Don’t Take the Left for Granted

The John McDonnell Column

JMcDSince Ed Miliband was elected Leader, the Labour left has exercised iron discipline. To defend him from the plotting of the residual Blairites in the Shadow Cabinet, there have been no serious public criticisms of him launched by the left. But at this key stage, when the Party’s election manifesto is being constructed and the direction of our campaign for the next eight months is being finalised, a simple corrective warning from the left to the leadership is needed.

The economic crisis exposed the absolute bankruptcy of the neoliberalism embraced by New Labour under Blair, Brown and Mandelson. Unregulated markets,  profiteering, mass privatisations, top down centralised government and the slavish courtship of the super rich and City of London didn’t just bankrupt the economy. They came close to ideologically bankrupting the Labour Party.

The lessons learned from this economic and political crisis have brought the Labour Party back to the agenda advocated by the left throughout the dark days of New Labour triumphalism. At last Labour has returned to addressing the real issues affecting the lives of the people we seek to represent – to a politics that reflects what people believe a Labour Party should be about.

However, a combination of rearguard Blairite obduracy in the Shadow Cabinet and insecure hesitation from Ed Miliband risks exposing this hoped for return of Real Labour to be mere tokenism. In every policy area Miliband has taken a step in the right direction – but only a small step when a giant leap is needed.

» Our people want a decent home and the Party is now committed to a mass construction programme – but house building takes time and in the meantime the only alternative for many families is paying high rents in the private sector. That’s why we need a commitment not just to building more homes – but building council houses with rents people can afford and rent controls in the private sector.

» Our people want a decent job with decent wages. Marginal increases in the minimum wage and tax cuts for employers for paying a Living Wage simply subsidise
low wage paying employers. That’s why we need the minimum wage replaced with a
Living Wage – to start at £10 an hour with no differential for young workers.

» Overwhelmingly our people support the principles of the NHS and oppose its privatisation. Andy Burnham has committed Labour to scrapping the Tories’ NHS privatisation legislation – but that won’t be enough to save the NHS from the vultures bleeding it dry right now. That’s why we need a clear commitment to bring back all the NHS services privatised under the Coalition.

» Privatisation overall has increasingly been exposed for the rip-off it is. Consistently the policy of bringing rail back into public ownership has secured 80% plus support in opinion polls. Yet Ed Balls has refused to allow Labour to commit to anything more than allowing a public sector bid for individual franchises as they are re-tendered. This is setting up the public sector to fail as privatisers undercut it with loss leaders or foreign government subsidies. Bringing rail back into public ownership would send a signature message to the electorate about Labour’s determination in office.

» Iain Duncan Smith’s so called welfare reforms have plunged millions into poverty with cuts in benefits, a grotesquely unfair sanctions regime and the modern form of
slavery called workfare. Calum’s List revealed the tragic circumstances in which people have taken their lives when faced with the brutally harsh regime under Atos’
Work Capability Assessments. For fear of provoking the gutter media Labour has promised only reform of the system when the whole system needs scrapping.

» Although young people are still staying on in higher education, tuition fees are saddling them with debt for a large part of their lives and many who in the past have
studied part time to complete their education or enhance their skills can no longer afford to. Labour fiddling around at the margins of student finance won’t tackle
the debt crisis that is hitting our young people. Abolishing tuition fees would be
the single most effective signal to this generation that Labour cares about it.

» The economic crisis has been used as the excuse for employers to intensify the
exploitation of workers with zero-hours contracts, cuts in health and safety and more restrictions on workers’ access to justice at work. There are six million trade union members waiting to hear from Labour whose side the Party is on. Outlawing zero-hours contracts, restoring basic trade union rights and giving workers a say in the decision-making of their companies would give trade union members a real reason for voting for a Labour government.

It’s policies like these that are capable of bringing together the electoral coalition that can win us the next election. It’s the role of the left to force them onto Labour’s agenda both at Conference and in every policy discussion at every level of the Party in the coming weeks and months.

John McDonnell is MP for Hayes and Harlington and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and of the Labour Representation Committee

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4 Responses to Don’t Take the Left for Granted

  1. We shouldn’t treat our core voters for granted either. We need to treat them with respect and credit them with a bit more intelligence intelligence. We should help give them the intellectual arguments needed to defeat those in favour of ‘austerity economics’ which are at the root of most of our problems.

    Ed Balls is a smart guy. He can’t possibly believe all this crap about “reducing the deficit”. In fact if we read his 2010 Bloomberg speech it is clear that he doesn’t.

    The way it works is that government creates money when it spends. When it taxes it destroys it. A surplus means it destroys more than it creates which is logically impossible except over a short time-scale. All money created by government must eventually come back to be destroyed after it is trapped in the government’s very efficient tax net. Where else can it go? It can be temporarily reprieved from its eventual fate if it is saved, either by ‘prudent’ individuals or companies, or in the central banks of the big exporting countries.

    So cutting spending to reduce the deficit is self defeating. Any cuts will simply mean there will be less money in the economy which therefore will produce less tax revenue. Raising taxes won’t produce any more revenue. It will simply remove money quicker leading to fewer transactions taking place. Fewer transactions means less activity which means higher unemployment.

    So any politician wanting to “balance the books” needs to stop people saving or buying imports. To do that they needs to make us all very poor. If that’s their plan they should tell us before the 2015 election , not afterwards. And if they don’t we should be telling the electorate on their behalf. That’s the way to get votes and win elections. Its not that hard to understand and the voters have the evidence of what’s happened in the Eurozone right in front of their eyes if they need practical confirmation..

  2. Martin says:

    Labour as a representation of working people in the UK in 2014 is dead in the water

  3. Anthony Harris says:

    While your at it,cut to the quick and form a Soveriegn Wealth Fund as in Scandinavia.It solves all your spending problems in one fall swoop,education for free,the best health in the world for free and a proper Welfare System.
    While you at it let’s have the leadership of the Labour Party given back to the WORKERS.You know those people that get their hands dirty producing the wealth and subsiding the Tax of the Rich and their sycophantic helpers the Middle Class.

  4. Martin Upham says:

    It’s a good minimum programme full of concrete steps that would have an impact on ordinary people’s lives. The failure to advocate state ownership of rail in particular is stupid and self-defeating. For those who oppose it the fear of seeming left wing seems greater than their fear of losing the general election. What shortsightedness. I don’t think Labour has learned anything from its miserable negativity and defence of the status quo in Scotland.
    But the big idea that ought to be at the heart of Labour’s programme surely ought to be a plan for the economy which addresses austerity. That’s the black hole and the Tories are sure to base their campaign on it.

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