Skip to main content

Should Jeremy Corbyn have to remember how much his policies cost?

The problem as ever isn't the standards the left has to meet - it's how low the bar is for the right.

Jeremy Corbyn has had a tricky encounter with Emma Barnett on Women’s Hour, in which the Labour leader was unable to remember the cost of his flagship childcare policy – for 30 hours of childcare to be made available for free regardless of parental income, benefiting 1.3 million families.

The interview is great radio – you can read the transcript here but it’s better heard than read – but is it a good way to cover politics? My colleague Helen doesn’t think so, and nor does Matt Zarb-Cousin, formerly of the leader’s office, now turned pro-Corbyn commentator. They think that by asking these questions, they are turning elections into a test of memory, not an arena where the strength of the parties’ programmes are judged. Are they right?

Well, sort of. As Zarb-Cousin points out, we already know that every spending commitment in Labour’s manifesto has been costed, so the question of how much each commitment costs in of itself doesn’t tell us anything. A more revealing policy question is whether or not the £2.7bn would be better spent on children aged two to four in a different way.

(The answer there is: Sort of yes, sort of no. The really transformative stuff around early years education in Britain is happening in schools providing teacher-led care from two to 11, but that would cost a lot more than the £2.7bn childcare commitment would. It’s a bit like saying “Wouldn’t a new space station be better for interstellar research than a new university building?” – the answer is yes, but it’s beside the point.)

And Helen is right to say that ultimately, the ability to remember a figure is not a particularly relevant one as far as judging the next Prime Minister is concerned.

There’s the added problem of course that this style of questioning benefits the right, as any gaffe made by a leftwing politician is amplified and more widely-shared by Britain’s large right-wing press, which in turn shapes broadcast coverage. The leftwing press is far smaller, so gaffes by right-wing politicians often reach a smaller audience. A good example in this election is in the fate of the two parties’ home affairs leads: Amber Rudd’s call for experts versed in the “necessary hashtags” to stop offensive messages being posted on social media has had a far more limited afterlife than Diane Abbott forgetting how much Labour would have to spend to reverse the government’s cuts to policing. Abbott got her sums wrong, Rudd appeared not to have got her arms around a central issue relating to her department, and yet Abbott’s gaffe has become a dominant part of the election campaign.

There are two “buts”, however. The first, is that while the question might not be revealing about policy, these “gotcha” questions do stress-test the competence of the team behind the leader. Given that Jeremy Corbyn was on Woman’s Hour to talk about the party’s childcare policy, he should have been armed with a small piece of paper and to have rehearsed the cost of the policy, how it would be paid for, and so forth, as it was all-but-inevitable he would be asked. (Particularly as Labour are rightly making a big play of the fact that the figures in the Conservative manifesto can be boiled down to “Trust me, okay?”)

This isn’t the first time that Labour’s difficulty giving its frontline politicians the information they need has been a problem this campaign. As I explained at the time, John McDonnell’s fiscal rule set out clearly why they didn’t need to provide additional costing for their planned programme of re-nationalisations. But that so many shadow ministers, including loyal Corbynites, were unable to explain that in interviews revealed a worrying failure on the part of the leadership to get its ducks in a row.

And while policies should be a big part of elections, they shouldn’t be the only part: the characters of the leaders should too. Take the Brexit talks. Both Labour and the Conservatives have effectively the same policy on paper: to retain the benefits of European Union membership as far as possible while no longer being subject to the free movement of people. But of course, their ability to get the best possible deal – and their willingness to harm the economy to get control over immigration – ultimately rests on a question of what we reckon as to their characters and disposition.

Or last night’s not-quite-debates. Does it matter that Jeremy Corbyn worked on his tendency to be overcome by a red mist in heated interviews and was a model of calm, while Theresa May’s habit of shooting murderous stares at anyone remained unchecked? Well, as far as the telly goes, that Corbyn didn’t produce pictures of him gritting his teeth while May stared angrily at cameras obviously contributed to the Labour leader’s win last night. But they also speak to what you hear from staff in the leader’s office and civil servants on Whitehall. Corbyn’s aides will talk about how they feel able to speak truth to power without being shouted down – they don’t necessarily get their way but they don’t fear the consequences of dissent. Government officials however, do fear that they will be given a barracking if they go against May. That speaks to far bigger concerns than who looked better on telly – not least the question of who can negotiate Brexit or who should be in the room at moments of crisis. Equally, how prepared a politician is for a gotcha question does speak to how well-run their office is and is a commentary on how well-run their government would be.

