David Thomas’ Awful Attempt at Reading The Political Tarot Cards: The Mail on Sunday’s Attempt to Discredit Jeremy Corbyn

The argument put forward in the Mail on Sunday told in the form of a futuristic news bulletin- something like a right wing attempt at political satire- was written by a columnist called David Thomas.  It is entitled “Prime Minister Corbyn…and the 1000 days that destroyed Britain.”

PM Corbyn DM article

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The intention was to show the economic “threat” presented by Jeremy Corbyn.

Unfortunately, it only served to show how little the Mail on Sunday know about Corbyn and his policies.

The article begins by telling us that “Many fear his (Corbyn’s) far left policies will send the UK back to the dark ages”
Many Daily Mail readers perhaps. The rest of us- politically aware people- understand that left wing politics are called “progressive” for a reason. Tell me; do the left wing politics of “let’s look after each other for the good of society” occur to you as being particularly “dark ages”? I would say that the idea of a state which looks after people first couldn’t be further from the autocratic dark ages.

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So, “here, David Thomas imagines the future if he (Corbyn) gets the keys to Number 10.”
And Mr. Thomas’ prediction is built entirely on 8 utterly false assumptions:

  • Corbynomics Would Destroy The Economy

Corbyn’s economics (often called “Corbynomics”) are often criticised for being radical. David Thomas makes out that Corbynomics would destroy the economy to the point where a loaf of bread costs £5. Thomas predicts that Mark Carney would be the voice of wisdom warning us against an economic strategy which (David Thomas predicts) would force all the parliamentary cars to be sold in a desperate bid to pay off the “3 trillion pounds of debt.” It’s almost as funny as calling George Osborne’s plans ‘economic sense’.

How can this be said on the same week that forty leading economists have signed a letter defending Corbyn’s economics against the accusation that they are unrealistic and “far left.”

Among the signatories was David Blanchflower , an ex member of the Bank of England’s  monetary policy committee. The Guardian reported that the letter stated Corbyn’s “opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF.”

David Blanchflower (from The Commentator's website)

David Blanchflower (from The Commentator’s website)

Forty economists, and by no means the first. Corbyn has received backing from many anti-austerity economists, because many economists believe austerity is the wrong path. You don’t create growth by making the rich richer, and the poor poorer- that’s just called “what the conservatives have always done.”

The party of the rich will protect the interests of the rich. Corbyn is the antithesis of this.

  • Corbyn would put us in the same situation as Greece

This Tory myth has been doing the rounds since the 2010 election and is constantly coughed up by tory supporters. I will simply say (as has been said time and time again) that Greece’s economy is completely different to our own. We can control our bonds in times of serious crisis and use our central bank to create a macro economy. Macroeconomics are very useful to a state with economic independence, but it’s often overlooked by the public, and the right wing press are always willing to take advantage of this. To put it quite simply; we can never be in the exact same situation as Greece, because our economy is so different.

  • Corbyn is planning to print our money problems away

David Thomas speaks of a warning (once again derived from the infinite wisdom of Mark Carney!!) that you can’t print money to fund policies- that this will lead to hyper-inflation. What I want to know is has Mr. Thomas actually read Corbyn’s economic plan? Or perhaps he has read it and not understood it?

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Corbyn has pointed out the hypocrisy of printing £375 billion to help the banks, while cutting public services, but it’s never been said that this is a viable economic strategy to fund government policy. What Corbyn actually said was that any money produced in this way should be used to invest.
And it must be emphasised; only to invest.

In his economic strategy outline “The Economy in 2020” (which I recommend reading) Corbyn says just this; we should aim for “quantitative easing for people instead of banks”. It is an idea which is supported by leading economists including Richard Murphy.

This does not mean (as the Daily Mail would have you believe) printing money whenever and wherever you need. It means careful planning and investment in “large scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects”, which will bring in far more money than it will take to create.

