jeremy Corbyn so a little primer may be useful.

Laurie Penny writing in the New Statesman splits her sides teasing that surely it must all be a spoof: “Corbyn will pull off his suspicious bearded mask and underneath will be some baby-faced student prankster declaring that it was just a scam to see what Labour would do with a real left-wing candidate”.

Penny then hits it on the head: “Corbyn has been re-elected by the people of Islington North consistently since 1983 and seems as surprised as anyone to be reaping the rewards of a lifetime of sticking to his principles – principles that make him look in the estimation of much of the press like the nightmare offspring of Che Guevara and Emma Goldman for proposing a modest increase in the top rate of income tax” (Abbreviated). [Emma Goldman was an early 20-th Century anarchist].

Jeremy Corbyn via his twitter The rightwing press is not taking it lying down. The Daily Mail: “Barely a fifth of voters would back Labour with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, a poll reveals. Although the veteran left-winger has electrified the Labour leadership contest, he appears to have little appeal to the wider electorate – and would lead the party to a historic defeat. Only 22% of people said they would vote Labour if Mr Corbyn is in charge, compared with the 30.4% recorded by Ed Miliband in May and the 27.6% achieved by Michael Foot in Thatcher’s 1983 landslide”. The Mail should be delighted, eh! Didn’t people say this about the rise of Syriza in Greece (whether Tsipras is blundering now is a different matter) and aren’t they saying it about Podemos in Spain? The concern of the rightwing press for the health and wellbeing of leftwing politics is much appreciated!

There will be a rise in Labour’s influence and ability to win over marginal voters if Corbyn-momentum is sustained. Penny perceptively adds Corbynism “is an immune response from a sick and suffering body politic trying to fight off a chronic infection that threatens to swallow hope for ever”.  It is not only in Lanka that people are fed up with the self-serving hypocrisy of political establishments; Sirisen and Ranil beware. For what reason in pluperfect heaven did the former put a corrupt thug who ruined higher education and wags a filthy tongue and a gambling tycoon in parliament after their rejection by the electorate? What madness it would be to make them Ministers and Deputy Ministers if indeed Sirisena and Ranil are planning this? Aren’t they aware of the outrage sweeping the nation? I have often spoken of President Sirisena’s dignity and good judgement, but I will have no choice but to endorse spreading disdain if these two are made ministers. The National List may be an SLFP affair but the Cabinet concerns us all.

Corbyn’s record

Corbyn is remembered for defying the three-line party whip over 200 times in the Labour Party under Blair, Brown and Miliband and most famously for his defiance of poodle Blair on the Iraq invasion, and more recently for opposing the invasion of Afghanistan. He drew hostile criticism for meeting ex-IRA leaders in the House of Parliament to discuss conditions in Northern Ireland prisons, like the venom spewed on us proponents of a negotiated settlement of Lanka’s ethnic civil-war instead of killing tens of thousands of civilians. He is a leading figure in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and opposed to Britain retaining the Trident nuclear-armed submarine. He has been active in Labour Party politics and trade unions since 1978 and an MP since 1983. He is opposed to further austerity and is a supporter of the ‘People’s Assembly Against Austerity’. Wikipedia sums him up as follows.

“Democratic-socialist, Corbyn has advocated the renationalisation of public utilities and railways; combating corporate tax evasion and avoidance as an alternative to austerity; abolishing university tuition fees and restoring student grants; unilateral nuclear disarmament and cancellation of the Trident nuclear weapons programme; quantitative easing to fund infrastructure and renewable energy projects; and reversing cuts to the public sector and welfare made by the government of David Cameron”.

To win the next elections, he will have to tone down some of these promises until the economy recovers and there is a working surplus. Some proposals such as the renationalisation of the electricity industry and railways are welcome roll-backs of Thatcher madness. I know a little bit about electricity markets and restructuring; it is my research speciality and IEEE Fellowship citation. What happened to British Rail (BR) was a monumental disaster; privatisation of the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) was a less ruinous mistake.

