The definition of a fanatic is someone who doesn’t let the facts get in the way of their theories. By this standard, hapless, gormless Jeremy Corbyn is truly (if serenely) living in another galaxy.
Heroes are important and Corbyn is crystal clear that Hugo Chavez and his charismatic, populist, socialist Bolivarian movement—long in charge of resource rich Venezuela–is a model he is just itching to emulate. Let us take him at his word and look at the prototype of the socialist paradise Corbyn dreams of.
With any sort of remotely competent leadership, Venezuela ought to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, as it possesses the planet’s largest known oil reserves. So economic illiterates Chavez and his even more clueless successor as President Nicolas Maduro have form, as wrecking such a paradise has taken real talent. When Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution took power in 1998, Venezuela was one of the richest countries in Latin America; now it is one of the poorest.
What does this mean practically? Presently there are shortages of medicine and food staples, a direct result of government policies. The inflation rate in 2016 has been estimated a stratospheric 800%, with output falling by a precipitous 18.6% last year, after a mere 180% rate of inflation and 5.7 percent contraction in 2015. Simply put, due to economic negligence, the place is falling apart at the seams.
Under its socialist champions and despite the incredible bounty of its oil reserves, Venezuela is desperately, irredeemably poor, and there is no sight whatever of even the smallest effort on the part of the gormless Maduro government to even attempt to right the ship, as to do so would be to abandon the socialist snake oil that they and Corbyn so enjoy peddling.
Venezuela’s problem is structural, and simply isn’t going away. With the global price of energy halving (and with the American shale revolution now functioning as a permanent ceiling on global oil prices), the latest socialist fantasy is fast approaching its sell-by date.
It is the easiest political risk call in the world to note (as almost everyone has) that the Bolivarian revolution is on its last legs. But tragically, it is unlikely the fetid, discredited regime will go without a fight.
Maduro is Chavez without the charisma, meaning he is nothing. With his popularity rating plummeting to near Hollande-like levels of 24% in February 2017, the thuggish President has done about everything he can to change the subject from his obvious and glaring incompetence.
Maduro has blamed the US (somehow its Washington’s fault as it would surely be for Corbyn) for his self-inflicted wounds. He charges the opposition are fascists and in the pocket of Donald Trump, rather than being a disparate, desperate group of Venezuelans trying to stave off economic disaster, and save what’s left of their country. Having lost December 2015 parliamentary elections to his foes, Maduro, rather than change course and tack towards sanity, has set about organising a takeover of the Venezuelan political system.
He cajoled the pro-government Supreme Court to recently announce its assumption of legislative powers, in lieu of the opposition-controlled congress. Having extra-legally quashed the opposition’s effort to recall him (which given Maduro’s great unpopularity was sure to have succeeded), the Venezuelan President is not intent on re-writing the Constitution presumably to see that his political opponents, are never, ever in a position to threaten him again.
Predictably, the opposition are in the streets this spring, leading ever larger demonstrations that have already resulted in the deaths of at least 36 people. Venezuela is a hair’s breath from revolution.
Maduro will talk about anything, anything other than the undeniable economic mess he and his mentor Chavez have driven his country into. But in the end, the laws of political risk analysis—as is true for the laws of physics—cannot be indefinitely ignored. The disastrous socialist Bolivarian revolution that the Labour leader so admires is not long for the earth. Thank God, as the poverty-stricken people of Maduro’s country deserve far better.
It is my strong bet that the people of Britain do not need this political risk lesson as to why a vote for Corbyn is a vote for economic suicide (beyond the Shadow Home Secretary’s disastrous inability to do simple maths).
However, alternate realties and alternate paths not taken are an important comparison metric voters can use to gauge what taking a chance on a radical candidate would look like.
In the case of Corbyn, one has only to look at the death throes of the economically-challenged Maduro regime to get a sense of what his government would deliver. To look, and then to shudder.
Published in City AM London, May 9, 2017.
“There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, yields true glory.”