And, if Mr. Thomas still insists that the left are not economically literate, it is worth pointing out that George Osborne had to borrow £417 billion to fund his last five years of austerity- £10 billion more than was borrowed in the entire 13 years running up to the 2010 election! As an evident fan of the conservative party, is it not a little hypocritical of Thomas to accuse Corbyn [backed by at least 41 leading economists], of not knowing how to run an economy?

It is slightly worrying how little a political commentator for The Mail knows about the politics he is supposed to be satirically critiquing.

 

  • Donald Trump will be president of the US and refuse to work with Corbyn

The article claims (hilariously) that Donald Trump will become president in America and refuse to work with Britain if Corbyn were in power. Thomas bases this assumption on two things; Corbyn would slash defence spending and abandon our nuclear deterrent.

It might surprise many of my readers to learn that I actually disagree with Corbyn over the question of Trident. That said Mr. Thomas’ argument is ridiculous. If you believe that America would stop investing in Britain simply because we cut defence spending, then you convict yourself of being first, ignorant of trade relationships in the EU and the Atlantic, and second, completely ignorant of the history of our two nations. The election of Donald trump is an unlikely enough event as it is; I would hope America was smarter than that. A dream come true for Fox News the Daily Mail, but a nightmare for the US.

 

  • The police would go on strike because Jeremy would sacrifice their pay to pay off the national debt

I had to laugh at this one- the implication seemed to be that riots would start as police “furious at being unpaid for months” would go on an “indefinite strike.”

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but is it not a little strange to predict that the champion of public sector rights and the candidate with the majority of Union backing would force the police to go unpaid for months?

We already know that Corbyn’s economics wouldn’t lead to this, but it should be obvious to anyone that public sector workers (whom Thomas claims would receive a 2/3 pay cut under Corbyn!) would be the last people Corbyn would force the weight of the national debt upon- that’s a conservative policy, isn’t it?
How do you make the jump from “This man is anti austerity” to “but he’ll bring in worse austerity measures than the conservatives”?
The logical jumps of a Mail on Sunday columnist are anything but logical.

  • Corbyn hates Israel but is an ally of Hamas and Hezbollah

Does anybody honestly believe that Jeremy Corbyn, the left wing, anti war, agnostic MP, is an ally of the right wing militant, religious fundamentalists in Hezbollah? Or the violent acts committed by Hamas?

While I don’t think the conflict is quite so one sided (that all blame should be placed upon Israel), attempting to negotiate with Hamas and Hezbollah don’t make Corbyn a terrorist sympathizer, anymore than attempting to negotiate with Hitler made Neville Chamberlain a Nazi sympathizer.

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The article also implies that insulting the memory of President Mugabe would be illegal under a futuristic Corbyn government- I have never once heard Jeremy Corbyn praise Robert Mugabe and I do think the Mail on Sunday owes Corbyn an apology for the implication.

  • Jeremy Corbyn is a communist who will treat the country like Stalin

It’s the oldest scaremongering trick in the right wing’s handbook: He’s a communist!

I thought we’d left this old trick behind 50 years ago, but apparently not. The article makes several subtle references, claiming that Corbyn is an “old commie” who would declare a “siege economy” (a reference to Lenin’s “War Economy”), “socialism in one country” (a reference to Stalin and Bukharin’s policy under the same name), and that he would sell our nuclear deterrents to Vladimir Putin.

Why is this so hilarious? Well, Corbyn is a senior member of the Stop the War Coalition and has been for most of his political career. He spent so much of his life trying to stop the arms trade, I honestly don’t think he’s going to start selling weapons to anyone, let alone Putin.

It’s sort of like predicting that the RSPCA are going to go into business hunting whales off the shores of Japan in 2023- it just doesn’t add up.

Anti-war appears to be a hard concept for the Daily Mail to grasp most of the time.

Corbyn is not a communist. He has told us that he isn’t (Not that I think that David Thomas has ever listened to anything Corbyn said). He admitted to having read Karl Marx (and maybe Mr David Thomas should at least attempt to do the same at some point) but found that he only agreed with some of what Karl Marx wrote.