When privatising the CEGB in 1990 ownership of the core public-goods asset, the National Grid (NG), was retained in the hands of the 12 distribution entities (Regional Electricity Companies – REC) till it was floated on the London Stock Exchange as NG plc. By millennium’s end the RECs sold off their shares in NG plc, which in turn in 2005 combined with National Grid Transco (the gas utility) to form National Grid Gas plc. A heavily regulated company, its character as a monopoly public goods provider has been retained. Secondly, privatising power generation to induce competition and reduce costs has been partially successful. So there are some saving features to CEGB privatisation. But privatisation of distribution (the supply side) has turned the life of ordinary consumers into a nightmare. Though I have glossed over details and cannot pause to explain what the new structure should be, I have enough expertise to confidently endorse Corbyn’s proposal to renationalise the electricity supply industry.

BR was a good state owned railway, but not in the class of France’s SNCF, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, JNR (state owned till 1987) and China Railway; it was a good and affordable means of transport. Now the tracks are owned by one private company Railtrack, while trains are run by numerous other operators. Imagine the mess; financial, investment and operational! If Thatcher had had her way would she have been loony enough to divest the two sides of the rail-track in two private owners! Railway privatisation in the UK is a supreme example of neo-liberal economics gone mad. When Japan privatised JNR it did not take this loony road. Different geographic portions of the network were sold to different companies like the famous pre-BR days of LNER, LMS, SR and WR. Though I do not have expertise to offer plans on the renationalised structure, it is sensible that the railways be renationalised.

Electoral implications

Some genuine Labour supporters and con-artists like Tony Blair (whose motive is to sabotage a left shift of the party) have pressed the panic button that though Corbyn has inspired the Labour Party, Corbyn led Labour will be unelectable in an election because it would be perceived as too far left by the electorate. This is a bit rich coming from Blair the man who lost 4 million votes on his watch as prime minister. It also overlooks the fact that Labour gained over one million votes in England in 2015. Where it suffered a huge setback was in Scotland, a traditional Labour stronghold were labour was wiped out by the Scottish National Party (SNP) which stands to the left of Labour. Let’s get one thing straight; the centre is vacant in the UK; when it became an appendage to neo-liberal scorched earth economics its days ended. Anti austerity parties SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens between them polled 2.8 million votes (9.1%), the Liberal Party 2.4 million (7.9%) and UKIP on the right polled 3.9 million (12.7%). If one adds all this to the Labour’s 9.3 million (30.5%) in 2015, the sum exceeds the Conservative 11.3 million (36.8%) by over 7 million – nearly 23% of the votes cast in 2015.

Of course these are not all voters who will rush to a more radical Labour, especially UKIP’s anti-immigration extremists; UKIP will hold half its votes even in the face of a radical Labour challenge. On the other hand Corbyn’s democratic devolutionary thinking will facilitate stronger alliances with SNP and Plaid Cymru. What these numbers says at this early stage is the opposite of Balirite scaremongering. (Blair himself is likely to cut and run to the Conservatives, his true home, if Corbyn wins). Much water will flow under the bridge before the next election and a Corbyn led radical Labour challenge is likely to do much better at a future election than a visionless party staggering along for another five years on the road to nowhere on which it is now stranded.

International implications

I wrote about Syriza, Podemos and Turkey’s HD party on 28 June 2015 (Left-Democracy gains ground in the European periphery: Good news from Turkey, Spain and Greece) where I spoke of the peripheral countries of Europe, but the Corbyn phenomenon shows the trend moving to the core. Corbyn and Labour favour Britain’s continued membership of the European Union and will call for a Yes vote in the ‘Shall we Stay in Europe?’ referendum that Prime Minister Cameron will hold next year. However it is possible he may yet consider a UK exit from the EU. On the one hand, he believes that Britain should play a crucial role in Europe by making demands about arrangements across the continent, the levels of corporation taxation and on environmental regulation. On the other hand, he has cited the treatment of Greece during bailout negotiations as a reason for a potential exit. It is too early to talk about Corbyn as prime minister but as Labour leader his influence within the European Union will be positive.

