Political positions of Jeremy Corbyn

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This article summarises the policies, views and voting record of self-styled democratic socialist, Jeremy Corbyn, who since 12 September 2015 has been the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

Taxation and economy

Corbyn has campaigned against Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes,[1] supported a higher rate of income tax for the wealthiest in society,[2] and his shadow chancellor proposed the introduction of a £10 per hour living wage.[3] He argues that many well off people are "quite happy to pay more tax to fund better public services or to pay down our debt", and criticised George Osborne for offering tax cuts for higher rate taxpayers.[4] He opposes the idea the UK budget deficit should be reduced to meet an "arbitrary deadline", but also said that Labour would not reintroduce a current account deficit if budgets were balanced before 2020.[4]

An initial proposal to find up to £120 billion that Corbyn alleged to be lost through tax avoidance and evasion, by investing £1 billion in HMRC,[5] was strongly criticised by former Labour Leader Ed Miliband's former adviser, Jolyon Maugham Q.C., who claimed to have found a £100 billion "black hole" in Corbyn's plans.[6] Richard Murphy clarified that the £120 billion figure reflects what he believes is the overall tax gap (which is substantially bigger than the HMRC figure of £34 billion for the overall tax gap).[7] of which Murphy calculates the collectable portion of is up to £20 billion.[8][9] Maugham stated that this lower figure would only be available if a range of very unlikely decisions were to be made by the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, saying that "if this [plan by Corbyn] was a brilliant 'slam dunk' thing to do, it would have been done already".[5][10] In an interview with CNBC, Murphy said that "This issue is bigger than HMRC can deal with at the moment. Spending up to £300 million on staff could raise £8 billion extra, according to people I speak to at HMRC."[11]

Corbyn also planned to reduce the £93 billion which companies receive in tax relief according to Kevin Farnsworth, a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at York University.[12][13][14] This amount is made up by several reliefs, including railway and energy subsidies, regional development grants, lower corporation tax for small businesses, relief on investment and government procurement from the private sector.[13] However, Corbyn criticised the Conservative government for not doing more to support the Redcar steel works with subsidies as the Italian government has done with their steel sector.[15]

He has described year-on-year corporation tax cuts for companies with profits over £300,000[16] by current British Governments as a "race to the bottom".[17] In 1990, Corbyn participated in the tax resistance movement against the Community Charge, also known as the Poll Tax, for which he faced imprisonment.[18] In 2015, Corbyn suggested bringing in a land value tax to help tackle high housing costs.[19][20]

Corbyn has raised the prospect of devolving income tax rates to English regions, meaning each region could charge a different income tax rate. Corbyn said "We have a tax-raising power in Scotland but not in English regions. I want genuine regional taxation powers [in England]."[21][22]

Bank of England policy

Corbyn proposes to have the Bank of England print money to invest in housing and public transport, described by Corbyn as "People's Quantitative Easing".[23][24] This would aim to turn the UK into a high-skill, high-tech economy and to build more council houses in order to lower long-term housing benefit costs. To achieve this, the Bank would purchase bonds for a State-owned "National Investment Bank".[25] Richard Murphy stated that People's Quantitative Easing would only be used in lieu of Quantitative easing.[26]

A number of economists, including Steve Keen argued in a letter to The Guardian that despite claims to the contrary there was nothing "extreme left" about the anti-austerity policies he proposed in his leadership campaign,[27] and Nobel Prize in Economics winner Paul Krugman argued in The New York Times that "On economic policy, in particular, the striking thing about the leadership contest was that every candidate other than Mr. Corbyn essentially supported the Conservative government's austerity policies. ... The Corbyn upset isn't about a sudden left turn on the part of Labour supporters. It's mainly about the strange, sad moral and intellectual collapse of Labour moderates."[28]

Robert Skidelsky offered a qualified endorsement of Corbyn's proposals to carry out QE through a National Investment Bank.[29][30] As the policy would change the central bank's focus on stabilising prices, however, it has been argued increase the perceived risk of the risk of investing in the UK and raise the prospect of increased inflation.[31] It might also clash with Article 123 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty which prevents central banks from printing money to finance government spending and could cause a legal battle with the European Court of Justice, although it has been argued that money wouldn't be printed and would be issued in the form of bonds.[32][33] The Register wrote that as quantitative easing had the potential to cause inflation, currently the Bank of England holds onto the money it creates and thus has the power to 'unwind QE' by reversing it, whereas if the money had gone into Corbyn's National Investment Bank, this would not be possible.[34]