How little Mr Thomas knows about his political opponents can be demonstrated by the comparison between Stalin and Corbyn; How can a senior member of the stop war coalition and a champion of democracy who wants to see more cabinet ministers be elected to their positions, possibly be compared with the anti-democratic dictator Josef Stalin, whose entire economic stratagem was engineered for war (the “five year plans”) and held fake show trials to kill off large swathes of his politburo (Cabinet and Parliament) at a time?

The mere comparison is insulting to Jeremy Corbyn, and laughable to anyone who supports him.

  • Rich people would have to pay 95% income tax for corbynomics to work, so they would start leaving the country

The old “but the bankers will leave the country if we don’t appease them” is another classic Tory lie.

Be realistic– even if we didn’t know that Corbyn’s economic plan is backed by leading economists, the business potential of the UK is always going to attract businessmen and women to our shores. We’re in the top 23 richest countries in the world, for goodness sake!

But okay, if the super rich want to leave because they are not interested in business inside a growing economy (as leading economists have predicted Corbyn could deliver)…well, that’s fine, isn’t it? If they’re not interested in business, they aren’t helping the economy anyway. Why would we care if they went or stayed in that case?

David Thomas also claims (as part of his “rich people would leave” argument) that One Direction would go on a US tour and never return.

I fail to see the down side.

At the very least, I fail to see how this would damage the economy in the ridiculously unlikely event that it actually happened. I mean, I know the Daily Mail’s political understanding is limited and somewhat naive… but…seriously?

It’s also flat out not true to say that Corbynomics would put a noticeable strain on the financial sector. Take the example of a simple Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). An FTT of 0.05%- literally unnoticeable to the millions of transactions which happen every day, would raise £250 billion per year.

£250 billion per year.

When you compare that to the current suffering of disabled and poor people due to George Osborne’s £12 billion of welfare cuts (over 5 years), there isn’t even any competition in my mind as to which policy line is better.

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£12 billion raised over five years, with millions of poor and ill people bearing the brunt, or £1250 billion raised over five years, with most bankers barely noticing the change? It’s not even a competition.

The Daily Mail wants you to believe that Corbyn is a pitiful figure. In this bizarre prediction of the future, Mr Thomas predicts that, at the end of his term, he will be described as frail, with trembling hands, a bent back, and a “baffled, bewildered, and bemused” look on his face.

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Nothing could be further from the truth. He brings hope and energy to people who would otherwise be hopeless. And that energy will remain if this man gets into power and puts through his widely approved economic plan.

The attacks from the Daily Mail will go on. They’ll attack him for everything from his age to his fashion sense.

Pass along the message: the attempts to discredit Corbyn are failing. We’re onto you.

Come back when you can criticise his policies properly, but until then Mr. David Thomas, I won’t be taking your soothsaying predictions too seriously.

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Off Scot Free: My Case Against The Death Penalty

Unbeknownst to most, the UK Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, revised the human rights priorities undertaken by the foreign office earlier this week. The new vague list of priorities does not include universal abolition of the death penalty.

Historically, Conservative peers (some of whom are in government now) have supported the re-introduction of capital punishment. In fact, many Conservatives voted against abolition when it was first introduced in 1965.

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Michael Gove

For example, Michael Gove (who ironically received the position of Justice Secretary this year) wrote for the Times newspaper in the 1990s. He wrote an article in favour of reintroducing the death penalty, where he said that “I would prefer a fair trial, under the shadow of the noose” and that the abolition of the death penalty “has led to a corruption of our criminal justice system, the erosion of our freedoms and has made the punishment of the innocent more likely.”

And this guy is our Justice Secretary!

So there is a genuine possibility of the death penalty being reintroduced one day.  The smoked kippers (UKIP) actually have it as a policy. Inevitably, there are cries of “Bring back hanging for rapists and paedophiles”. The right wing has always had a slight fetish with capital punishment. I suspect they like it because it gives them a simple sense of justice, with some thuggish violence thrown in.

