There was a piece in the Telegraph yesterday announcing that Corbyn was getting the former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, to advise Labour in “some capacity”. At first I thought this was probably the Telegraph blowing nothing up into something, in other words McDonnell had had a coffee with the guy or something, that’s it, and the story was all an attempt by the right of centre media to make Corbyn look bad.
But it’s today being reported in other outlets complete with genuine Corbyn quotes on the topic, so it now looks totally legit.To say this is a bad move for the Labour Party would be putting it lightly. Perhaps it’s all just gone so far it no longer matters, but hiring Varoufakis is problematic in so many ways. Let’s look at what Yanis said about the EU recently, for starters. When asked about where he thought the European Union would be in ten years time, the former Syriza politician had this to say:
“It won’t exist, it will be a kind of farcical version of the Soviet Union. Of course, thankfully the European Union is still a realm of personal liberty – we don’t have the KGB and we don’t have the Gulag – but the similarities are too close for comfort. Think about it, the Soviet Union was an economically non viable entity. which was kept together through political will and authoritarianism.”
I can empathise with why Varoufakis hates the EU to a certain extent, given his less than victorious brush with it, but even Douglas Carswell and Dan Hannan would hesitate to talk about the European Union in terms of Gulags. Even worse, Varoufakis is one of those Eurosceptics who won’t admit to it and even tries to turn it around into some bizarre version of Euro-enthusiasm (“Why some of my best friends are European Unions!”). Given most of the PLP aren’t best pleased with Corbyn’s lukewarm Stay In sentiments, the timing of this move isn’t great. If he really wanted some Yanis love, couldn’t Jeremy have waited until the summer?
But the worst aspect of Varoufakis being welcomed into the Labour fold is that it is yet another signal to the general public outside of the far-left that Labour has no interest in listening to them. A failed politician from Greece is welcomed, but not the opinions of working people in Britain. For contrast, look at the way Sadiq is reaching out to people in London, trying to show himself to be a politician for everyone.
“I will join the Conservative chancellor when it’s in the interests of London. I will join a Conservative prime minister to argue for us to stay in the European Union,” Khan said recently. That’s the way you do it.
I know, I know – Corbyn chose his path some time back, and I shouldn’t be surprised by the Varoufakis hire. Jeremy should just add Slavoj Zizek to his team and be done with it.