Strikes

Corbyn is in favour of repealing the Trade Union bill which would place restrictions on strikes in key areas such as transport and prevent unions from charging members a political levy unless they specifically agree (currently members can be charged unless they opt out).[35] He would also repeal legislation that bans workers from secondary strikes, which are strikes from workers in support of a strike initiated by workers in a different organisation.[36]

Welfare and health

Corbyn speaking at a demonstration to end the Atos Work Capability Assessment in September 2013

In 2013, Corbyn co-signed a letter to The Guardian newspaper which indicated his support for the People's Assembly Against Austerity.[37] He was a prominent sponsor of the "March for Homes".[38]

Corbyn was one of 16 signatories to an open letter to Ed Miliband in January 2015 calling for Labour to make a commitment to opposing further austerity, to take rail franchises back into public ownership, and to strengthen collective bargaining arrangements.[23]

At the Second Reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in July 2015, Corbyn joined 47 Labour MPs to oppose the Bill, describing it as "rotten and indefensible", while the other three leadership candidates abstained.[39] In August 2015, he called on Iain Duncan Smith to resign as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after it emerged that thousands of disabled people had died after being found fit to work by Work Capability Assessments (instituted in 2008) between 2011 and 2014.[40]

Corbyn has said that the National Health Service (NHS) should be "completely publicly run and publicly accountable"[41] and is a supporter of the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015.[42] Corbyn is opposed to the Private Finance Initiative, arguing that the NHS will have to repay "six times the original investment in them".[1] In 2010, he stated on Twitter that he believed homeopathy could work for some people[43] and signed a parliamentary motion introduced by the Conservative MP David Tredinnick calling on the Government to consider the experiences of other countries such as India, which backs homeopathy treatment, when formulating health policy.[44]

Corbyn is a long-standing champion for the rights of Dalits, who are treated poorly due to their lowly status under the caste system.[45]

Education

Corbyn envisions the establishment of a "National Education Service", on a similar model to that of the existing National Health Service. He advocates a return to local authority over state-funded academies and free schools, and an end to the charitable status of public schools.[23] Corbyn has campaigned strongly against tuition fees in England, and supports an increase in corporation tax to fund public services such as free higher education. He advocates the restoration of maintenance grants, which were replaced with loans by the UK's Conservative Government in 2015.[46][47][48] Corbyn is also in favour of an organised "National Creative Apprenticeship Service" for Arts-based further education.[49]

LGBT rights

A pioneer of LGBT equality, Corbyn championed such causes as the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), civil partnerships and same-sex marriage,[50] and support for the Equality Bill.[51] He was the only Labour MP to vote in favour of a Liberal Democrat amendment to outlaw discrimination based on sexuality in 1998, before the ratification of the Equality Act 2006.[52] Corbyn voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which ultimately legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales.[53] He has also threatened "economic and diplomatic consequences" on those countries not supporting LGBT rights.[50] Corbyn supported the appointment of Michael Cashman as Labour's specialist LGBT rights international envoy in 2014.[51] He has also claimed that he would extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland and reverse the gay blood ban enacted by the Democratic Unionist Party, were he to become prime minister.[54]

Energy and transport

Corbyn has been a consistent supporter of renationalising public utilities, such as the now-privatised British Rail and energy companies back into public ownership.[55][56] Initially Corbyn suggested completely renationalising the entire railway network, but will now bring them under public control "line by line" as franchises expire.[57]

Analyses cited by The Guardian and Financial Times newspapers among others, of the renationalisation policies advocated by Corbyn, indicate a figure of at least £124 billion would be needed to purchase controlling shares in the "Big Six" national energy providers plus the National Grid.[58] This plan would have to comply with European Union competition law, though several European countries currently have state-owned railway systems compliant with EU legislation.[59] However future EU proposals, and in particular the fourth railway package, indicate potential forthcoming EU legislation requiring the "opening up" of passenger railway markets;[60] thus energy and transportation markets, even if renationalised, would have to give a "right of competition" among other EU-domiciled companies.[61][62]

Corbyn claims renationalisation would save money by both joining up a fragmented market, thereby reducing duplication in the privatised rail market (estimated by Ian Taylor as costing up to £1.2 billion in a 2012 report written for trade unions, but the Rail Delivery Group notes this amount includes the cost of leasing trains as well as the cost of Network Rail using private contractors, something which British Rail did as well, thus would be an inaccurate estimate of savings)[59] and keeping what is currently profit for the energy and train operating companies. Both the energy and the train operating companies claim that they make a low return on their money (3.9% for the energy companies[63] and 3.4% for the train companies).[64]