Corbyn is strong on Palestinian rights and this will be felt from day one. His remark five years ago that Bin Laden should not have been assassinated but brought to trial is being played over and over again in an effort to damage his leadership campaign. A more radical Labour stance on the Middle East is certain with Corbyn in the driving seat. It is also likely that questions such as nuclear disarmament and quitting NATO will come into prominence. No wonder Tory leaders are describing him as a national security threat! Jeremy Corbyn has empathy for the poorer world outside America and Europe his choice as labour leader, and I hope one day as British prime minister will be good for us.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    Corbyn’s victory is Cameron’s dream come true. Labour will be out of office for decades.

    • 4
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      taraki

      “Corbyn’s victory is Cameron’s dream come true. Labour will be out of office for decades.”

      Maybe, maybe not.

      However in opposition Corbyn is setting the agenda for the next government irrespective which party wins.

      Whether he would be the next Labour prime minister or not he has initiated a debate in which unusually more and more people lured into and willing to participate in the democratic process. It is a good sign.

      The product differentiation between Labour and Conservatives are increasing by the minute. People want to hear alternative policy prescription. He is bold enough to go beyond barriers artificially erected by City (Bankers)and the media barons.

      There is a real chance of going beyond what City and Media want every aspiring prime ministers to say or do. He may not well be the next Labour leader nor the next prime minister, he will be remembered for initiating a fresh debate and opening up new space that previous leaders dare not tread.

      If he is saying the right things people might consider voting for him.

      “Corbyn’s victory is Cameron’s dream come true. Labour will be out of office for decades.”

      This is exactly what the media want gullible to believe. I suppose you are one of them.

      • 2
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        NV
        Spot on.
        Corbyn is setting up an agenda for a future government in the UK.
        For the rich and comfortable, Social Security may be an icing on the cake, but for the working people, the underemployed, the pensioner, and the struggling university students who have to repay tuition fees if they are lucky enough to get employment, and the ordinary worker and a larger section of people who who are kept on never ending waiting lists for NHS treatment Corbyn’s stance remain valid and important.
        That is why he is against unnecessary expenses for submarines and the Trident missile which can be diverted for people friendly development instead of succumbing to IMF dictates which only result in wasteful bureaucratic controls resulting in inefficiency and corruption.

  • 2
    1

    Kumar, you say

    “Jeremy Corbyn: A Primer For Lankan Readers”

    Did you mean LEADERS?!

  • 0
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    Very complicated hodgepodge isn’t it- the British political, commercial and monetary process.

    From nationalization to privatization and the many tweaks in between, to the joining/withdrawal of the Euro-Zone. But now the colonies are looking very promising again indeed – Corbyn’s socialist stance and all. Books that were established when colonies were enslaved, have to retain colonial prosperity index, even in the event of greater British Socialism. They’d sell us their outdated Capitalistic….intercourse…..and start a New World Order of Post Modernism!

    And poor and benign Sri Lanka has to stirr up her……..macho…….to incorporate that very same colonial system to keep things in balance for Mother England.

    Ah……we could have rested in the arms of Rajapaksa and his Chinese shipping routes, and let China take over the capitalistic psychosis. But then the English would have taken out their guns.

  • 4
    3

    A very important aspect of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics that this crude attempt by Kumar David at tribal left-wing war-chanting leaves out is Corbyn’s association over many years with various extremist and terrorist groups, including the Tamil Tigers. This includes his attempt to get the ban on the LTTE lifted in the UK, or so the UK’s Daily Mail and PoliticsUK claim. He has also spoken many times over the years at meetings sympathetic to the Tigers.

    If the attempt by Corbyn at legalising the LTTE had been successful (it wasn’t) that would mean the Tamil Tigers would have been free once again to raise money and buy weapons and explosives in the UK for their campaign of terrorism in Sri Lanka and India.

    Fortunately for the British and Sri Lankan people Jeremy Corbyn has no chance whatsoever of ever getting anywhere near becoming prime minister in Britain. However, as a possible leader of the official parliamentary opposition there he could do quite a lot of damage to Britain and its relations to countries such as Sri Lanka by using his position in Parliament to continue to spread false information, excuses and propaganda for extremists and terrorists such as the Tamil Tigers.

