WHAT happens after Tuesday if the Commons votes down Theresa May’s Brexit Bill? In normal UK constitutional circumstances, we would see the Prime Minister resign and Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the official opposition, go to Buckingham Palace to be given a chance to form a government. If he couldn’t secure a parliamentary majority, a swift General Election would follow.

Of course, we’re not in normal constitutional times. Theresa May and her moth-eaten administration are likely to try to cling to power regardless of Tuesday’s vote. What’s new in that? Nothing except that we may have reached a point in history where the Labour and Conservative parties are ripe for collapse, with the likely emergence of new political formations of the right, centre and (fingers crossed) left. And it is Labour that is most vulnerable to meltdown.

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Look at the mainstream social democratic parties across Europe. For the most part, they have been virtually destroyed in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. In France, the Socialist Party have shrunk to 6% in the polls. In Germany, the once dominant SDP are languishing at 15% – barely a nose ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany.

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In the UK, matters appear somewhat different. Labour are neck and neck with the Tories, on around 38% of the poll. Certainly, we can argue that Labour should be further ahead. But if Tuesday brings a General Election in its wake, the odds are on life-long socialist Jeremy Bernard Corbyn entering Downing Street, only a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday.

A Corbyn administration would, in theory, be the most left-wing government seen in Britain since Harold Wilson’s in 1964, more than half-a-century ago. Indeed, it is Corbyn’s ostensible anti-austerity stance that has boosted Labour’s popularity. Other European social democratic parties have remained committed to Blairite, neo-liberal policies and paid the electoral price. Unfortunately, I predict that a Corbyn government would disappoint. By failing to deliver on its promises, it would shatter the Labour Party, disillusion English working-class voters, and open the door for the far-right reaction that ailing social democracy has provoked in continental Europe.

We’ve been here before. The Wilson Labour Government of 1964-70 was elected on a manifesto that was, if anything, well to the left of Corbyn. It promised nuclear disarmament, rejection of the Common Market (as the EU was then called), abolition of prescription charges, 400,000 new homes each year, and massive investment in industry, fronted by a new, publicly owned Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.

Yet within two years everything went into reverse. Faced with Labour’s reform programme, capital fled the country and Britain found it impossible to borrow foreign currency to pay for imports.

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The Wilson government capitulated under pressure from right-wing ministers such as Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey. Taxes and interest rates were increased, public spending axed, and NHS prescription charges reinstated. A law was introduced to limit wage increases and Wilson even threatened to introduce a law banning strikes.

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My prediction is that much the same reverse ferret would take place under Corbyn – or whoever replaces him. I don’t charge Corbyn with the awe-inspiring hypocrisy of Harold Wilson. Wilson was a basically an Oxford-educated technocrat who decided cynically that it was better to change tack in order to keep Labour united as an electoral machine.

Corbyn, on the other hand, is a genuine leftist. But he is the prisoner of a party whose MPs make Harold Wilson’s Cabinet look positively Bolshevik. And nice Mr Corbyn, he has made the mistake of not deselecting his right-wing enemies – a mistake that will cost him dearly.

I don’t wish to reduce the debate to personalities. Instead, we need to understand what the Labour Party really are. They are not a radical left party nor were they ever committed to abolishing capitalism. Labour was created by the early British trades union movement specifically to represent union interests in Parliament and win legal and economic concessions. Trades unions are necessary to protect their members within the free market, capitalist system – I’m a union member myself. But they are there to negotiate and to compromise, not to challenge the system per se. Labour was created in their image. When push comes to shove, Labour will back the system, led by its right wing.

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Certainly, Corbyn will fight the next election on a supposedly radical manifest. Partly to distract from Labour’s divisions on Brexit. And partly because Corbyn knows he can’t reverse austerity or fund the NHS without fixing the broken UK economy – an economy being crushed, like the rest of Europe, by American and Chinese competition. Labour is proposing “an active industrial strategy”. This will “allow a renaissance in our manufacturing sector” by investing “in every region and nation of our country”.

This is the same rhetoric as Wilson in 1964 with his famous references to the “white heat of the technological revolution”. But it is a “productivist” agenda, one that posits economic growth as the ultimate goal – a bit like the SNP’s Growth Report. Plus it disavows giving people control over their communities and workplaces, in favour of direction by technocrats.

Besides, making the UK genuinely competitive against American and Chinese capitalism would mean a massive shift of investment resources away from the NHS and housing, and ramping up labour exploitation, or replacing people with machines.

But it is Corbyn’s proposed mechanism for increasing industrial investment that is ultimately problematic. In 2016, shadow chancellor John McDonnell pledged that an incoming Labour government would pump £250 billion into a new state National Investment Bank (NIB). Where is the cash coming from?

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In an internal Labour paper published by the shadow chancellor, we are told the bank would be funded by an initial £20bn grant from the taxpayer. Subsequently, each year for a decade, the new NIB would issue Treasury-guaranteed bonds; i.e. borrow £20bn annually, counting as public debt. McDonnell is assuming two full Labour terms to get the bank up to speed. What happens if the city demands policy changes or higher interest rates in return? Or, in extremis, capital flees the country as it did under Wilson?

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What will Labour’s NIB do with its cash? According to McDonnell’s briefing paper, it will lend on cheaply (ie subsidise) to other commercial banks, including new “savings and cooperative banks” which don’t yet exist. While I agree we desperately need to find new, community-owned competitors to the big private banks (especially in Scotland), creating a new financial ecology would take a decade and more.

Unless the Labour NIB invests directly itself, the existing big banks will gobble the money and continue to set investment priorities.

Obvious solution: nationalise the banks and lend for social need. But don’t expect Labour’s Blairite backbenchers to support that.

For nationalisation of the credit system would pose the question: “Who rules?”

The pro-Brexit slogan “take back power” was always a lie. Ordinary folk have never had any power to take back. Power to direct the economy and determine life chances remains with the narrow, private elite who make investment decisions. Corbyn won’t challenge that power at source. Which is why he will fail. We must not make the same mistake in an independent Scotland.