–Francis Drake, aboard the Golden Hind, to Sir Francis Walsingham, off Cape Sagres, Portugal, 1587
Well, she did it, and about time too. Tempted by polls showing her fathoms ahead of Jeremy Corbyn–(surely the picture next to the definition of ‘gormless’ in the dictionary)—Mrs. May took the plunge to rid herself of an uncertain majority. Whatever the exact outcome of the June election, the results are already in; she will be strategically successful in doing so.
Gone is the implied threat of political blackmail and revenge by disgruntled former Cabinet Ministers, such as the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none George Osborne. Gone also is the (highly unlikely) fear that the disjointed opposition might somehow join forces to thwart her: unelected left-leaning Lords, the forgettable Lib Dem leader (feverishly dreaming that Brexit never happened), economically illiterate Scottish nationalists, and the remnant of the grown-up Labour Party (suffering mightily under their clueless leader).
While it was always highly unlikely this rabble could bring themselves to agree on an ice cream flavour, let alone a common policy, they did pose a more tangible threat in terms of vetoing the ultimate outcome of the Brexit negotiations, peeling away enough soft Tory support then disappointed that the talks did not yield a soft Brexit.
With a majority of 100 or more (and it will be higher), Mrs. May skilfully proves she is taking no domestic political chances with the Brexit negotiations. This must signal the Prime Minister means precisely what she says; the Brexit outcome will be hard (or as the cabinet prefer to call it ‘clean’), with Britain exiting the Single Market, taking back control of its immigration policy, leaving the European Court of Justice behind, and striking out on its own into the exciting new multipolar world we find ourselves in.
By calling the election, the only faint domestic threat to all this (cue the vapours yesterday morn of the left-leaning papers) –of minority Tory Remainers and the disgruntled allying with the Lords, the Lib Dems and Labour–ceases to be a possibility. For this tactical political reason alone, the election is worth calling.
But there is a broader, strategic and for more important horizon that the Prime Minister’s boldness has made possible, nothing less than the UK inaugurating a new Drakean age of prosperity and sovereignty. For the very motley crew that stands in the way of a hard Brexit also would have posed the chief political challenge to realising the policies that need to be put in place for Britain to dynamically thrust itself forward into this new era.
Ignoring the laughably futile European efforts at supposedly increasing defence spending (waiting for Berlin to spend more is like Waiting for Godot), Britain can now go ahead and do so knowing that this will surely mean ever closer ties with the US, still the most powerful country in the world by a long way. This is the ultimate strategic prize. While Brussels, unelected and without an army, can lecture people around the world with nothing to back such annoying bromides up with, London instead will have a seat at the decision-making table over every major strategic issue. And sovereignty, a say in how the world is run and control over this country, is surely what a majority of the British people voted for in the EU referendum.
Even more importantly, without negotiating free trade deals glacially over decades (only then to have Wallonia almost on its own scupper the recent EU-Canada trade pact), Britain can act to its Drakean advantage. There is an easy 10 years out litmus test for whether Brexit was worth it, a yardstick that has absolutely nothing to do whatever final deal is hammered out with the gnomes of Europe.
If in 10 years’ time if Britain has functioning free trade deals with the major Commonwealth countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand), the US, India, and China, these closer economic links with the parts of the world actually growing (unlike the EU which over time is not) will catapult Britain into the first rank of powers, in terms of influence, prosperity and its future. Not doing so will mean Little England failure. That is the real political risk ahead, and also the vast geopolitical reward.
The usual suspects whining about not being handed a soft Brexit would fight the whole of this Drakean programme tooth and nail. Given the rickety present majority, they might even derail part of the agenda, and would surely slow it down. This must not be allowed to happen as now is the time for decisive measures. What Mrs. May has done is clear away the plotters who might have done her in, and that is admirable. But now she must revel in this chance, take hold of it with both hands, and let no power or persuasion deter her from her coming task of doing nothing less than ushering in a new Drakean age.
Published in City AM London, April 20, 2017.