LABOUR clearly lost the last election and the confidence of the business community along the way because under Ed Miliband the party was insufficiently left-wing. You have to laugh. The logic-lite bandwagon that may sweep Jeremy Corbyn to a Labour leadership victory really does believe that.
It is almost as if the 1980s and Labour under left-winger Michael Foot, and its 1983 election manifesto dubbed the “longest suicide note in history” handing victory to Margaret Thatcher on a plate, had never happened.
Miliband did not lose last May because he was seen by the electorate as a closet Blairite. Labour lost because it was seen as at odds with the prevailing spirit and aspirations of the majority of British people, and that talk of “predator” capitalism was an anachronistic throwback, demonstrating a leader who was out of touch, a general fighting an old war.
To a swathe of the electorate, Miliband was seen as a politician with his heart in the right place, but carrying a lot of left-wing doctrinaire baggage and not trusted on the economy.
Corbyn is that in spades. His popularity is said to stem partly from talking like a reasonable human being, devoid of the clichés and vacuity that typify a lot of our political discourse.
But you don’t vote for a leader, and a potential future prime minister, because he comes across as a decent, fundamentally well-mannered bloke who you might have a pint in the pub with. That’s what you do with your friends, not what you do with your vote.
There are deeply worrying issues. Corbyn is associated with state ownership of major industries, low-key antipathy towards big business, chronic ambivalence about Nato and in favour of unilateral disarmament.
It is easy to see why the business world views Corbyn’s possible election as Labour leader with concern, but this is tinged with phlegmatic bemusement. Business had doubts about Miliband, but he now looks a model of rationality and hard-headedness compared with his would-be successor.
Some business people have told me they are relaxed about Corbyn becoming leader because they believe it would keep their natural soulmates, the Conservatives, in power for between a decade and a generation. Business believes Labour might become irrelevant rather than a threat. Former Labour big beasts like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Lord Mandelson and Lord Kinnock (who in particular had much experience of a party with a penchant for naive unelectability) agree that the abyss beckons for the party if Corbyn is successful.
Britain needs a soft-left alternative to the Conservative view of the world, particularly when passed the balancing of the nation’s books. With the Lib-Dems disembowelled, and Labour tripping the primrose path to electoral oblivion, we may instead inherit what is in effect a one-party state, which would be dangerous. «