Great Britain

Today Jeremy Corbyn compared himself to Franklin D Roosevelt. Don't make me laugh

When Franklin D Roosevelt wandered on to the stage at Madison Square Garden in 1936, the crowds took 15 minutes to stop cheering before they permitted him to speak.

He had already been President of the United States for four years by this point. He had dragged his country out of its great depression, principally through little more than his own personal force of will. 

“You have had an administration for four years now, that instead of twiddling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves,” he told them, before moving on to the line that Jeremy Corbyn would borrow to launch the Labour Party manifesto in a small room in Birmingham, under the adoring gaze of Andrew Gwynne, Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long-Bailey, in 2019.

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“Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.”

One of the reasons Roosevelt’s speech stands the test of history – potentially even more so than Corbyn’s will – is that three days later he would win the greatest presidential election landslide there has ever been: 48 states and 60 per cent of the popular vote.

There are other ways in which Corbyn and FDR are subtly different. One of them is considered quite possibly the greatest statesman the world has ever known. One of them is not. One of them ordered the building of the world’s first nuclear bomb. The other has a somewhat different view of that subject.

FDR spoke three languages, had degrees from Harvard and Columbia Law School, and as a young man, actually worked for a law firm on Wall Street. Corbyn was born with every privilege imaginable and yet left school with two Es, became a full time protester and memorably doesn’t know the difference between a loan shark and a hedge fund.

So to compare himself to Franklin D Roosevelt is a touch on the bold side. The reckless bankers of Roosevelt’s day took against him because he was successful in halting their outrageous practises, by virtue of being loved by the people. The Labour leader, on the other hand, in every poll on the subject, is the most unpopular leader of any major party there has ever been.

Franklin D Roosevelt took on the the bad men of “business and financial monopoly, speculation, and reckless banking” from a position of strength. He was a president. Corbyn rounds up “billionaires” as a convenient bogeyman and says that he’s “coming for them.” The “billionaire newspapers” make up things about him because “they’re scared.” It’s low grade populism from the lowest grade major politician in living memory.

And that, in its way, is the great tragedy. Because in so many ways, he’s right.

“When Labour wins, the nurse wins, the student wins, the pensioner wins, the tenant wins, the young couple wins. We all win,” he said, building to his rousing conclusion.

Indeed they do. And though I make predictions with grave reservations, on Corbyn’s watch, it has never, ever possibly been easier for Labour to win. It's already lost once, and it’s getting ready to do the same again.

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