The suggestion is that Labour should sponsor its own Militant entryism

At least this is how we read this:

Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled plans to give grants to working-class party members to help them become MPs to stop it being dominated by people from affluent backgrounds.

Data from his campaign team claims Labour now has more MPs who went to private school – around 12% – than those from manual working backgrounds.

Corbyn would set up a diversity fund to help party members who are shortlisted in one of the top 100 target seats at the next election while they are trying to win selection. Campaign costs can amount to £4,500, his team claims.

We suspect that it will not just be those of working class backgrounds who are aided through the candidate selection process in this manner, but those who hold the correct views. Correct here meaning somewhere over on the magic money tree side of socialist views.

As The Beard pointed out, history runs first as tragedy and then as farce. And some of us are sufficiently greybeard to recall when the Labour Party expended great effort to root out the Militant Tendency. Now the suggestion is that the Labour Party should actually subsidise such entryism.

Yes, there is an element of farce to that, isn’t there?

Expressive voting and the paradox of Corbyn

Last week, YouGov released a new poll of Labour leadership selectors that suggested that Jeremy Corbyn may very well win in the first round. Corbyn’s meteoric rise from charity case to front runner has been all the more remarkable because, in the words of Alastair Campbell, “Jeremy Corbyn as … every piece of political intelligence, experience and analysis tells you will never be elected Prime Minister.”

So what’s going on here? Is conventional Westminster wisdom wrong? Is the favourite of the unions capable of repeating the success of Syriza? Or has Labour rediscovered its “desire never to win again”? Perhaps neither.

A useful insight might come from public choice theory, and in particular from a highly-regarded and heavily-cited book by Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky. In Democracy and Decision: the pure theory of electoral preference, Brennan & Lomasky offer a new explanation for the “paradox of voting”, the rationality-defying fact that people vote despite the fact that the probability of one’s vote mattering is almost zero. As Sam observed on these pages:

No individual can reasonably expect her vote to determine or even influence the outcome of an election. In America, the chance of a one-vote victory margin that would determine the 2008 presidential election was about 1 in 10 million in some swing states, and 1 in a billion in places like California or Texas.

Thus a rational voter would be a non-voter, avoiding the cost of registering for and participating in something that they cannot possibly hope to affect. And yet people vote.

Brennan & Lomasky offer a different explanation. Individuals do not vote primarily to affect the outcome (which they know they cannot) but to express an preference; indeed, to express themselves. Much as we might shout at a football match on television or curse out loud when on our own, there is something inherent in the human psyche that wishes to express its opinion. What is more, the way in which we express ourselves helps define who we are, and enables us to feel good about ourselves.

The crucial point here is that there is absolutely zero cost to expressing oneself any way one pleases at the ballot box, because one’s vote is hardly likely to matter. For the same reason, the only tangible benefit one is likely to reap from voting is that feeling one gets for choosing “the right” candidate. Vote Labour and you are a caring person; vote Conservative and you are a responsible person; vote UKIP and you are a proud patriot; vote Green and you want to save our planet…

Which brings us back to Mr Corbyn. John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, tweeted that “Quite a number of Corbyn supporters [said] to me that principled opposition is better than seeking an electoral majority.” He dismissed this as “The elite speak[ing]”.

But maybe what is going on here is that Labour supporters, bruised by a crushing defeat and frustrated by the thought of another five years of Conservative rule, are voting not rationally but expressively. Remember, the chance that any single vote matters is going to be tiny: Edlin, Gelman, and Kaplan suggest that “The probability of a pivotal vote is inversely proportional to the number of voters…”; that means that a Labour leadership selector has a 1-in-400,000 chance of being decisive.

But they have a precisely 1-in-1 chance of defining who they are by how they vote. With a probability of one they can make a statement that they are caring and principled, that they believe in social justice, that they reject the Conservative dogma that has dominated electoral politics for a third of a century. Conventional Westminster wisdom may be right that Corbyn isn’t electable, but whether Corbyn becomes leader is not a function of their single vote, whereas that single vote says everything about the voter and their values.

What results, as public choice theorists know only too well, is a collective action problem. No individual can affect the outcome and therefore the worst outcome results. It is important to acknowledge, also, that it is highly unlikely that voters are fully conscious of how the incentives affect their behaviour. But it does explain why supporters whose party has only ever won when it has tacked to the centre are nonetheless willing to vote for the most extreme candidate on the ticket despite the fact that their last, somewhat off-centre leader, lost them the general election.

It may not be the “right” thing to do, but God! It feels good!

If Jeremy Corbyn wins…

Some on the centre right hope that Jeremy Corbyn will win the Labour leadership on the grounds that it will make Labour unelectable.  Indeed, some are reputed to have joined the Labour Party in order to vote for him.  They have thus joined forces with the hard left, who are said to have infiltrated Labour in order to elect him.  Labour’s rather strange way of electing its leader seems almost designed to encourage entryism, and is Ed Milband’s last legacy to them, one that might well finish them off.

If Corbyn is elected it will probably break the Labour Party.  Just as Labour moderates left in the early 1980s to form the Social Democratic Party when the left seized control of Labour, so would moderate Labour MPs probably break away in the event of a Corbyn victory.  They might, farther down the road, join with the remaining Liberal-Democrats to form a centre left party that would be by no means unelectable.

The real burden of a Corbyn win would be more immediate.  It would legitimize political and economic fantasy.  If he became official Leader of the Opposition, his views would merit coverage daily in the media as if they were serious politics.  They are not.  We know that state control of industry does not work.  We have been there and seen it not working and it took heroic and sustained efforts to undo it. 

We also know enough to be deeply skeptical about a society in which high taxes are used to distribute largesse that makes too many people dependent on state provision.  Yet if Corbyn wins, this will all be treated as if it were a serious plan without adverse consequences.  There would be a brain drain, and the inflow of talent would cease.  With the disincentive of punitive taxation, growth would be squeezed out and stagnation would set in.

People who suppose that his victory would make the left unelectable miss the very important point that in the short term it would make it respectable.  It should not be.

The new politics is interesting, isn’t it?

Edward T. Walker is an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

And what does this sociologist have to tell us all?

The nasty battle between Uber and New York’ Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration over its proposal to limit how many drivers Uber and other ridesharing companies could put on the streets has ended, with the city and the ride-hailing giant agreeing to postpone a decision pending a “traffic study.” There’s no doubt who won, though. The mayor underestimated his opponent and was forced to retreat.
It wasn’t just conventional pressure — ads, money, lobbying — that caught the mayor off guard. Uber mobilised its customers, leveraging the power of its app to prompt a populist social-media assault, all in support of a $US50 billion ($68 billion) corporation.
The company added a “de Blasio’s Uber” feature so that every time New Yorkers logged on to order a car, they were reminded of the mayor’s threat and were sent directly to a petition opposing the new rules. Users were also offered free Uber rides to a June 30 rally at New York’s City Hall.
Eventually, the mayor and the City Council received 17,000 emails in opposition. Just as Uber has offloaded most costs of operating a taxi onto its drivers, the company uses its customers to do much of its political heavy lifting.


These practices are redefining what it means to take part in politics. Social-media platforms were briefly perceived as democratising tools, engendering transparency and empowerment in the digital age. But these new protest-on-demand movements blur the distinction between genuine citizen organising and what often is called “astroturf”: participation that looks grass roots but actually isn’t, because it’s been orchestrated to benefit a well-heeled patron.
This Uberisation of activism allows corporate sponsors to call the tune: Consider how for-profit colleges leaned on vulnerable students for political pressure, how Comcast enlisted its philanthropic beneficiaries to support the Time Warner merger or the way that the beverage industry hired protesters to oppose soda taxes.
Technology may be neutral, but grass roots should mean bottom up, not top down. The #blacklivesmatter movement is a genuine grass-roots civil rights campaign, mobilised through social media. So is the environmentalist Bill McKibben’s, with its blend of online organising, social media strategy and in-person campaigning around climate change. But Uber’s corporate populism is not. We should learn to recognise the difference.

Hmm. Apparently the actual users of, customers, of a service shouldn’t be allowed to tell politicians what they think about regulating that service.

Only those who have no direct interest and thus know nuttin’ about it should have a voice.

Sociology is a very interesting subject these days, isn’t it?

Replace the House of Lords with a Lottery

Before the House of Lords Act 1999, foolish legislation from the Commons would often be blocked, delayed or amended by wise men that did not owe anything to anyone and would thus be wise and objective in their decisions. Tony Blair was defeated 38 times in the Commons in his 1st year of government. After 1999 the chamber became nothing more than a useless chamber of former party donors who had been given life peerages often at the request of the Prime Minister. Unsurprisingly they would enter the chamber owing the Prime Minister a favour or two and suddenly a lot of poor legislation is being passed without so much a whimper from that once mighty chamber.

While we can all agree the current system is broken, conservatives should recognize the old one is lost, and thus a redesign of the House of Lords should keep the best of the old while discarding some of the more unnecessary inequality of the old system.

My idea is a lottery system, whereby people are, at random, selected to serve as a “Lord” for one Parliamentary session, much like an extended form of Jury service. There would be rules of course- no-one should be forced into it, and those who do accept would have to declare all interests for the purpose of public accountability. To ensure wisdom prevails there should be a minimum age of 45, and anyone who has been closely involved with a political party in the last 5 years should be disqualified. The few hundred who accept will be compensated generously for any time they have missed out of work, and of course because they are all older, this year long task will not take vital time younger people would need in the job market or higher education.

The sheer hassle of such a system will discourage the government from passing excessive legislation to the Lords- and certainly make the legislation understandable for the average laymen who will be serving. The selected group should have the powers the Lords currently have- with the suspensory veto extended from 1 year to 5 years and the formal discarding of the Salisbury Doctrine.

Hopefully this change will result in a conservation of the liberties and property rights Britain still has, and an end to the de facto unicameralism of our current House of Commons.

Theo Cox Dodgson is winner of the Under-18 category of the ASI’s ‘Young Writer on Liberty’ competition. You can follow him on Twitter @theoretical23.