Martin Flanagan: Business confronts its Corbyn nightmare

Many UK business leaders thought privately that the Brexit vote would not go the way it did; it would be economic self-harm.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the party's conference in Brighton. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Many thought Donald Trump was too cartoonishly outlandish to secure the US presidency – populist nationalism had its limits. Wrong again.

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Angela Merkel’s re-election in Germany is being viewed as a Pyrrhic victory, given the disturbing rise of the far right in the German parliament.

I think the CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors et al now sweat that after the crazy political rollercoaster ride of 2017-18, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could pull off a victory in a future general election given the stark disarray and clashing egos of the Conservative Party.

Call it just a feeling in the air that the jaw-dropping has become the new normal. Even Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian movie masterpiece Dr Strangelove did not contemplate a US president playing nuclear chicken with another head of state and trading personal insults like “Little Rocket Man” and “mentally deranged US dotard”.

Business leaders have apparently been flooding to the Labour Party conference in Brighton, with 1,000 more corporate delegates than last year. Businesses like to keep their political connections refreshed, but is it not that they sense a hardline Socialist Corbyn victory in the next general election is now just unlikely on the balance of probabilities but far, far from impossible? It would be entirely in keeping with the other seismic shocks to the political landscape over the past 18 months.

It is clearly not a corporate/Corbyn love-in as Labour makes threatening sounds about seizing back private finance contracts, and the CBI fulminates that it would amount to “massive state intervention”. Meanwhile, we have a shadow chancellor John McDonnell who is ambiguous about whether he would back illegal industrial action and has talked about his hobbies including the overthrow of capitalism.

But business has to deal with whoever is eventually in charge. And what may come to pass looks increasingly fluid.

The final straw

Pubs group JD Wetherspoon banning plastic straws on recycling grounds? Worthy, but I would have thought on grounds of infantilisation would have sufficed…