Labour and the strange case of the missing £116,000,000,000

CorbynJez we Can? (probably not!)

One of the most bizarre claims made by Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election was that £120 billion was being lost to the Treasury by tax evasion and avoidance and downright cheating. That claimed Mr Corbyn was enough to double the amount that we spent on the Health service.
Would that it were true. I know that some of the big groups such as Amazon do not pay their taxes fairly in many of the countries where they earn their money. They use a complex route of service and franchise payments to divert their profits to Countries, often off shore, where they pay much reduced levels of Corporation Tax. That is, of course, an abuse that must be stopped although in my opinion it will take international action to do so not unilateral action by any one country. However on Monday we heard Labour’s new Shadow Chancellor say that the figure wasn’t really £120 billion and reduced it a little. Did he reduce it by a couple of £billion. No he actually reduced it by £100,000,000,0000 or more than 80% to just £20 billion.
He then had to agree with the advice given to him by Labour’s own advisers that at most £4 billion of this could be collected. So we ended up £116 billion down on the original estimate! That does not mean that this money should not be collected and that we should enforce our tax laws in a more stringent way – of course we should – but this is a tiny amount compared to the £700 billion that the Government spends every year. The Shadow Chancellor’s speech as a whole was a wish list rather than a policy statement. Let’s consult on this, let’s talk about that but with no air of realism. As SYRIZA found in Greece you cannot wish debt away. Desperate appeals to Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy will not deliver the cash required to keep our services going.
Look at Trident which at least the Lib Dems debated following a conference submission from Liverpool, It would appear that the Conference voted through a Foreign Policy statement which has committed the Party’s official policy to be the like for like replacement of 4 Trident submarines with a new nuclear deterrent. So Corbyn’s official policy is pro nuclear replacement. His personal policy is very much the CND line. I know that because he and I have the same view on this and we shared a platform at the CND Conference in Liverpool 2 years ago.
So how will they vote when this issue comes up sometime in the next few years? And how will they vote on the vexed question of bombing in Syria. This is a very difficult area for any politician. I personally believe that the way we have bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya caused many of the problems that we now have to deal with in the world or international terrorism. What we need to have is a coherent defence policy with a coherent aid policy. Almost invariably the regime change which we have promoted throughout the Middle East has led to even worse regimes than the ones we didn’t like in the first place. We need to have our military working alongside home grown troops, raising them and supporting them. Our latter years in Afghanistan were an excellent example of just how this could work.
We then learnt that the Labour Party is not a group of happy people. I have seen at least 4 calls for certain people to be thrown out of the Party. Most of these are former Blairite Ministers and supporters. I never liked New Labour but even the most blind should be able to see that they got the Labour Party elected and were more successful in delivering valid social policies than the Tories. But in the North Korean view of politics practiced by so many of the Corbynistas they must be purged. Expect gulags to be established in outer Islington!
I believe that this is what moderates in the Labour Party fear most. The Labour Party will spend much of the next 3 years looking internally and arguing with each other. MPs fear de-selection but they will not be the first. As CLPs get taken over there will be a purge of good councillors who try and deliver pragmatic policies rather than just indulging in flag and shroud waving.
Lastly, what did we learn about Mr Corbyn. Well I have always found him to be a thoroughly decent, sincere, authentic and engaging person. On a personal level I like him and I am sure that this is how he has come over to a lot of people over the past few days. Every day, however, that authenticity will begin to disappear. He has already compromised about key beliefs such as Trident and Europe. He has put into his Cabinet people he does not like. He dresses differently, he will (or perhaps will not) sing the National Anthem. He moves further and further away from his unique selling point which is to be him to become yet another Westminster politician.
So all in all the Labour Party did want they wanted to do. They avoided big contentious debates and united people behind bland and boring resolutions which, mainly talked about talking. No-one actually stalked out of the Party publicly although many have done so privately. They are still contenders for something although no-one that I have spoken to in the Party except for the newest and most naïve members thinks that Corbyn will lead them to victory in 2020.
That leaves the Lib Dems in a good place. We are a united party who like each other and like our Leader. We talk about the big, contentious issues and then refine our policies at both local and national level to deliver them. With Labour suffering internal splits in public and the Tories having huge rows in public and the Green Party suffering badly in local elections up and down the Country our mood should be one of cautious optimism and a determination to get out on the streets to forward our cause. Now where is that bundle of Focus newsletters for Mossley Hill?!

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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