Corbyn’s programme can transform Britain’s economy

Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges give Labour the economic alternative it needs to beat the Tories and regenerate society, writes Ken Livingstone.

WHILE some Labour parliamentarians sadly seem to be continuing to focus their energies on attacking Jeremy Corbyn, it was good to see shadow chancellor John McDonnell explain on the Radio 4 Today programme this week that the productivity problems Britain faces are a product of a lack of long-term investment, and that is now what is needed to deliver both sustainable growth and social justice following the EU referendum result.

Recent analysis from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) suggesting that Britain could be heading for a recession following Brexit, and the biggest monthly purchasing managers’ index fall in 20 years, has made the government’s clear lack of planning for a Leave vote — and its continued commitment to further austerity that the economy needs like a hole in the head — all the more damaging.

The NIESR analysis came soon after figures from the EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, which showed confidence among manufacturers has dropped recently.

As McDonnell put it, “Many people are understandably anxious — fearing for their jobs and worried about the future of the economy,” meaning that “it’s imperative that [Chancellor] Philip Hammond tells us what he is planning to do about it,” and “we can’t afford to be stuck with Osborne’s planned cuts to investment until the autumn statement.”

Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy and a prominent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, commented on the figures from the EEF, saying that they show “sharp falls in confidence among both consumers and manufacturers [which are] a double whammy for Britain’s already fragile economy and a damning indictment of the government’s handling of Brexit.”

As regular readers of my column will know, it is my strong belief that what holds back Britain’s economy is a lack of investment, both public and private, which is now running at its lowest level since World War II.

Nearly all economists now agree that investment is not just the most important factor in economic growth, but outweighs all others put together.

This is why, for example, when the Con-Dem coalition first took power and drastically cut back on the last Labour government’s investment spending, it pushed our economy back into recession.

The current crisis was caused by the failure of the private sector to invest and has been extended by the continued refusal to organise an investment recovery.

The Tories simply have not learnt these lessons. In George Osborne’s last Budget he sought to target government investment for cuts alongside day-to-day spending and, indeed, government investment is scheduled to fall in this parliament as a share of GDP.

We simply can’t wait until the Autumn Statement to know if any change of direction is being planned, and the Tories’ ideological attachment to austerity means any concessions they do make will not go far enough.

In contrast to the Tory government, Corbyn is the only major national party political leader who fully grasps this key issue.

This was shown again this week, when as part of his 10 pledges to rebuild and transform Britain he committed to “full employment and an economy that works for all.”

Corbyn’s plan for a Labour government commits to creating a million good-quality jobs, all across the regions and nations of Britain, and seeks to guarantee a decent job for all.

He specifically commits to new investment spending of £500 billion in infrastructure, manufacturing and new industries backed up by a publicly owned national investment bank.

He explained that this was the route to a “high-skilled, high-tech, low-carbon economy that ends austerity and leaves no-one and nowhere left behind.” He also committed to investing in the high-speed broadband, energy, transport and homes that “our country needs and allow good businesses to thrive.”

Other parts of the pledges included a welcome commitment build a million new homes in five years, with at least half a million council homes, through the aforementioned public investment strategy and, crucially, a commitment to accelerate the much-needed transition to a low-carbon economy, using the national investment bank to invest in public and community-owned renewable energy.

Almost all the growth in Britain’s wealth in recent years has gone to the richest 1 per cent, while working-class and middle-class families have seen real incomes cut by 9 per cent since the banking crisis.

People are crying out for real change based on a credible and coherent alternative economic strategy — that is why Jeremy Corbyn must continue as Labour leader.

Not only is Corbyn’s plan for a big expansion of investment in transport, housing and upgrading our broadband system to match the levels of our competitors crucial to turning the British economy around, but it is the best way to deliver social justice.

To give just one example — poverty could be eliminated by a very substantial increase in investment, particularly public investment.

This would not only create high-wage, high-skilled jobs but it would also reduce the government’s outlays to alleviate poverty and increase the government’s tax revenues.

The vision and policies laid out in Corbyn’s 10 pledges to rebuild and transform Britain this week not only provide a clear basis for determined and effective opposition to Tory austerity, but they also provide a basis for a platform for Labour to win the general election and enable the transformation of Britain into a fairer society.

First published in the Morning Star