Ten years on from the financial crash, Labour showed at its conference this week that it understands the scale of change needed, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE.
We recently marked the 10th anniversary of the financial crash and as Labour conference met this week, keynote speeches from leader Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy Rebecca Long-Bailey MP showed that – unlike the Tories – Labour understands both the reasons for this crisis plus the radical approach and policies needed to improve people’s life and stop this happening again.
In contrast, if the Tories stay in we have a struggling, fragile economy vulnerable to another crisis.
Jeremy explained in his speech that “Ten years ago the whole edifice of greed-is-good deregulated financial capitalism, lauded for a generation as the only way to run a modern economy, came crashing to earth with devastating consequences… But instead of making essential changes to a broken economic system, the political and corporate establishment strained every sinew to bail out and prop up the system that led to the crash in the first place.”
As John McDonnell said it was also “caused by the power of a small financial elite who exercised too much power over our political system.”
The consequence of this “meant the bankers and speculators who caused the crisis wouldn’t be the ones who’d pay for it. It would be our families, working people, our businesses, our young people and especially the most vulnerable in our society.”
This is exactly what has happened with eight years of economic failure and hits on living standards, alongside rising poverty and inequality, under the Tories’ austerity agenda.
This means in the sixth-richest country in the world 5,000 people sleep on our streets, four million children live in poverty and wages are below 2010 levels.
These problems are confounded, as Rebecca Long-Bailey put it, by the fact “we have a government overwhelmed by the process of Brexit – with no idea about the type of country they actually want to live in,” meaning that on all the big questions – the economy, climate change, inequality, what our working lives will look like – this government has simply nothing to offer.”
Whilst the Tories are overseeing a situation where the social fabric of British society has been pulled apart to breaking point, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn understands that it’s not only time to shift the balance of power to the majority of people, it’s also necessary if we are to move forward and avoid another crisis.
To do this, Labour has both immediate policies to improve living standards plus rebuild our public services after years of Tory neglect, and an investment programme to provide sound and sustainable economic growth.
Public and private investment in Britain is around 4 per cent below the developed country average and that needs to change, as central to all our economic difficulties are these chronically low levels of investment.
Investment is not just the most important factor in economic growth but outweighs all others put together. This is why when David Cameron and George Osborne took power and slashed the last Labour government’s investment spending it pushed our economy back into recession.
As John put it, “it’s the collective investment in infrastructure, education and research and development that we as a society make that enables entrepreneurs to build and grow their businesses.”
A vital part of this investment programme is a commitment to tackle the greatest challenge of our time, namely climate change.
Specifically, Labour will kick-start a Green Jobs Revolution that will help tackle climate change, provide sustainable energy for the future and create skilled jobs in every nation and region, with a programme of investment and transformation to achieve a 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 that will create over 400,000 skilled jobs.
This investment programme will be supplemented by an increase in public ownership and a real industrial strategy. This would really mean taking back control of our economy, rather than the race to the bottom, bargain basement Britain hard-right Tory Brexiteers dream of.
It’s also important to understand that this agenda is popular – some commentators said, for example, that taking back water, energy, Royal Mail and rail would put voters off, but in fact even the majority of Tory voters back water and rail renationalisation.
This is hardly surprising when evidence of privatisation failing is consistently increasing. As Jeremy put it, the recent examples of the Birmingham prison run by G4S having to be brought back into public ownership, the East Coast franchise collapsing for the third time and Carillion going bust show that “what has long been a scam is now a crisis.”
Finally, people understood at that conference that it won’t be easy to win a socialist Labour government, and it’ll be even harder to govern as a socialist Labour government.
John pointed out that “for too long that establishment has used the Treasury as a barrier against putting power back into the hands of the people,” while Jeremy pointed out that “the billionaires who own the bulk of the British press don’t like us one little bit,” and “here, a free press has far too often meant the freedom to spread lies and half-truths, and to smear the powerless, not take on the powerful.”
To conclude, as Jeremy said this week, “People in this country know that the old way of running things isn’t working any more. And unless we offer radical solutions, others will fill the gap with the politics of blame and division.”
John was therefore also right to say that the greater the mess inherited, the more radical a Labour government will have to be, especially with the Tory handling of Brexit negotiations becoming a deeper farce – and bigger risk – each day.
Everyone on the left and the labour movement must unite and do all we can to get the Tories out and focus on winning a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government. Nothing else should distract us – if we let it, then we would let millions of people down and miss the chance of a lifetime.
First published by the Morning Star.