I'd have to stress I don't know much about Jeremy Corbyn. He obviously is the leftwing candidate in some respects. I have no idea what he thinks about the IRA and Hezbollah but if I bothered to find out, I'm quite sure I probably would disagree. In other respects, one thought that keeps re-occurring is, how leftwing is Jeremy Corbyn anyway? Some of his ideas obviously are, like a 75% higher rate of income tax. Other ideas like increasing corporation tax are leftwing but strike me as a bit nostalgic for an age when pesky capital didn't move around as much as it does now. Others I'm not sure. Getting rid of the monarchy? Join hands with Rupert Murdoch on that. Free university tuition fees? We have this already in Scotland and as a middle-class parent, I would welcome this but maybe for selfish reasons - perhaps making the point that this sort of thing, whether it's a good idea or not, is a hand-out to the median voter.
But in as far as one can tell, the two positions he holds that are usually given as evidence that a left platform would be popular with voters are nationalisation (specifically of the railways) and an end to 'austerity'. I would argue that these aren't leftwing policies at all. Heath nationalised the aircraft bit of Rolls Royce in 1971 and the last Labour government nationalised Northern Rock in 2008. In recent years, this Conservative government has nationalised schools and our Scottish Government has nationalised the police force. Here's Peter Hitchens arguing for nationalised railways. Do we need to provide more evidence that this is an issue that is both a mainstream opinion and cuts across the political spectrum?
It's a similar story with 'austerity'. I appreciate this is repetition on my part but it's worth elaborating: the idea that the level of government borrowing does not impose the sort of restrictions on government spending that the Conservatives say it does is a centrist, not a 'radical left', position. Here's Lord Sidelsky, for example, taking issue with my compatriot historian Niall Ferguson, He argues a fairly standard Keynesian line that the history of the interwar period shows that you can't cut your way out of a recession. Compare to the postwar period where a national debt that nearly reached 250% of GDP was reduced over time, not by slashing spending but by the economic growth of the long postwar boom (aided and abetted with an occasional bit of inflation).
Sidelsky is obviously to the left of Niall Ferguson - but that's true of most people. The point is that his is a centrist position. Keynes was a liberal, after all - as are most of the 'anti-austerity' economists, as far as one can tell. Which leads me to the following suggestion: Jamie K in conversation on Twitter expressed the view that Blairism has solidified into a doctrine whereby 'capturing the centre ground' means in practice moving to the right as a default position. (Apologies to him - I'm paraphrasing here.) Could it be then that 'winning from the centre' might involve Labour reoccupying this centre they've surrendered in deference to what some people have (correctly, in my view) described as 'deficit fetishism'? It's a matter of no small importance: both in Britain and the European Union, fiscal orthodoxy is putting enormous strains on these multi-national institutions. I would suggest in this context 'winning from the centre' might involve reclaiming 'anti-austerity' centrism from the nationalists and the supposedly 'hard-left', which would require moving a little to the left.