With less than a month left before the country votes – we seem to be doing a lot of that lately – Jeremy Corbyn has been doing his best to flee the hounds set on his trail. Amongst the sniffing pack we have members of the media and of course the Tories themselves. Being a tweed-wearing, vegetable-growing, fruit-preserving – well … vegetarian and a politician, is proving to be a source of misfortune. And let’s face it, we can’t have a vegetarian running the country, all the livestock would be given free housing and a national minimum wage.
But humour aside, Jeremy Corbyn’s greatest failing in the eyes of the media and public, is his shameful affinity for the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric; or his soft socialism, if you prefer. Of course the price Russia has paid and continues to pay for its socialist experiment, is enough to stop most of us from romanticising the idea of workers of the world uniting and casting off their chains of servitude.
By now however, it should be patently obvious that Corbyn’s socialism is nothing like that of its radical predecessors. It is neither utopian nor anarchical in nature, but practical. There is no call to abolish all private property and create a classless society of equals; nor has there been any indication that the current Labour Party’s intentions are to depose the monarchy by holding them under house arrest and eventually shooting them at point-blank range in a small, dark room. No indeed. So perhaps it will be useful to restate the obvious: Corbyn is not Lenin and our monarchy has every chance of longevity.
Still there seems to be a problem. The Labour Party’s leaked manifesto has been found wanting. Stuck in the seventies is the general accusation because of preposterous suggestions such as renationalising the railways, building 4,000 homes for those with a history of rough sleeping, banning zero-hours contracts as well as unpaid internships, and worst of all, injecting the NHS with an extra 6 billion in annual funding through increased income tax for the top 5 per cent earners. Interestingly, proposals to reintroduce fox hunting or the highly-competitive, haughtily-selective grammar school system – that former bastion of Latin and Greek – have been met with noticeably less indignation.
According to Mrs May, grammar schools allow every chance for social mobility, enabling each child to ‘rise as far as their talents will take them’. What is perhaps omitted is that a large proportion of children from privileged backgrounds are likely to have more chances of getting into these coveted schools than their less privileged counterparts, but no matter. And as far as fox hunting is concerned, well, this is a healthy sport with a moral. The lesson being: it is a cruel, unjust world out there, and if you happen to have been born a fox, hard cheese!
Speaking of cruel world and injustice, the latest report from the Trussell Trust anti-poverty charity claims that foodbank use in the UK continues to increase. Amongst the predominant factors in foodbank reliance, low income, benefit delays and debt have been identified. This data reaffirms the findings of another report, the 2014 All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom. Here we find that between 2003 and 2012 the overall combined household incomes spent on food, housing and utilities for the lowest earners, increased from 31 per cent to 40 per cent, while disposable income decreased from 69 per cent to 60 per cent. Inflation across the board was identified as the main culprit, as well as Britain’s historic tendency towards very large numbers of very low paid employees.
So let’s return to Mr Corbyn and Labour. The proposal to improve workers’ rights by bringing the minimum wage in line with living wage and building affordable housing is hardly diehard idealism, but arguably, a sincere move towards rehabilitating decaying Britain for the worst off and reminding those in better circumstances that we are not lone dogs, but a society of people.
Use the London tube much? If you don’t, I strongly urge an anthropological expedition during evening peak time. There you’ll find all manner of exhausted, sallow-faced, half-dozing exhibits, so tired that few can find the will to offer a seat to a standing woman or child. It is in these underground clusters that you will discover the present state of Britain.
All the same, we’d rather not hear any of this. It’s more pleasurable to mock the modestly-clad vegetarian and dismiss him as a socialist loony – while the proliferation of Deliveroo’s hard-pedalling Oompa Loompas marks a new low point for our economy.