CityAM, London’s most-read financial and business newspaper, reported (“Economists give Labour a boost by backing spending plans”) that Professor David G Blanchflower (below, right) headed the list of signatories to a letter (25 November 2019). It added under an illustration: “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party would markedly increase the size of the state to roughly German and French levels”
Summary of the economists’ letter which opened: “The UK economy needs reform”
For too long, it has prioritised:
- consumption over investment
- short-term financial returns over long-term innovation,
- rising asset values over rising wages,
- and deficit reduction over the quality of public services.
- ten years of near zero productivity growth,
- corporate investment has stagnated,
- average earnings are still lower than in 2008,
- a gulf has arisen between London and the South East and the rest of the country
- and public services are under intolerable strain – which the economic costs of a hard Brexit would only make worse.
We now moreover face the urgent imperative of acting on the climate and environmental crisis.
Such investment needs to be directed into the large-scale and rapid decarbonisation of energy, transport, housing, industry and farming; the support of innovation- and-export oriented businesses; and public services.
It is clear that this will require an active and green industrial strategy, aimed at improving productivity and spreading investment across the country. Experience elsewhere (not least in Germany) suggests a National Investment Bank would greatly help . . .
As the IMF has acknowledged, when interest payments are low and investment raises economic growth, public debt is sustainable. At the same time, we need a serious attempt to raise wages and productivity. A higher minimum wage can help do this, alongside tighter regulation of the worst practices in the gig economy. Bringing workers onto company boards and giving them a stake in their companies, as most European countries do in some form, will also help. The UK’s outlier rate of corporation tax can clearly be raised, not least for the highly profitable digital companies.
As economists, and people who work in various fields of economic policy, we have looked closely at the economic prospectuses of the political parties. It seems clear to us that the Labour Party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them. We believe it deserves to form the next government.
Edited extracts from an article by MP Dawn Butler, responding to a claim by Minister Liz Truss
Her message to Theresa May: you delivered a caring speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street, but it is clear that it was nothing more than rhetoric and spin. The few it governs for are certainly not the working class . . .
Rents have sky-rocketed to ridiculous levels, with my constituents, in the worst cases, spending 70% of their wages on rent alone, whilst drivers on modest incomes – who need their car to get to and from work – continue to face misery at the petrol pump. In Brent, we have two very busy foodbanks and several soup and bread kitchens. This 19th century scenario is the sad reality for the working class in 21st century Britain.
Wages for the majority of people have continued to fall in real terms, whilst those at the top have seen their salaries soar
Living conditions in the UK are now at their lowest levels for 60 years, with hundreds of thousands of families relying on food parcels just to get by. Our hospitals are in crisis, hate crime has rocketed and homelessness has doubled.
And to compound the struggle, this government has been cutting services, such as money for pupils, access to justice and policing
This means that when you are being discriminated against at work, you will be less likely to be able to take your employer to court. Tribunal cases have plummeted by 70%. To the government this number represents success, but to me, these are hard-working people who have had the rug pulled from underneath them when it comes to getting proper recompense for their grievances. These are the signs of a government destroying the working conditions and protections of those who need it most.
Nearly one million people are on zero hours contracts which means, from month to month, they are in a panic to know if they can pay their rent on time or at all.
This government is openly deceiving the general public by claiming to be something they’re so clearly not. Whether you call it “alt-facts” or “fake news”, if such untruths are peddled often enough, people soon start to believe it may be true.
Conservatives have tried to force the trade union bill through parliament to silence and, ultimately, destroy trade unions. Why would they want to do this unless they wanted also to destroy the voice of the working class and important workers’ rights? How about the workers’ rights bill? The Tories wouldn’t allow a discussion in parliament of a bill which sought to protect the rights of the working class after Brexit. Features like working 48 hour weeks, holiday pay and maternity and paternity rights are all at risk due to us leaving the EU. The government appear to be running roughshod over them.
Throughout our history in power we have championed the working man and woman in establishing great working class systems, from the NHS to the minimum wage, and all equality legislation, tenets that have now become the fibre that gives our country its unity, fairness and strength. We defended SME businesses, created through a movement of working class men women and trade unions, all with a common goal of helping the many and not just the few.
Dawn Butler is MP for Brent Central
Read the article by Chris Stephens, SNP MP for Glasgow South West and secretary of the SNP Trade Union Group, here.
The hard right-wing Brexiters are on manoeuvres, resulting in a Queen’s Speech light on measures for dealing with our society’s major problems. No mention of:
- the scandal of 209,000 UK workers being denied payment of the legal minimum wage in their pay packets,
- The absence of any real legislation to deal with the scandal of tax avoidance
- the absurdity of closing 90 per cent of HMRC offices.
A total of 3,765 workers are employed in the Department for Work and Pensions to tackle benefit fraud estimated at £1.2 billion, while at the same time 320 workers are employed in HM Revenue and Customs’s affluent unit chasing tax evasion and avoidance, estimated at £70bn.
The “blue on blue” attacks may provide some entertainment but . . .
