Britain's “rigged system” will be rigged no more, according to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, if he finds himself entering 10 Downing Street in seven weeks’ time.
“These rules have created a cosy cartel which rigs the system in favour of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations,” the Labour leader claimed in his General Election launch speech yesterday. “It’s a rigged system set up by the wealth extractors for the wealth extractors.”
On the surface, Corbyn’s accusations of unfair power structures will resonate with many people; the 2016 mantra of the “establishment versus the people”, or – my favourite, as articulated by the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan – the “protected versus the unprotected” proved successful messages for the referendum campaigns and for the political parties embracing them.
It should be said that recent populist upheaval has buried left wing politics, such as the type Corbyn subscribes to, the furthest underground. But regardless, there is plenty of truth to the idea that political elites have been sitting cosy too long, legislating from on-high, while people outside of Westminster have to deal with the repercussions of their poor policy-making.
Unfortunately, this reading of Corbyn’s speech is far too generous. Despite his rhetoric, Corbyn has no interest in returning power to the hands of the people, as he claims. His policy agenda will keep the power in Westminster – and expand it – to create an economy that is far more rigged than anything in Britain today.
This is best evidenced by Corbyn’s support for inequality of treatment as long as the rules benefit groups he favours.
The UK’s farming industry, for example, receives handouts worth millions of pounds each year, despite consumers having to bear the cost of keeping the industry afloat even though they can often find cheaper goods abroad. Yet the Labour leader supports subsidies for industries like agriculture and steel, and often argues for nationalisation of struggling firms – a move that would fully shield them from any competition or outside force that could jeopardise the industry.
For the Labour leader, the definition of a “rigged system” is not related to protectionism or favouritism by the state for certain industries; it is one that produces inequalities which are at odds with his own personal and philosophical worldview.
His villainous characterisation of bankers would have you thinking that every person in financial services had joined some underground effort to distort the economy.
Any legitimate criticisms of the banking sector or individuals involved in the 2008 financial crisis are lost to his ignorance of the many factors (including government regulations and rating agency failures) that contributed to the crash – not to mention how much more severe the economic pain would have been for the country if the banks had been left to collapse.
Meanwhile, Corbyn’s severe disdain for the “wealthy” breaks with the doctrine of the centre-left – wealth creators aren’t even seen by him as vital funders of public services, but rather to be condemned (or, in his call for maximum wages, legislated against).
But of course, Corbyn isn’t of the centre-left. He is a self-proclaimed socialist who trades practicality for purity. What was most notable about his launch speech – and far more telling than his “rigged system” buzzwords – was how his desire to equal the playing field led him to speak passionately about pulling people down, while barely touching on how to raise others up.
That’s the promise of leadership Corbyn has laid out thus far: equality over opportunity. And if the system doesn’t produce absolute equality organically, as it is made up of the countless daily actions of millions of individuals, all looking to prosper and thrive, the answer will be simple: rig it.