Britain’s nightmare before Christmas
A divided country faces an election that will tear it still further apart
British voters keep being called to the polls—and each time the options before them are worse. Labour and the Conservatives, once parties of the centre-left and -right, have steadily grown further apart in the three elections of the past four years. Next week voters face their starkest choice yet, between Boris Johnson, whose Tories promise a hard Brexit, and Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour Party plans to “rewrite the rules of the economy” along radical socialist lines. Mr Johnson runs the most unpopular new government on record; Mr Corbyn is the most unpopular leader of the opposition. On Friday the 13th, unlucky Britons will wake to find one of these horrors in charge.
At the last election, two years and a political era ago, we regretted the drift to the extremes. Today’s manifestos go a lot further. In 2017 Labour was on the left of the European mainstream. Today it would seize 10% of large firms’ equity, to be held in funds paying out mostly to the exchequer rather than to the workers who are meant to be the beneficiaries. It would phase in a fourday week, supposedly with no loss of pay. The list of industries to be nationalised seems only to grow. Drug patents could be forcibly licensed. The bill for a rapid increase in spending would fall on the rich and companies, whose tax burden would go from the lowest in the G7 to the highest. It is an attempt to deal with 21stcentury problems using policies that failed in the 20th.
Nor has Mr Corbyn done anything to dampen concerns about his broader worldview. A critic of Western foreign policy and sympathiser with dictators in Iran and Venezuela who oppose it, he blamed nato for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Last year he suggested samples of a nerve agent used to poison a Russian former spy in Salisbury should be sent to Moscow, so Vladimir Putin could see if it was his. Under such a prime minister, Britain could not rely on receiving American intelligence. Nor has Mr Corbyn dealt with the anti-Semitism that has taken root in Labour on his watch. Some Remainers might swallow this as the price of a second Brexit referendum, which Mr Corbyn has at last promised. We have long argued for such a vote. Yet Mr Corbyn’s ruinous plans at home and bankrupt views abroad mean that this newspaper cannot support Labour.