Could Jeremy Corbyn become the transatlantic terminator?
U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson said of our relationship with Great Britain: “It’s about as close as you can get; it’s like a family. You can have squabbles here and there, but then at the end of the day you’re all family — you come back and you agree on the important things.” Completely true, unless one of the most radical left-wing political leaders in U.K. history, Jeremy Corbyn, were suddenly to find himself in 10 Downing Street.
In a few weeks, Britons will go to the polls in a critical Dec. 12 general election that could trigger the culmination of the Brexit saga; Tuesday night was the first one-on-one general election debate in British history. But this general election, pitting Corbyn against Prime Minister Boris Johnson, also will shape the global geopolitical landscape.
With stakes this high, President Trump himself has weighed in on what the best U.K. election outcomes would be for the U.S., because the British elections will have important consequences for U.S. defense, foreign policy, and economic and trade policy. If Corbyn were to find his way to Downing Street, the U.S. should be very concerned indeed.
Polls in recent elections on both sides of the Atlantic have been of dubious value, but this week, top U.K. pollster Peter Kellner said evidence suggests that “Jeremy Corbyn could be heading for a landslide election defeat.” If true, this is good news — not just for Britain, but for the Anglo-American “Special Relationship,” especially with respect to defense and the economy.
Churchill baptized the Anglo-American alliance the “Special Relationship” in 1946, defining the importance to world stability of a shared compassionate worldview based upon “the great principles of freedom and the rights of man,” fortified by unmatched combined military might and intelligence sharing. Today this defense relationship has strengthened through joint nuclear, special forces and anti-terrorism cooperation.
The U.S.-U.K. economic relationship is just as robust. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the United States and the United Kingdom are each other’s single-largest investors. More than 1.1 million Americans work for British companies across all 50 states. Over 42,000 American firms export to the United Kingdom; it is the fourth-largest export destination for American goods and services.
A Corbyn-led U.K. would be a dagger to the heart of the most powerful — and necessary — bilateral relationship on the globe, a relationship that Trump and Johnson, during his brief tenure, have labored to preserve and strengthen. The U.K. is our most-valued partner, not simply because of shared values and intelligence cooperation, but also because its economy and resources are strong and compatible with their U.S. counterparts.
Corbyn’s radical socialist policies, attacking those who earn, would be a full-on assault to these strengths. Couple that with his disdain for American (and British) exceptionalism, capitalism and U.S. foreign policy and the relationship becomes alarmingly compromised.
Corbynomics principles share many of the untested, unrealistic goals of plans by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that make Wall Street and Main Street tremble. Though Britain, like the U.S., is enjoying rising net financial worth and low unemployment, according to Matthew Goodwin, professor in politics at Kent University and the co-author of “National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy,” central to Corbynomics are efforts to transform the U.K.’s economy, through measures including:
- Massive nationalization of industry;
- Sharply increased taxes on the well-paid and those with accumulated assets;
- Significantly higher taxes on corporations (to 26 percent for large corporations and 21 percent for small);
- Forced transfers of up to 10 percent of the shares of large companies to employees and the government, via an “Inclusive Ownership Fund”;
- Required public filing of tax returns for individuals earning more than £1 million ($1.3 million USD); and
- The imposition of a 20 percent value-added tax and removal of tax exemptions for independent schools.
Strong allies need strong partners, and the kinds of economic policies that Corbyn espouses could well send Britain back to the ugly days of stagnation before Margaret Thatcher transformed the economy. Moreover, while Corbyn’s chief vision is to redistribute resources, Johnson has the same ambitions for Britain that Trump has for America: to make it safer and more prosperous.
Considering Corbyn’s egregious past of cozying up to organizations such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), Hamas and Hezbollah, and his anti-Western, anti-Semitic and socialist ideologies, it is difficult to conceive of what his relationship with America and the Trump White House might resemble. For his part, Trump has firmly embraced Johnson, Brexit, and U.K. free trade.
In a Nov. 11 tweet, Corbyn said: “This Trump alliance is Thatcherism on steroids,” noting that “Trump told Nigel Farage to make a pact with Boris Johnson [that would enable election victory and an important majority]. … He got his wish.” Considering what a Corbyn-led U.K. would mean for the U.S., let’s pray that Trump does indeed get his wish.
Lee Cohen is a senior research fellow on Western Europe for the London Center for Policy Research and the Danube Institute in Budapest. He formerly was a policy adviser to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and was founding executive director of the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus.