Owen Smith has launched his twenty-point policy plan, in what appears to be an attempt to renounce his previous membership of Baader-Blairite, win over the lunatic majority that now make up the Labour membership and to make the Labour party a ‘credible’ opposition.
Not only does this demonstrate Smith’s journeyman tendency, having started as someone who apparently said he didn’t mind some aspects of NHS privatisation, to someone who is now calling for even more money, paid for by a mystical wealth tax, to feed the beast, but it demonstrates a fundamentally shallow nature. Already exuding the aura of a man who would have sold you PPI, he’s turned on a sixpence in an attempt to appease the fundamentally unappeasable. If this is saving Labour then we have nothing to worry about.
Despite his Halifax-ad looks, charming, self-confessed, ‘normality’ and Barry-boy made good back story, Smith’s priorities appear to be just as wedded to fringe-political insanity as Corbyn’s.
It could be naivety or it could be safe in the knowledge that the opinions of the sane matter not in the Labour leadership election, but Owen’s pledge to focus on ‘equality of outcome’ over ‘equality of opportunity’ is rather scary.
Do humans as a race have the same material expectations or even the same view of an ideal outcome all of a sudden? Do we all have the same talents? To argue for equality of outcome would surely imply that I could get paid as much for writing this now as Gareth Bale does or that I would actually be happy earning £15 million a year. Or indeed would someone of Bale’s considerable talents which are obviously of great value to the market be comfortable spending his Thursday nights typing furiously about something stupid someone has said in the Labour leadership contest? Life isn’t a zero sum game – people aren’t rich because others are poor, in the same way as people aren’t advantaged because others are not so.
Let’s be straight – no nation has ever bettered its condition through positive economic discrimination based on arbitrary notions of who is advantaged and who is disadvantaged. And plenty have tried. Including our own country.
From the end of the Second World War this country has pursued nothing else but a legislative consensus aimed at taking from the well off and giving to the less well off. And the result? Ask those who blindly follow Corbyn into wanting more of the same.
By contrast, all of the improvements in the average standard of life, which are many, have flowed from the market’s ability to provide and the market’s ability to employ on talent and hence, provide equality of opportunity writ large. Is Smith really suggesting that we enter the ethical and economic minefield of destroying the privilege that comes with having a particular skill, like Gareth Bale, the son of a school caretaker, possesses?
What would that look like in reality? People of limited footballing talent playing in La Liga? Who would want to watch that? Who would buy the single of an X-Factor winner with the talent commonly associated with the early auditions?
Equality of outcome doesn’t mean what Smith thinks it means. If he wants to pull the country into never-ending, dystopian recession then it’s a great idea. But instead, he should look across the chamber of the Commons to see that a focus on equality of opportunity usually produces more equal outcomes anyway, having just watched a party that despises all-female shortlists produce the nation’s second female Prime Minister. Labour’s internal focus on equality of outcome has produced none. And therein lies the danger for the country if Smith is taken seriously by the electorate.
Neil Wilson is CfL Campaigns Director. Follow Neil on Twitter: @libertyneil
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty