Not even Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest fans could honestly claim, hand on heart, that the Labour leader is a great intellectual.
To his supporters (and there are many) he is authentic, kind and caring. All of this may be true, but it should also be acknowledged – since he is seeking the highest office in the land – that he is far from being the sharpest knife in the block.
He can sound coherent enough when trotting out the same lines he’s been using for 30 years – on injustice, inequality or nuclear disarmament, but it’s when he strays onto unfamiliar territory that the cracks begin to show. Nowhere is this more evident than when he talks about the City.
This paper has often lamented the way in which the Labour leader talks about financial services, only ever whining about “greedy bankers and crooked financiers.” We’ve also noted in the past how confused he gets when talking about one particular part of the City: hedge funds. Corbyn reportedly once confused hedge funds with payday lenders during a shadow cabinet meeting, leaving colleagues baffled.
This week, in his official party election broadcast, he launched a fresh assault on the hedgies, saying: “Our small businesses – which sometimes are actually very innovative – high skilled jobs, high skilled ideas, grow to a certain size – great – then they need to develop. What comes along? A hedge fund, [to] buy them up, sell the ideas to somebody else and close down the local enterprise.”
We asked the Labour Party to provide evidence of a hedge fund buying a small business before ‘selling its ideas’ and shutting it down, and the only example that came close to the description involved a private equity firm. When pushed as to whether Corbyn knew the difference between hedge funds and private equity, the conversation ended.
Corbyn’s confusion isn’t just a verbal slip-up. It is, in the words of Treasury Committee member Jacob Rees-Mogg, “part and parcel of Labour’s failure to understand how the City works,” adding, “I’m really not surprised.” Jack Inglis, head of the Alternative Investment Management Association also laments “another mischaracterisation of what hedge funds do.” The truth is that Corbyn doesn’t want to understand the City, he simply wants to tax it.