You know something’s gone badly wrong in left-wing politics when your party decides to use Donald Trump as a shining example. Yes, he won an election, but so far as socialist values go, most find Trump to be decidedly lacking. And yet, late last year, UK Labour Party strategists announced a new campaign to set up Jeremy Corbyn as the left’s answer to Trump, in an attempt to harness the current anti-establishment political trend. Perhaps it was Trump’s inclination to reach the people via Twitter that swung it for Corbyn’s advisers – Labour, after all, long ago abandoned the working man for the Twitterati.
Needless to say, the relaunch is not going swimmingly. Last week, Corbyn told the Today programme he would like to see a cap on high salaries to correct pay inequality. Yet a few hours later, in his relaunch speech in Peterborough, he seemed to have tempered this inclination slightly by talking about ‘pay ratios’ instead. Either way, the idea behind the policy is baffling coming from a politician who is attempting to win popularity among working people.
As Ed Conway pointed out in The Times, income inequality in the UK is actually going down, and is lower than in other countries such as France and China – something which Corbyn was apparently unaware of when he described the UK as a ‘grossly unequal, bargain-basement economy on the shores of Europe’.
In reference to pay ratios, Corbyn said: ‘This is not about limiting aspiration or penalising success, it’s about recognising that success is a collective effort and rewards must be shared.’ But how could it not be limiting? It shows a complete lack of understanding of the inherent aspiration of most working people. People who work hard want more – and so they should. Corbyn has once again highlighted the growing chasm between his party and working people. Instead of offering people something to work towards and a chance for bettering their situations, he thinks punishing the wealthy is the way to win voters.
Rich-bashing and constant talk of limits have become the norm for the Labour Party and its miserabilist outlook. The left used to be about demanding more for people; today it asks: how can we share the misery around? Where once low wages were a source of outrage for the left, now they mainly sneer at high-earners. Corbyn called footballers’ salaries ‘utterly ridiculous’. Most footballers come from working-class backgrounds. Surely the fact that they have so bettered their own standing in the world should serve as an inspiration to others, not be a source of consternation.