There’s a second but. As my colleague Anoosh notes, the big problem isn’t that the media gives Jeremy Corbyn a tough ride – it’s that the media it gives the right an incredibly easy one. It’s not unreasonable that for Labour to win it needs not only to cost its policy but to brief its candidates well enough that they can explain that policy to voters and its leader in particular.

It is unreasonable and worrying that if the polls are right, Britain is about to re-elect a government planning a migration target that would blow a hole in the public finances with a Home Secretary who thinks that social media companies are capable of “breaking into” an encrypted message. And no-one has really asked them about it.

Source, links:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why the US rushed to propagate the 'naval mine' scenario to explain recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman

globinfo freexchange

The incident of the recent attack against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman elevated the heat between the US and Iran. Naturally, the attack also produced some level of turmoil in the oil global market.

Trump's hostile attitude against Iran was clearly evident even before his election. His totally unjustifiable and completely incomprehensible action to kill the Iran nuclear deal, destroyed any remnants of US reliability. Consequently, even the US Western allies refused to follow this evidently counterproductive strategy.

Under these circumstances and given the endless history of US manufactured incidents used to justify the start of another war, most people rightfully thought that this has been just another false flag operation.

And it makes sense actually. Why the hell Iran would attempt to blow up its relations with Japan in the midst of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe visit in the country? Only the US empire would have reasons to do it in order to force one of its…

Όσοι περνάν των χώρα της απόγνωσης παθαίνουν αμνησία ...

globinfo freexchange
Δανειστήκαμε αυτή τη φράση από ένα παλιό κομμάτι της Ελληνικής ροκ μπάντας "Τρύπες", για να περιγράψουμε με λίγα λόγια αυτό που φαίνεται να έχει πάθει η Ελληνική κοινωνία. 
Πώς είναι δυνατόν μια ολόκληρη κοινωνία να έχει ξεχάσει ποιοι τη χρεοκόπησαν; Ποιοι έστησαν το άθλιο σύστημα των κρατικοδίαιτων 'ημέτερων' και της οικογενειοκρατίας; Ποιοι έσωσαν τις τράπεζες με πακτωλό δισεκατομμυρίων σε βάρος της μεσαίας τάξης; Ποιοι έκαναν τη μίζα και το ρουσφέτι επάγγελμα; Πώς είναι δυνατόν αυτή η κοινωνία να ετοιμάζεται να ξαναφέρει στην εξουσία ένα κομμάτι αυτού του άθλιου πολιτικού κατεστημένου, με την επιστροφή μάλιστα του αμετανόητα νεοφιλελεύθερου Κυριάκου Μητσοτάκη και της ομάδας του;  
Η απόγνωση που έφεραν εννέα χρόνια βάρβαρων νεοφιλελεύθερων πολιτικών και σκληρής λιτότητας και που ανάγκασε τη χώρα να διαβεί τον εφιαλτικό μονόδρομο της μόνιμης χρεοκοπίας, πρέπει να έπαιξε σημαντικό ρόλο. 
Διότι ως γνωστόν, η απελπισία λίγο απέχει από τ…

The 'Julian Assange' index: another evidence that Elizabeth Warren is establishment's last resort

 globinfo freexchange

We should be grateful to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for uncovering the ruthless and ugly face of the establishment. For the exposure of the biggest war crimes by the US empire in the Iraq war. For the exposure of the dirty war by the DNC against Bernie Sanders, and many more.
But even now, being in this extremely hard situation because of the absolutely inhuman treatment by this imperialistic crypto-fascist regime, Assange remarkably becomes the cause that forces more masks to fall.

Therefore, the 'Julian Assange' index can even help us identify the real and the fake progressives.

