Pissed-off Toff, famously Britain’s top financial guru, takes the view that Jeremy Corbyn is dangerous, and that those with gold in their vaults should transport it elsewhere while they can.
I recently went to a rather smart dinner party in Gloucestershire. It was the sort of occasion at which smoking jackets are worn. Two of the men present had made large fortunes in the City, and one could almost smell the money on them and their respective wives, both exquisitely turned out with thick glossy hair and heavy rocks on their fingers.
At the end of the meal, the women went through to the drawing room and the men stayed behind to talk politics. I’m no good at this sort of thing, and I also know that I cut no ice with super-rich fund managers. So I kept my contribution down to a minimum … although I did feel qualified to explain to one of the City men – a charming Canadian – what a ha-ha is. He’d never heard the word before, and was clearly chuffed to bits to learn it, because he kept on repeating it while shaking his head in amusement at the things that we quaint Brits manage to dream up.
Otherwise, I listened.
* * * * *
All too often nowadays, and as we all know, the conversation at social gatherings is dominated by the toxic topic of Brexit. But not this time. Indeed, the two City men were almost entirely indifferent to the prospect of Brexit or no-Brexit. It didn’t bother them one way or the other. What did concern them was the all-too-real prospect of a Corbyn government.
Despite the fact that I was a pauper in the company of nabobs, I was at least wearing my smoking jacket, and I thought that I could get away with asking the nice Canadian – the one who now knew what a ha-ha was – a question or two. And this is what he told me.
So yes, the rich – and those who look after their money – are terrified of Corbyn. They do not doubt that if and when he gets to power, he will move very quickly indeed to confiscate wealth on a massive scale.
What then, I asked, did my new Canadian friend intend to do in order to protect his fund (which I have googled; and the company of which he is CEO has about £15 billion under management). Here we come to the interesting bit, the insider information that I gleaned. “We’ve got everything in place,” he told me. “The very second that Corbyn wins an election, we’ll push a button and the whole lot will go elsewhere.” No waiting around for Corbyn to make the first move, in other words.
“But how about the non-liquid assets of your clients?” I asked. “You can’t take a house in Belgrave Square off-shore, can you?” I continued. “That’s forty or fifty million pounds of London property being eyed up by Corbyn.”
That, the Canadian explained, as I tried not to look too stunned, is something his clients can live with; a mere annoyance; an inconvenient loss that they can absorb.
* * * * *
How dangerous, then, is Jeremy Corbyn? I had never given the question much thought, but on the return journey to London after that dinner party, I chanced upon a long piece by Tom Bower in The Sunday Times. Bower specialises in writing well-researched biographies about people who don’t want to be written about, and he’s just done one on Corbyn. Here is a brief summary of what he says, with a few of my own thoughts thrown in.
Having managed the remarkable achievement of getting two E grades at A level and failing a third A level exam, this despite his privileged background and education, the young Corbyn became a hardline Marxist. His aim is and always has been to turn Britain into a communist state via “a fundamental and irreversible shift in wealth and power” (his own words). Among other things, this will involve nationalising all banks, large companies and large landed estates.
How is this to be achieved? First of all, by infiltrating and taking over existing political structures. This is what Corbyn did in the north-London Hornsey branch of the Labour Party in the early 1970s. Here, he showed himself to be a natural schemer and agitator, working indefatigably and with total lack of scruple. In the words of one party member, it was “the most extraordinary manipulation of the rules and customs I have ever witnessed.”
Later, as a councillor in Haringey in north London, where he was employed by Nupe, the public sector workers’ union, he actively stirred up unrest, believing that this would hasten the inevitable collapse of capitalism. But it was done with great cunning. Like Robespierre (surely one of the nastiest men who ever lived, sharing with Corbyn the qualities of priggishness, vindictiveness, fanaticism and meanness of spirit) … like the petit-bourgeois Maximilien Robespierre, Corbyn always appeared the very epitome of calm reason in public, while fomenting unrest behind the scenes.
Nor, in Haringey, did he show any concern for the poor or under-privileged whom he claimed to champion; he was not interested in the dull job of maintaining or improving the council’s housing stock, or of doing the many other things that serve to make life better for ordinary people on a day-to-day basis. He did, however, actively champion the rights of squatters and ‘travellers’, whom he encouraged to set up camps in respectable parts of the borough. This not because he cared about the dispossessed, but as a deliberate act of spite against the comfortable middle classes … whose council taxes he sought to double, again out of spite.
In other words, Corbyn is an entirely political animal, a tireless and ruthless agitator, schemer and manipulator. His aim, as Bower makes clear, is to grab the levers of power by subterfuge, and then to never let go. And when the prize is not a local council in north London, but the control of the United Kingdom itself, that is frightening. Nor, surely, would Corbyn tolerate the existence of the Monarchy for one second longer than necessary.
A last thought … and perhaps a small detail, but small details are telling. Corbyn has one of the nastiest and meanest mouths of anyone I’ve ever seen. But this is not surprising. As Bower makes clear, Corbyn is motivated by hatred. Thus – I suggest – the nasty twisted little mouth.
* * * * *
“Oh, but nothing so bad could happen here, surely?” I hear you say.
Why not? The French Revolution took France by surprise. Germany, in the nineteenth century, was one of the most civilised places in the world, then along came Hitler. Having been an exiled outsider, Lenin grabbed power in Russia, against all odds; an event which led directly to the gulags and to one of the most oppressive regimes that history has ever witnessed. These things can happen, and do.
Other considerations, too.
Our first-past-the-post electoral system can allow the winning party to take complete control with a surprisingly small percentage of the vote, especially when the opposition is split. That is a worry.
And then the electors themselves, many of them young and indoctrinated by the overwhelmingly left-wing academic establishment. I am horrified by how ignorant the younger generation is about the evils of communism; horrified that they might – indeed, probably will – vote for Corbyn, the harmless old sage who will write off their student loans (or whatever it is he is planning to do in order to buy votes with other people’s money); horrified, indeed, that a figure such as Corbyn can even hold office in a country which considers itself a democracy.
So Corbyn is dangerous. And this danger is only compounded by the spectacular lack of electoral appeal of Theresa May.
* * * * *
What, then, does one do?
Not so long ago a fashionable topic of conversation at well-heeled dinner parties was whether, in the event of a Corbyn victory, one would leave the country. As we have seen, the fund manager I spoke to told me that if Corbyn were to win an election, he (the City man) would move all his clients’ liquid assets off-shore within minutes. Fifteen billion quid … Whoosh! Away it goes!!
I wonder, however, whether that wouldn’t be too late; or at any rate, cutting it a bit fine. If I were Corbyn – a communist revolutionary without scruple – and if I won an election; if I knew that anyone with any real money was going to take it off-shore straight away; well, if I were him, I’d call a midnight session of Parliament on the day of victory and freeze all capital movement out of Britain straight away, that very second.
Can this be done? I don’t even know.
But – now seeing it from the other side – if I were super-rich, or even just very well off, I wouldn’t be waiting to find out. I’d move my money now, or at any rate a good chunk of it, before the contemptibly weak Theresa May hands power to comrade Corbyn … as she might so easily do.