In August 2015, Corbyn said he would consider introducing women-only carriages for public transport, as well as a 24-hour hotline for women to report cases of harassment.[65] He said that although his aim was to "make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to the mode of transport itself", he would consult women on whether separate carriages would be welcome, after the idea was suggested to him.[65] His statement was condemned by Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, with Cooper stating that Corbyn's plan was "turning the clock back instead of tackling the problem",[66] while Conservative Women's Minister Nicky Morgan said she was "uncomfortable with the idea", it sounding to her like "segregation".[67]

Nationalism and devolution

Northern England

Corbyn called George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse plan a "cruel deception" and has called for re-industrialisation in the north of England,[68][69] saying that "the North has to take back power from our centralised state with real powers to invest and take decisions."[70] Corbyn has also said that David Cameron should apologise for the treatment of northern miners during the 1984–5 miners' strike, calling for an inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave.[71] Corbyn is in favour of the High Speed 3 train link, arguing that it should be completed before Crossrail 2 in London, as well as greater electrification of the railways.[72]

Ireland

Corbyn is a long-standing supporter of a United Ireland and self-described "anti-imperialist campaigner" for the region.[73] He controversially invited Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams to London in 1984, from which the Party Leader Neil Kinnock "did everything in his power" to disassociate himself.[73] A second meeting in 1996 was cancelled following pressure from the Labour Party.[74][75] Corbyn responded by saying "dialogue with all parties remains essential if the peace process is to continue".[76] He has been strongly criticised by Labour and Conservative MPs for holding meetings with former members of the PIRA in the Palace of Westminster, to discuss topics such as conditions in Northern Irish prisons and the PIRA ceasefire.[77][78] Corbyn voted against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, saying that it strengthened the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and he opposed it as he wished to see a united Ireland.[79] In an interview on BBC Radio Ulster in August 2015, Corbyn stressed his opposition to "all bombing" and welcomed the ceasefire and peace process, although he did not express an opinion about the actions of the IRA specifically.[80][81]

Scotland

When asked by Glasgow's Herald newspaper if he would describe himself as a British Unionist, Corbyn replied "No, I would describe myself as a Socialist. I would prefer the UK to stay together, yes, but I recognise the right of people to take the decision on their own autonomy and independence". He criticised the decision by Scottish Labour to work with Scottish Conservatives in the Better Together campaign, and said that he had not actively participated in the 2014 campaign for an independent Scotland. Corbyn stated his belief that economic inequality exists across the UK, and that Labour should unite people on the basis of a "radical economic strategy".[82]

Constitution and Royal Family

Corbyn believes the royal ceremony for the State Opening of Parliament should be abolished, saying in 1998 that: "It's absolutely ridiculous, this 18th-century performance, the horses and the knights and everybody else turning up for The Queen to read a speech she's never even read before, let alone written".[83] Corbyn's personal preference is for Britain to become a republic, but said that given the Royal Family's popularity, "it's not a battle that I am fighting".[84][85] In 1991, Corbyn seconded the Commonwealth of Britain Bill brought forward by Tony Benn calling for the transformation of the United Kingdom ideally into a "democratic, federal and secular Commonwealth of Britain", with an elected president, devolution, abolition of the House of Lords as it currently exists, and equality of representation by men and women in parliament.[86]

Foreign affairs and defence

Corbyn and Hilary Benn meet with President Obama in April 2016

Corbyn does not consider himself an absolute pacifist and has named the Spanish Civil War, the British naval blockade to stop the slave trade in the 19th century and the role of UN peacekeepers in the 1999 crisis in East Timor as justified conflicts.[87] However, opposing violence and war has been "the whole purpose of his life".[88]

Middle East

Corbyn prominently opposed war in Iraq and Afghanistan, military strikes against Assad's Syria, and military action against ISIS, and served as the chair of the Stop The War Coalition.[89] When challenged on whether there were any circumstances in which he would deploy military services overseas he said "I'm sure there are some but I can't think of them at the moment."[89]

Corbyn has been vocal on Middle East foreign policy. He is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, campaigning against conflict in Gaza and what the organisation considers to be apartheid in Israel.[90] Corbyn has also supported boycotting and sanctioning arms dealings in Israel, saying on the pro-Palestinian Electronic Intifada: "I think we have to push robustly for the limitation of arms supplies ... Israel is after all facing an investigation ... for war crimes, [at the International Criminal Court] as indeed are the Hamas forces on a much different or lesser scale."[91] Corbyn described Hamas "an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people, and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region" and deriding their designation as a terrorist group as a "big, big historical mistake."[92] Asked on Channel 4 News in July 2015 why he had called representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah "friends", Corbyn explained, "I use it in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk," and that the specific occasion he used it was to introduce speakers from Hezbollah at a Parliamentary meeting about the Middle East. He said that he does not condone the actions of either organisation: "Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No. What it means is that I think to bring about a peace process, you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree … There is not going to be a peace process unless there is talks involving Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas and I think everyone knows that", he argued.[93] He has called for the lifting of sanctions as part of a negotiated full settlement of issues concerning the Iranian nuclear programme, and the starting of a political process to decommission Israel's nuclear arsenal.[94][95][96] He has also been supportive of – and attended – al-Quds Day rallies.[97]

In 2015, the Jewish Chronicle claimed that sources close to Corbyn during his election as Labour leader have suggested that Corbyn's senior aides argued over an apparent attempt to create a "Minister for Jews" and "Minister for Muslims",[98] although it is thought this may have been shorthand for a wider role that reached beyond the Jewish community.[99] This was allegedly suggested in order to reconcile Corbyn's standing in the British Jewish community, which had become tarnished due to alleged links with antisemites and Holocaust deniers,[99] but was mocked by Conservatives, who said that Corbyn would also be creating a minister for "dogs, Blacks and Irish".[100] However, there was no later evidence to back up this assertion.[101]

Corbyn responded to allegations from the Jewish Chronicle about his relationship to known Holocaust deniers:

I have no contact now whatsoever with Paul Eisen and Deir Yassin Remembered. I did attend a number of events concerning Deir Yassin Remembered some years ago, I think two or three of them. ... Fifteen years ago [Eisen] was not a Holocaust denier. Had he been a Holocaust denier, I would have had absolutely nothing to do with him. I was moved by the plight of people who had lost their village in Deir Yassin. ...
Holocaust denial is vile and wrong. The Holocaust was the most vile part of our history. The Jewish people killed by the Nazi Holocaust were the people who suffered the most in the 20th century.[102]

Shadow Mental Health Minister Luciana Berger is now the only Jewish member of the shadow cabinet, and one of the only members of Labour Friends of Israel.[99] The prospect of Liberal Democrat peer and controversial critic of Israel Baroness Tonge joining the Labour Party following Corbyn's leadership election landslide victory has led some to question how long Berger will remain in the Shadow Cabinet.[100] However, Deputy Leader of the party Tom Watson, also a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel,[99] has said Tonge would be "welcome" in the party.[103]

Ukraine

In April 2014, Corbyn wrote an article for the Morning Star attributing the crisis in Ukraine to the actions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). He said the "root of the crisis" lay in "the US drive to expand eastwards" and described Russia's actions as "not unprovoked".[104] He has said it "probably was" a mistake to allow former Warsaw Pact countries to join NATO: "NATO expansion and Russian expansion – one leads to the other, and one reflects the other".[104][105] Corbyn's views on Ukraine, Russia, and NATO were criticised by a number of writers, including Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group,[106] Anne Applebaum in The Sunday Times,[107] Ben Judah in The Independent,[108] and Roger Boyes in The Times.[109] Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Edward Lucas saw Corbyn as having a "desire to appease Russia by sacrificing Ukraine" and said that Corbyn's "anti-imperialist sentiments did not stretch to understanding countries such as Ukraine".[110] Lithuanian ambassador Asta Skaisgirytė disagreed with Corbyn's portrayal of NATO, saying her country was not "forced or lured into NATO as part of an American global power grab. We were pounding on the door of the alliance, demanding to be let in".[111]

Corbyn told The Guardian in August 2015: "I am not an admirer or supporter of Putin's foreign policy, or of Russian or anybody else's expansion". Corbyn would like to pull the United Kingdom out of NATO,[112] but has acknowledged that there is not an appetite for it among the public and instead intends to push for NATO to "restrict its role".[113]

Falklands

Corbyn supports a "negotiated settlement" with the Falkland Islands that may involve "some degree of joint administration" with Argentina.[89] His election as party leader was welcomed by Argentine president Cristina Kirchner who described him as a "great friend of Latin America".[114]

Chagos Islands

Corbyn was chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Chagos Islands. He has advocated for the rights of the forcibly-removed Chagossians to return to the British Indian Ocean Territory,[115] following the depopulation programme of between 1968 and 1973.[89]

