In his Monday column at the New York Times, Paul Krugman argued that the surprise expressed by many over Jeremy Corbyn's ascension to leadership of the British Labour Party is less an indication of the party's turn to the left, and more an example of the problems caused when moderates accept pernicious conservative arguments about the causes of economic crises.
In essence, Krugman argued, all the candidates except for Corbyn accepted the notion that between 1997 and 2010, the ruling Labour governments spent beyond their means and created the financial crisis, which necessitated unpopular cuts in social spending on the poor.
The problem with that notion is that it's simply not true. In terms of American politics, that would be the equivalent of a Democrat in 2004 walking around telling people that "[w]e were weak on national security, and 9/11 was our fault."
In short, Krugman wrote,
the whole narrative about Labour’s culpability for the economic crisis and the urgency of austerity is nonsense. But it is nonsense that was consistently reported by British media as fact. And all of Mr. Corbyn’s rivals for Labour leadership bought fully into that conventional nonsense, in effect accepting the Conservative case that their party did a terrible job of managing the economy, which simply isn’t true. So as I said, Mr. Corbyn’s triumph isn’t that surprising given the determination of moderate Labour politicians to accept false claims about past malfeasance.
This still leaves the question of why Labour’s moderates have been so hapless. Consider the contrast with the United States, where deficit scolds dominated Beltway discourse in 2010-2011 but never managed to dictate the terms of political debate, and where mainstream Democrats no longer sound like Republicans-lite...