The rhetoric on immigration is shameful. Slogans suggesting that Britain is “flooded” or being “swamped” don’t stand up to the simple reality — EU nationals make up 4.6 per cent of the UK population. equivalent of a net contribution of £55 a second to the public purse 75 per cent of migrants are renting privately, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing, and regulation of private rental costs.
The Tory government handed asylum-seeker services to private-sector providers, such as Orchard and Shipman, which has resulted in those asylum-seekers and refugees being housed in the most appalling disgraceful conditions I’ve witnessed for myself in my constituency. Brexit won’t magically free up affordable, quality public-sector or private rental housing.
The misleading case that EU migration leads to a cut in wages is wrong on several counts.
First, because business is exploiting loopholes in how Britain operates the EU Posted Workers Directive, which guarantees the payment of the national minimum wage and not the rate for the job. This loophole needs to be closed so that workers alongside each other are not being paid different rates of pay for doing the same job.
In terms of workers’ rights those advocating Leave should be careful what they wish for. Recently Employment Minister Priti Patel let the proverbial cat out of the proverbial bag. In a speech to the Institute of Directors she said: “If we could just halve the burdens of the EU social and employment legislation we could deliver a £4.3bn boost to our economy and 60,000 new jobs.”
We should certainly not accept her claims on jobs or economic benefits to this kind of deregulation (it rather reminds us of right-wing claims on how the minimum wage would cost a million jobs, when it did the opposite), but her hostile attitude to employment protections is particularly striking and represents the agenda of those on the Conservative benches who back Brexit. These “burdens” viewed from working people’s end of the telescope are actually protections which we should be very keen on.
Freed from the constraints of the EU, it seems entirely likely that, unfettered by EU norms and processes, the Conservative government will sign up to a TTIP on stilts, meaning not just a threat to public services but the safety of goods and services.
The EU is not perfect by any means, and more work requires to be done. Those on the left who argue that our membership is the biggest obstacle to improving workers’ rights and achieving greater levels of equality in our country need to take a good hard look at the levels of damage an even harder right-wing Tory government could inflict post-Brexit on this country.
We in the SNP believe in independence for nations but also in independence within Europe, and a vote to Remain is a bigger protection against the economic and social ravages a right-wing no-holds-barred gang of Tory Brexiteers would inflict on us all.
Corbyn is a true socialist, and a strong anti-poverty advocate. His words about Greece apply to Britain as well
He is and has always been against:
- NHS privatisation
- lighter banking regulation,
- the Iraq war
- introducing tuition fees in England,
- private finance initiatives
- Gaza–Israel conflict
- corporate tax loopholes
He is and has been for:
- the release of the Guildford Four
- the release of Nelson Mandela
- the release of Birmingham Six
- renationalisation of railways
- a higher minimum wage
- a higher rate of tax for the wealthiest
- an increased corporate tax rate to fund public services
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign
- the rights of the forcibly-removed Chagossians to return to their territory
He has the spirit of the postwar Labour government and, after speaking about his own beliefs, records their achievements on television, here:
At hustings up and down the country Jeremy Corbyn is being cheered on. See a brief clip on education from the contenders’ evening in Birmingham. It was interesting to see Andy Burnham applauding Corbyn whilst the other contenders looked askance. According to the Telegraph, the MP for Islington North ‘wows’ audience .
Readers who feel so moved may donate to his campaign costs and wish him well on September 12:
Bill and Melinda Gates published their annual January letter, no doubt well-read at the World Economic Summit in Davos. They said that ‘many people think the world is getting worse’ – and it demonstrably is, in terms of pollution, social instability and the widening gap between rich and poor.
Economist John Kay in the Financial Times challenges Gates’ figures in terms which are not readily accessible to the average reader but then looks beyond the globalised centres of major cities, similar everywhere: “You do not have to venture far from the centre of Nairobi or Shanghai, and only round the corner in Mumbai, to see sights unimaginable in Norway or Switzerland”.
Gates’ big myth – an assertion that people believe the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease – is completely untrue.
Many people do believe that the world can solve extreme poverty and reduce disease – but not while the 1% and their corporate and political courtiers (one below) are making the decisions. “Every king needs courtiers, every computer billionaire creates a slew of computer millionaires”, notes John Kay.
Nick Dearden agrees: “The policies dreamt up by those who meet in Davos are a direct cause of the current unprecedented rates of inequality”.
Writing in Red Pepper, Dearden sees the world’s 1% “mouthing concerns about poverty and climate change, while working on policies which fuel inequality” in Davos and believes that Bill Gates doesn’t want a higher minimum wage denting the amount of wealth on which his company can avoid taxes. He recalls Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Prudential, calling the minimum wage a ‘machine to destroy jobs’. No doubt alluding to the representatives of the banking hierarchy, Dearden sees some of the participants at Davos as being directly responsible for the crisis and austerity measures responsible for mental health problems spiralling across Europe. In Greece, suicides rose 37% from 2009 to 2011.
The writer favours this approach:
Dearden ends: “We need to do more than put these issues on their agenda . . . The corporate elite represented at Davos cannot be allowed to meet in luxury and pretend they have the answers to the world’s problems. They are the world’s problems”.