As The Interceptreported:
The Justice Department filed 17 charges against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange on Thursday, deploying the controversial Espionage Act as a cudgel against First Amendment protections and press freedom. It’s the first time the U.S. government has used the Espionage Act to prosecute a publisher, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

[..…

Brussels bureaufascists are ready to replace Alexis Tsipras with their most faithful puppet in Greece

globinfo freexchange
The latest European election in Greece was a real shock for the government. Alexis Tsipras and his party SYRIZA took the second place and suffered a heavy defeat with almost 10 points behind the right-wing New Democracy. Tsipras was forced to declare national elections on July 7th and it seems that blog's predictions are about to become true.

As we wrote already in 2016, right after the internal elections for the new leadership in New Democracy:
The result for the leadership of the main opposition party, New Democracy, in Greece after Sunday's elections, must had brought waves of relief to the Brussels-Berlin axis. Brussels bureaufascists and Berlin directorate have now the best "backup" alternative in case that Tsipras administration attempt to diverge from the catastrophic policies imposed by the European Financial Dictatorship (EFD).
The new leader of New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is probably the ideal alternative solution. The man that co…

Έρχεται ο νεοφιλελεύθερος "οδοστρωτήρας" Κούλης που θα ισοπεδώσει τους εργαζόμενους

globinfo freexchange
«Επταήμερο εργασίας. Όχι ο εκβιασμός που γίνεται από τους ελέγχους εδώ πέρα, όχι εξαήμερο, επταήμερο! Απαιτούμε να γίνει πιο εύκολο, πιο ευέλικτο το θέμα των 7 ημερών και όχι να επικρέμεται η σπάθη των προστίμων», απαίτησε ο "ευγενής" επιχειρηματίας από τον Κυριάκο Μητσοτάκη που επισκέφτηκε την Κω. 
Δηλαδή, το "αφεντικό" δεν θέλει να έχει κανένα έλεγχο πάνω από το κεφάλι του και να κάνει ότι γουστάρει με τους εργαζόμενους. Αν μπορεί δηλαδή να τους βάζει να δουλεύουν και δωδεκάωρα (όπως πέρασε με νόμο στην Αυστρία η συντηρητική δεξιά) και να τους δίνει ένα ξεροκόμματο, ίσα-ίσα για να μπορούν να δουλεύουν.  Θεωρεί τον έλεγχο, δηλαδή αν τηρείται με λίγα λόγια η εργασιακή νομοθεσία, "εκβιασμό". Καταλάβατε νοοτροπία; 
Προσέξτε το ύφος του: το "αφεντικό" με θράσος απαιτεί, χτυπώντας σχεδόν το χέρι στο τραπέζι, να μπορεί ουσιαστικά να εφαρμόζει συνθήκες σύγχρονης δουλείας, όχι μόνο χωρίς καμία επίπτωση, αλλά ούτε καν ενόχληση.  

The prosecution of Julian Assange is an attack on our Freedom of Speech

The Intercept
The Trump Department of Justice has openly declared war on the First Amendment. And the case they have chosen to pave the way for criminally prosecuting journalists and publishers is that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act. It is the first time since the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enshrined in law, that the government is criminally charging a publisher for publishing truthful information.
This indictment centers around the exposure of war crimes committed by the forces of the most powerful nation on Earth. It is about publishing documents that laid bare the blackmail, the backroom deals, the threats, the lies of the U.S. government in nations across the world. It is retaliation against an organization that presented to the world video evidence of a U.S. helicopter gunship massacre on Iraqi civilians and two Reuters news journalists. 
This prosecution is revenge for publishing documents on the U.S. kill campaign in Iraq and Afgha…

Οι λούμπεν μικροαστοί είναι έτοιμοι να επιλέξουν τον δήμιο τους που αποτελεί και την καλύτερη εφεδρεία για τους γραφειοφασίστες των Βρυξελλών