Nuclear weapons

Corbyn at Global Justice Now, 2015

Corbyn is strongly opposed to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and a long-time supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which he joined in 1966 whilst at school.[116] He became one of its three vice-chairs.[117] Corbyn opposes the replacement of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system, and supports the creation of a Defence Diversification Agency to assist the transfer of jobs and skills to the civilian sector.[118][119] In his leadership election campaign, Corbyn suggested that the 11,000 jobs supported by Trident could be replaced by "socially productive" jobs in renewable energy, railways and housing.[120] Corbyn has hinted he might allow party members who support Trident replacement to back it in a free vote,[121] but also said that defence chiefs would be under instructions not to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances if he was Prime Minister.[122]

European Union

In the 1975 European Union referendum put forward by the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, Corbyn opposed Britain's membership of the European Union (EU).[123] Corbyn also opposed the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, saying:

... the whole basis of the Maastricht treaty is the establishment of a European central bank which is staffed by bankers, independent of national Governments and national economic policies, and whose sole policy is the maintenance of price stability[.] That will undermine any social objective that any Labour Government in the United Kingdom—or any other Government—would wish to carry out. ... The Maastricht treaty does not take us in the direction of the checks and balances contained in the American federal constitution[.] It takes us in the opposite direction of an unelected legislative body—the [European] Commission—and, in the case of foreign policy, a policy Commission that will be, in effect, imposing foreign policy on nation states that have fought for their own democratic accountability.[124][125][126]

Corbyn also opposed the Lisbon Treaty in 2008[127] and backed referendum on British withdrawal from the European Union in 2011.[128]

In July 2015, Corbyn said that if Prime Minister David Cameron negotiated away workers' rights and environmental protection as part of his renegotiation of Britain's membership of the European Union (EU), he would not rule out advocating for a British exit in a proposed referendum on EU membership,[129] and has expressed that he is in favour of leaving the EU if it becomes a "totally brutal organisation". Pro-European Labour MPs and campaigners already fear Corbyn's allegedly lukewarm attitude towards the EU may convince Labour voters towards withdrawal.[123] However, in September 2015, Corbyn said that Labour will campaign for Britain to stay in the EU regardless of the result of Cameron's negotiations, and instead "pledge to reverse any changes" if Cameron reduces the rights of workers or citizens.[130] He also believed that Britain should play a crucial role in Europe by making demands about working arrangements across the continent, the levels of corporation taxation and in forming an agreement on environmental regulation.[41]

Trade unions

He was one of sixteen signatories to an open letter to then-Labour Leader Ed Miliband in January 2015 calling for Labour to strengthen collective bargaining arrangements.[23]

Corbyn is in favour of repealing a government proposed trade union bill[131] which he has described as a "threat to us all". This bill, would require higher strike voting thresholds (40% of members of a union in protected sectors like health, education, fire, transport and border security[132]), place restrictions on strikes in key areas such as transport, and prevent unions from charging members a political levy unless they specifically agree (currently members can be charged unless they opt out).[35] He would also repeal legislation that bans workers from secondary strikes, which are strikes from workers in support of a strike initiated by workers in a different organisation.[36]

Environment and animal rights

Corbyn has been a strong advocate for environmentalism. During his leadership bid in 2015, he published a "Protecting Our Planet Manifesto", detailing plans for a "Green Investment Bank" that would invest in green technologies such as renewable energy. He advocates a ban on hydraulic fracking, a phasing out of fossil fuel extraction, and investment in public transport to improve air quality. Corbyn is also against the building of new nuclear power stations,[133][134] although he has advocated the re-opening of some of Britain's coal mines.[135][136]

Corbyn has been a long-time campaigner on animal rights issues. He was one of the first signatories to Tony Banks' "Pigeon Bombs" Early Day Motion, and, in 2015, he signed up to another Motion calling for a ban on the importation of foie gras into the UK as well as sponsoring a Motion opposing the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.[137][138][139] He has also sponsored two Early Day Motions relating to the McLibel case.[140]

Abortion

Corbyn has supported buffer zones outside abortion clinics and pregnancy advisory bureaux to protect women from anti-abortion protesters.[141] Corbyn has also supported British developmental aid funding abortions for those impregnanted by rape during warfare.[142][143] He has pledged to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.[54]

Cannabis

In 2000, Corbyn signed an Early Day Motion calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis.[144] Despite having never smoked cannabis himself,[145] Corbyn said in the 2015 Labour leadership election "we should be adult and grown up and decriminalise cannabis".[146]

External links

References

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