Finally, someone in Labour is tearing apart Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas. Overtly criticising what Corbyn stands for is something the leadership candidates have been reluctant to do. You can see why: his popularity with the party’s grassroots could result in a backlash. Therefore, it’s been left to poor old Chris Leslie, Labour’s shadow chancellor, to point out that a party promoting ‘Corbynomics’ is not going to help ordinary folks. On the Today programme, Leslie said:
‘This is a fork in the road for the Labour party. On 12 September we will know what the fate is of the progressive left of centre and there are millions of people whose living standards, whose working conditions depend on making sure we get this decision right, otherwise we face a decade or more of Conservative government.
‘And I think the point is now – you can understand the frustrations of many in the Labour party, they want big, bold, clear solutions – but it’s the detail now we’ve got to get into because I’m afraid some of those solutions, the policies offered on the hard left are not all that they’re cracked up to be. In fact, they risk hurting some of the most poor, the most vulnerable, those on the lowest incomes.’
Leslie acknowledged there is a desire in Labour for a big change but argued that some of the ideas proposed by Corbyn make no sense:
‘No, as I say, I think there is a yearning for big, bold and radical policy but unfortunately for those who are unenthused you have to now confront what is the choice on offer here. Take, for example, this suggestion that there should be the people’s quantitative easing – in other words, the Bank of England should be able to just turn on the printing presses and magically deal with all the public service and public investment needs that we have.
‘Of course, at one level it sounds fantastically easy: if there’s a shortage of money, print some more; the difficulty is if that then provokes higher inflation, if that then means interest rates go up, who will pay the price for that? It’s the poorest and those on the lowest incomes who already find the cost of living very difficult. And I think it’s that sort of issue we now need to confront.’
Leslie, who is a good bet to continue as shadow chancellor if Yvette Cooper wins the leadership contest, is merely saying publicly what all of the leadership campaigns acknowledge in private. Corbyn may be surging ahead because he is seen as ‘authentic’, a ‘real alternative’ and ‘proper Labour’ but there is not a shred of evidence that this would help boost Labour’s economic credibility. In fact, it would most likely destroy it.
Some are kindly disagreeing with Corbyn — Liz Kendall for example saying it ‘would be a disaster’ if he was elected. Then there are the shadow cabinet ministers who say they won’t serve under him, such as Vernon Coaker, Yvette Cooper, Tristram Hunt, Liz Kendall, Chris Leslie, Shabana Mahmood, Emma Reynolds and Chuka Umanna.
But given his level of support, the ideas Corbyn stands for deserve and require far more scrutiny. Although it is beginning to look as if this round may have been lost to Corbyn and his left-wing comrades, his critics in Labour should not give up the intellectual fight. His ideas are wrong and they should say so.