    With such a confused and dubious person as candidate for Labour’s leadership, the UK’s Conservative Party in the UK are hoping that Corbyn will be successful in his leadership bid as that will help ensure the Labour Party in the UK remains incapable of winning a general election for the foreseeable future.

    • 3
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      Candidly

      You are not candid with what you say.

      Jeremy have had campaigned for the fundamental civic rights of many people, from all parts of the world.

      He supported Irish, Palestinians, Chagos islanders, whole horde of others, …….. Does it make him a terrorist particularly a LTTE one? Former National Chair of the Stop the War Coalition who called for an inquiry into the Iraq War. He Campaigned for Nuclear Disarmament, campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, ………….

      If we go by your logic, he must be a member of Fatah, IRA, ANC’s Umkhonto We Sizwe, …… EPRLF, TELO, PLOTE, LTTE, EROS, ……… TNA, even Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya (DJV).

      “If the attempt by Corbyn at legalising the LTTE had been successful (it wasn’t) that would mean the Tamil Tigers would have been free once again to raise money and buy weapons and explosives in the UK for their campaign of terrorism in Sri Lanka and India.”

      If LTTE or others want to raise money the ban wouldn’t matter. LTTE or any other group didn’t depend on Corbyn’s goodwill. There is no evidence to suggest that LTTE bought weapons and explosives from UK. However the Sri Lankan state bought weapons, torture equipment,…. from UK, including hiring mercenary to fly helicopters and train official torturers in this island.

      “Fortunately for the British and Sri Lankan people Jeremy Corbyn has no chance whatsoever of ever getting anywhere near becoming prime minister in Britain. However, as a possible leader of the official parliamentary opposition there he could do quite a lot of damage to Britain”

      If ever Corbyn damages British interests leave it to British. Let them do the worrying. They do not need your advice, the British are in the business for long time so let them make an informed choices unlike vote Mahinda campaign.

      “With such a confused and dubious person as candidate for Labour’s leadership, the UK’s Conservative Party in the UK are hoping that Corbyn will be successful in his leadership bid as that will help ensure the Labour Party in the UK remains incapable of winning a general election for the foreseeable future.”

      Please refer to my comment above.

      So you are looking at UK’s political issues through your parochial Sinhala/Buddhist looking glass. Since UK elections are free and fair let the people decide what is best for them.

      You are free to observe what is going on in this island and advise MR and his despots how to capture and run a Sinhala/Buddhist fascistic ghetto state in this island.

    • 0
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      would you mind putting some links here to Jeremy’s links with the Tigers that you’ve mentioned please? Thanks in advance.

      • 1
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        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3126320/Crazy-decision-include-hard-left-socialist-Jeremy-Corbyn-Labour-leadership-contest-sparks-furious-backlash.html

        http://citiblogmk.co.uk/2015/07/06/milton-keynes-council-leader-slams-unite-over-jeremy-corbyn-backing/

        There used to be many more references to Corbyn on the website of the British Tamils Forum but most have now been deleted as Corbyn’s supporters are desperately trying to clean up his image and the BTF are also trying to clean up their image!

        • 3
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          Candidly

          Your first link to Daily Mail says nothing about Jeremy training, arming, funding LTTE.

          Here is something you must learn about newspapers in the UK:

          The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.

          The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country.

          The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country.

          The Times is read by people who actually do run the country.

          The Financial Times is read by people who own the country.

          The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country.

          The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

          Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.

          Your second link says nothing about Jeremy training, arming, funding LTTE.

          Jeremy campaigned for lot more progressive issues than you could ever imagine, with your Sinhala/Buddhists mindset.

          In your second link I found this surprising “Some of Mr Corbyn’s proposed policies include introducing a £10 an hour minimum wage and making it illegal to work in temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius.”

          The Tories in their recent Budget had already included £10 minimum wage a target to be achieved within the next 5 years – had you listened to George Osborne 2015 budget speech you would have appreciated him for increasing it to £10.

          When are you going to stop looking at international events through VP’s bum?

