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23 October 2015

The amazing rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the UK’s Labour Party: What are the policy implications?

In particular, what might it mean for the Labour Party’s policy towards Europe - critical for both Britain's economic and foreign policies?

Politicians normally only have genuine impact when the people have elected them to become the Government but Corbyn’s role may be different. If he influences the outcome of the British referendum on membership of the European Union, then he may change the course of history without even becoming Prime Minister. His brand of support for the EU should be disturbing for business in general, but especially inward investors into the UK - such as many Japanese companies.

His record is that he voted against British membership of the EU in the 1975 Referendum. But he was recently quoted by Social Europe as saying “... Europe is the only regional block in the world where workers’ rights are written into the treaties that govern Europe and which are upheld by its supervisory court.” This aspect may be the pivot for his entire EU policy: how best to protect `workers’ rights?’. In an interview with the left-wing magazine New Statesman, he  said “Labour should be making demands about working arrangements across Europe, about levels of corporate taxation across Europe...”

Having generated much confusion about his EU policies, he then sought to clarify his stance by writing an article in the Financial Times on 17th September, arguing that ”Our shadow cabinet is also clear that the answer to any damaging changes that Mr Cameron brings back from his renegotiation is not to leave the EU but to pledge to reverse those changes with a Labour government elected in 2020….Labour is clear that we should remain in the EU. But we too want to see reform.”

The current hallmark of the Corbyn leadership style is the plan to have a wide debate on policy within the party, and then allow the membership to set policy. That governance system pushed the Labour Party into classic left wing ideology during the 1970s/80s - until the election of Tony Blair as leader in 1994 - under this slogan of “New Labour”. Could the clock soon be wound back four decades?

Full article available for consultancy clients

Article originally published in FACTA magazine

© Graham Bishop

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