In 1979, Margaret Thatcher inherited a tetchy, bankrupt and demoralised nation. Eleven years later, she left it confident, wealthy and free.
Now Jeremy Corbyn promises to unleash a revolution every bit as transformative. Putting him in No 10, he says, would be 'a once-in-a-generation chance for a real change of direction' that would be 'on the scale of 1979'.
Yet the two leaders could hardly be less alike. Where Thatcher believed in Britain, Corbyn blames it: there is almost no international dispute where he does not take the other country's side. Where she saw the government as our servant, he sees it as our guide and protector. Yes, his policies would be as radical as hers. But they would be aimed at reversing her achievement.
When she took over, there was double-digit inflation, strikes were semi-permanent and blackouts were frequent. The IMF had had to issue emergency loans.
Now Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) promises to unleash a revolution every bit as transformative as Thatcher. Putting him in No 10, he says, would be 'a once-in-a-generation chance for a real change of direction' that would be 'on the scale of 1979'
Thatcher succeeded in turning the country around. Inflation fell, strikes stopped, the latent enterprise of a free people was awakened. Having lagged behind for a generation, we outgrew every European country in the 1980s except Spain (which was bouncing back from an even lower place). As revenues flowed, taxes were cut and debt repaid, while public spending – contrary to almost universal belief – rose.
Jeremy Corbyn wants to undo all these things. He wants higher spending, more borrowing and heavier taxes – a combination which always leads, paradoxically, to a debt crisis and emergency spending cuts.
He wants to restore the power of trade unions and mass nationalisations. Like past Labour prime ministers, he would almost certainly find that he immediately needed to reintroduce exchange controls, preventing people from taking money out of the country.
It would be a revolution, alright. Indeed, it would be a revolution in the literal sense of a full rotation of the wheel. For 40 years, we outperformed Europe because we accepted that the government was sustained by revenue from private enterprise. Under a Corbyn government, we'd be back to empty coffers, industrial strife and international humiliation.
Thatcher (pictured) succeeded in turning the country around. Inflation fell, strikes stopped, the latent enterprise of a free people was awakened
Corbyn wants to seize power through an act of chicanery, bringing down the Conservatives for implementing the promise on which Labour was elected two years ago, namely to implement the referendum result.
It's not the hypocrisy that shocks. It's the brazenness. Corbyn's contortions over the EU are being carried out in plain sight. Does he think we can't see what he is doing? Does he imagine that we can't remember what he was saying five minutes ago? Does he take us all for fools? Yesterday, Labour announced another U-turn in favour of a second referendum.
But it won't tell us what the options on the ballot paper would be. One option would be Remain, while the other will somehow or other be worked out, but it definitely won't be No Deal.
Britain could, in other words, face a choice between Remain and a deliberately rotten deal – which would be no choice at all, and produce a Leave boycott.
If Corbyn thinks No Deal is so terrible, why did he vote to trigger Article 50, committing Britain to leave by a given date, with or without an agreement? Why, come to that, did he vote down Theresa May's agreement three times?
If a Corbyn-led government were to rule out No Deal, the EU would have no incentive to negotiate. If you are not prepared to walk away from talks, you invite the other party to exploit you.
Corbyn knows all this, but it doesn't bother him. His sole motive is to get into No 10. If that means performing daily somersaults and attacking the Government from contradictory directions, so be it.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) wants to undo all the things she worked for. He wants higher spending, more borrowing and heavier taxes – a combination which always leads, paradoxically, to a debt crisis and emergency spending cuts
Until February 2018, for example, he opposed membership of the customs union – that is, the requirement to give Brussels control of your trade with non-European countries. He did so on impeccably socialist grounds. The customs union pushes up the price of food, clothing and footwear, disproportionately hurting the people on low incomes, who spend a higher proportion of their budgets on these necessities.
It is also, as Corbyn put it last year, 'protectionist against developing countries'. But, needing to find an excuse to oppose Mrs May, he suddenly announced – without justification – that he was pro-customs union after all.
He was clinging on to the most objectionable bit of EU membership which even Europhile Labour MPs had been uncomfortable with since the 1970s. As Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs puts it, leaving the single market while keeping the customs union is 'like throwing away the burger and eating the napkin'.
Does Corbyn expect anyone to take his latest swerve seriously? I don't think so. He is simply hoping that we are all bored rigid and won't bother with the details.
The trouble is that he is weakening Britain's position vis-a-vis the EU. As long as Labour promises to block Brexit, why should the EU engage? If Corbyn did make it to power, he would inherit a ruined negotiating position having himself swung the wrecking ball.
In the process, he would have smashed our democratic system and prolonged the rancour. After three years of polarisation, how can anyone think the answer is another referendum?
But Corbyn doesn't appear to care. All he sees is the opportunity to get power and enact his revolution. 'If you sign up to democratic rules you have to abide by them,' said John McDonnell yesterday. Right. And one of those rules is that politicians should at least try to stick to their manifesto commitments.
Corbyn's appeal rested for a long time on the notion that he was a man of unbending principle, honest and authentic. But his Euro-acrobatics have revealed the sly, cynical side that his admirers refuse to see.
In his desperation to seize office, he inadvertently reveals his unfitness to hold it.