          So you just want to stop Jeremy becoming Leader of Labour or PM of the UK just because he had demanded lifting of ban on LTTE. He also demanded lifting the ban on IRA.

          Please stop sitting on brain.

          • 1
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            Dear Native>.

            Times is obviously the only Rag UNP London must be buying nowadays…

            And thy must be sending a few copies of Daily mail to Temple Trees.

            No point in sending any to Sira’s humble household I guess,,.

            Which one does your mates Surendran and the Reverend read?…

            • 2
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              KASmaalam K.A Sumanasekera

              “Which one does your mates Surendran and the Reverend read?…”

              I too want to know, please find out from them.

              What do you read?

              Wall Street Journal, Financial Times UK, Journal of Financial Economics, ………… Manga cartoons, Highway robber
              Utuvan Kande Sura Saradiel stories, ……… stories from Mahawamsa,

      • 2
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        prashna

        Candidly is stating it from his paranoid head. He won’t be able to give you a link.

    • 1
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      Isn’t it interesting though, that he represents a rather opulent part of London, close to the City of London itself. His odious support of Tamil terrorists over the years should be blamed, at least in part, on the ineffectual High Commission. Though he met with IRA personnel, he was certainly no supporter of that lot.
      The author plays to the gallery by his reference to ” killing tens of thousands of civilians ” in the war to end thirty years of LTTE terrorism after innumerable failed attempts at a negotiated settlement.

  • 0
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    I want Jeremy Corbyn to be the next labor leader and the next Prime Minister.

    We need a change that will electrify the entire world

  • 1
    0

    An even more important aspect of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics from the UK point of view that is ignored by Kumar David’s red-tinted view in this article concerns the accusations that Corbyn has met with and shown uncritical support for anti-semites (i.e. haters of Jews) and supporters of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). To find out what has been written on those issues readers can use Google to search for *Jeremy Corbyn +* *anti-semitism* and *IRA* respectively.

    As a man once said to a policeman: “I am not a terrorist but I just seem to find myself frequently in the company of terrorists.”

    • 0
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      The term anti-Semite has lost any meaning, when some 94% of the Judaics of today are non-Semitic Khazars. It is the ultimate derogatory term used by the Zionists (including the British Jewry) against those who stand in the way of achieving their ‘aspirations’ in the Middle East, ‘Greater Israel’, when the vast majority cannot claim any lineage from Palestine and the surrounding areas (reminiscent of the false claim of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka as ‘traditional homeland’ of the Tamils).

      Corbyn does support Palestinian rights, including land rights denied to them by continued British duplicity and Judaic terrorism after WW2.

  • 0
    0

    Jeremy Corbyn is pilloried for stating that killing Osama Bin Laden was a tragedy and that he should have been put on trial. Admittedly, proven by all his quotes, Bin Laden was a nasty piece of work, but the US or other has no right to assassinate him without a trial. All the evil Nazi heirarchy got one before being executed. I believe the US/CIA/Pentagon feared the disclosures of the US elite that supported him. The Bush family are investors in the construction business of the Bin Laden family. Who knows what else they supported. There are some who claim that the top brass of the Republicans knew about 9/11 long before it actually happened.

    • 1
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      Sylvia Haik

      Didn’t the Saudis funded him and various other Jihadis in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen?

  • 0
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    The comparison that occurred to me was not with the losing politicians who were given national list seats by Maitri, but with another old fellow, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, never very firm on principles and now Manhinda’s flunkey. Corbyn, is a left social democrat, but boy right now he looks a lot better than that sorry parade of ‘left’politicians, LSSP, CP etc who have trailed after and sort unity with the SLFP.

  • 0
    0

    Funny thing! I noticed many comments about Corbyn’s inability becoming Labor’s new leader and eventual PM candidate. I don’t know how many of them were from UK voters. The rest of us are simply observers.

    Were’nt the same sentiments expressed about Ranil W and Sirisena just a few months ago? Will we ever learn?

    The significant difference is that Jeremy Corbyn has principles and has stuck to them all through his political career. That cannot be said about RW or MS.

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