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(A good rule of thumb is: The less logical thinking the justice process requires, the more popular it is with the right wing. And the right is on the rise, unfortunately.)

However, I would seriously argue that bringing capital punishment in for rapists or paedophiles would make things worse, not better. It would lead to more rapists being let “off scot free”.

How?

Well, I’ll come to that.

It might be of interest to you to know that, according to Amnesty International, the number of executions carried out in the world is going up, on average. Saudi Arabia executed 104 people this year, compared with 90 the year before. Iran, in similar fashion, executed 700- yes 700– people in 2015, compared with 289 in 2014.

For the purposes of this article, I will refer to Capital Punishment as “human sacrifice.” When you think about it, that is what it is: a human’s life is sacrificed, to deter other people from committing the same crime. Human sacrifice.

A lethal injection restraining table in Texas

A lethal injection restraining table in Texas

A great many people today are opposed to human sacrifice, like me. However, there are a lot of weaknesses in the arguments that are often put forward by the anti-death penalty movement.

It seems like a good idea, for example, to argue something along the lines of “How can you say killing is wrong, if the law gives itself permission to kill in retaliation?”

It seems a good argument; after all, the justice system is not meant to justify feudal behaviour. However, if you want to draw comparisons between crimes and punishments, it lands you in an awkward situation; Fines could be seen as a type of legal theft, restraining orders could be seen as legal blackmail, and prison could be seen as a form of legal kidnapping.

To some degree, the justice system must be above the law in order to enforce it. You wouldn’t argue that a system of fines justifies theft, so perhaps it is not a sound argument to say that Human sacrifice justifies murder.

I would personally argue that Human rights should prevent the state committing human sacrifice; however, I could not use human rights as the basis of this argument.

Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas

Human rights are the universal rights of humans, based upon a system of ethics called Natural Law Theory. Thomas Aquinas is known as the founder of Natural Law Theory, even though the basic idea pre-dates his era. However, Natural Law Theory has always maintained what it called “The principle of forfeiture”. The principle states that a person, who illegally takes the life of another human, forfeits their own right to life in the process.

It is therefore difficult to use human rights as the basis for an argument against human sacrifice.

The other argument which I view as being weak is the argument (predominantly used in America) that Human Sacrifice is a racist penalty. It is true; far more black people are put to death than white people. Far more poor people than rich people, too.

But you could say this about any punishment our justice system inflicts; And let’s not forget, the United Kingdom’s parliament has never had a black prime minister. It seems more logical to argue that we are a nation that is still recovering from a racist past.

Instead of these arguments, I would like to put forward 4 good reasons why human sacrifice should always be opposed:

  • The theory of deterrence is extremely unreliable.
  • Human Sacrifice is the basis of totalitarianism.
  • Justice can never be based on emotion.
  • Human sacrifice means that criminals are more likely to go unconvicted.

The Theory of Deterrence is Unreliable.

The basic idea of deterrence is to hold up an example (a sacrifice in this case) and say, “This will happen to you if you commit the same crimes as him/her.”

However, a murderer is often not able to logically consider their actions; what makes you think a man who is willing to cut someone into tiny pieces with a knife will consider the consequences of his actions?

What makes you think someone like that is even capable of logical thought about causation and correlation?

The sad truth is that most violent and abusive crimes are committed out of passion, usually anger, rather than any sense of logic or forethought.

So, when it comes to preventing violent crimes, the theory of deterrence is pretty unreliable in general.

Then, you must consider how human sacrifice works as a deterrent in practice; in the USA in 2011, where (in most states) the death penalty is still legal, the average rate of homicide was 5 per 100,000 people. Here in the UK, it was less than 1 per 100,000 people. [According to the UN office on drugs and crime’s international homicide statistics base]

If human sacrifice is such a brilliant deterrent, it really doesn’t show.

Totalitarianism

Literally every totalitarian government you have ever heard of, have used the death penalty to secure their power; with Stalin it was the show trials, with Hitler it was the night of the long knives, and with Saddam Hussein it was the culling of the Iraqi parliament in 1979.