του system failure
Το πρόσφατο αποτέλεσμα των ευρωεκλογών δείχνει ότι το νεοφιλελεύθερο ιερατείο Βρυξελλών/Βερολίνου θεωρεί ότι έφτασε η ώρα να αντικατασταθεί ο Αλέξης Τσίπρας με την καλύτερη εφεδρεία του: τον Κυριάκο Μητσοτάκη. 
Πράγματι, οι προβλέψεις φαίνεται να επαληθεύονται εντυπωσιακά. Όπως είχαμε αναφέρει σε προηγούμενο άρθρο ήδη από το 2016 και αμέσως μετά την εκλογή Μητσοτάκη στην ηγεσία της ΝΔ, τα αποτελέσματα των εκλογών στη ΝΔ λύνουν τα χέρια του άξονα Βρυξελλών-Βερολίνου. Οι γραφειοφασίστες των Βρυξελλών και το διευθυντήριο του Βερολίνου έχουν τώρα μια πρώτης τάξεως εφεδρεία σε περίπτωση που τα πράγματα "στραβώσουν" με την σημερινή κυβέρνηση.  
Ήδη, η κυβέρνηση ΣΥΡΙΖΑ έδωσε κάποια μικρά σημάδια ανυπακοής ενάντια στη λιτότητα που επιβάλλει το ιερατείο, ρέποντας 'επικίνδυνα' προς μια πιο φιλολαϊκή πολιτική. Δεν είναι τυχαίο φυσικά ότι τα πρώτα αυτά σημάδια άρχισαν να γίνονται ορατά μόλις η χώρα βγήκε από το πρόγραμμα επιτήρησης που επέβαλε η Τρό…

Arms industry lobby likely among the forces behind the unthinkable BDS banning in Germany

globinfo freexchange

Recently, the German parliament passed an unprecedented legislation through which the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) is now considered illegal!

As Sharmini Peries of the Real News reported:

The German parliament (Bundestag), has just passed an unprecedented piece of legislation condemning the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, known as BDS. They deemed BDS as anti-Semitic and illegal. This makes Germany the first and only country in the world to criminalize the BDS movement.
The legislation was passed at lightning speed in Germany. The bill itself was well kept secret until only two days before the vote. It was initially promoted by the far-right pro Israeli parties, both the neoliberal Party FDP and the racist anti-immigrant party AFD. But members of all German parties ended up supporting it, even from the far left.

Peries spoke with the Real News correspondent, Shir Hever, who gave impressive details about the peculiar circumstances un…

Microsoft’s ElectionGuard a Trojan Horse for a military-industrial takeover of US elections

“The fact that we are handing over the keys of American democracy to the military-industrial complex — it’s like giving the keys to the henhouse to a fox and saying, ‘here come in and take whatever you want.’ It’s obviously dangerous.” — Investigative journalist Yasha Levine
by Whitney Webb 
Part 4 - From mind control to vote control?
It’s worth briefly describing why DARPA’s role at Galois is of concern. This stems mainly from the fact that DARPA is currently developing Orwellian and nightmarish “Terminator” technologies — including efforts to implant chips into soldiers’ brains, replace most human soldiers with robot soldiers, and create killer “Terminator” robots — and autonomous artificial-intelligence targeting systems that will use social media to identify potential targets.
In 2015, Michael Goldblatt — then-director of the DARPA subdivision Defense Sciences Office (DSO), which oversees the “super soldier” program — told journalist Annie Jacobsen that he saw no difference betw…

Trump's top hawkish neocon gives signs that the US could possibly participate in a military coup against Jeremy Corbyn

globinfo freexchange

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt held a joint press conference in London after meeting for talks in the UK capital.
Pompeo condemned what he described as the support of certain UK and US leaders for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. "It is disgusting to see leaders, not only in the United Kingdom but in the United States as well, who continue to support the murderous dictator [Nicolas] Maduro," said Pompeo.

What's disgusting is that Pompeo has gone so far as even to launch indirect threats against US/UK leaders who refuse to align with the empire's typical regime change operations against legitimate governments.

It's obvious that these warnings are targeting progressive anti-war leaders like Tulsi Gabbard, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

Pompeo depicts the anxiety of the empire, as it finds more and more difficult to make countries and leaders align behind US regime change efforts. …