When it becomes acceptable to put people to death for petty crimes, that’s where totalitarianism begins. Being seen with the “enemy”, working slowly in Stalin’s Russia or owning a satellite dish in Saddam’s Iraq.

The cyanide gas chamber in California

The cyanide gas chamber in California

We came perilously close to this in 1813, when the House of Commons passed a bill to make theft punishable by death. Thankfully, it was rejected by the House of Lords.

It is better, in my mind, not to have irreversible punishments that cannot be atoned for, in the first place. Don’t have it.

Justice Should Never be Based on Emotion

So often, to justify the complete fetish the far right seem to have with the death penalty, they will argue “How would you feel if it was your daughter who had just been raped? Or your son had just been stabbed?”

What they don’t understand is that justice cannot be based on the feelings of the victims.

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I have been mugged several times in my life. The most recent was in my local town centre on a Saturday afternoon. After the event, I rushed to a local store and asked if I could use their phone to call the police.

Now consider; what would I have said if the police officer on the other end had said to me “we got him caught on camera and have him in custody now. What would you like us to do with him?”

What do you think I would have said? I’ll tell you; I was fuming. So, if you’d asked me then, I would have said “Have him put to death! String him up!”

But obviously, I would not want that; that was just my angry emotional state crying out for a knee jerk reaction.

The reason the police are so useful to us is that they are impartial. They try their best not to get emotionally involved. It’s also the reason why vigilantes have done so much damage in the past.

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Therefore, if I was suffering from bereavement or family trauma, I would scarcely be in a fit state to judge what punishment a criminal should receive. I think it is important to say that while we’re not blinded by emotions.

You cannot punish a criminal based on what the victim wants. You cannot base justice upon emotion.

 

More criminals go unpunished

It may seem like a curious argument, but it was actually the argument which Prime Minister Harold Wilson used in 1965 to abolish the death penalty for a period of 5 years. (This was changed to a permanent abolition in 1969.)

How could it lead to people being let off scot free?

Well, as you know, in this country the decision of whether someone is guilty or not guilty rests solely upon the verdict of a jury. What Wilson argued is that, in cases where the death penalty was the most likely outcome, the jury were much less likely to put in a guilty verdict.

And who can blame them? If they had put forward a “Guilty” verdict, they would have been responsible for his/her death!

It’s all very well saying that “The criminal forfeited their life in the eye of the law!”

But when it comes down to it, a jury has to live with that decision. I would struggle to look at someone and send them to their death.

If the jury call a stop to it, because they lose their nerve (don’t forget, human sacrifice is completely irreversible, so a difficult decision) then the murderer will get away without any punishment. And this has happened many times throughout history.

In the cry for tougher punishments and moaning about us being “soft on criminals”, the fetish of the far right eventually lands you in a position where criminals are getting away.

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Imagine what would happen if it was introduced for a crime like rape or paedophilia? There wouldn’t even be the reassuring voice in the head of the jury telling them that the principle of forfeiture relieves their responsibility! If the jury didn’t think the punishment fitted the crime, a great injustice would occur. Rapists being let off with no punishment at all.

It is, in my judgement, not even worth the risk.

And, of course, there are other elements of human error which could infiltrate the process so easily.

For example, a more attractive prisoner may be more likely to receive a “not guilty verdict”. Someone with better speaking skills, a better education or money to pay for a better lawyer, is less likely to be convicted.

Someone from a poor background, with an addiction or a mental illness is more likely to be convicted.

Our court system is filled with flaws.

“True of any punishment” you might say.

Yes, but no other punishment is quite as irreversible as human sacrifice.

Execution of prisoner of war by Japanese Navy

Execution of prisoner of war by Japanese Navy

That is why I would urge you to argue against human sacrifice wherever possible. It is a principle which simply panders to our most basic instincts of right and wrong, as opposed to delivering true justice. Contrary to what Michael Gove may think, the practice of human sacrifice makes it much more likely that those who have committed the most heinous crimes will be let “off scot free.”