Though the Establishment has amassed its forces against us, we are many and they are few. JOHN McDONNELL says it’s time for Labour to mobilise
ANYBODY who thought electing a socialist leader of the Labour Party would be an easy ride now knows that was never going to be the case.
Winning the internal party election for the leadership was the relatively easy part. The coup was also totally predictable and could be planned for. Therefore the second leadership election was arduous, but with determination and hard work was eminently winnable.
We have now reached the toughest period so far. The euphoria of winning a greater mandate in the second leadership election, despite every trick in the bureaucratic textbook used against us, has given way to a serious appreciation of the challenge we now face.
The character of our politics is to be straightforward and honest with people. So let’s be straight about this. This is the toughest of times we have experienced so far and it is not only also absolutely predictable and understandable but also something we can completely deal with.
It does mean though that we need to understand fully what we are up against and what we have to deal with.
We are currently facing exactly what we predicted but many didn’t fully appreciate. The full forces of the Establishment are being thrown against us.
In no way will the elite Establishment tolerate the popular election of a socialist leader without a bitter fight.
One of the key fundamental problems we face is not a lack of political analysis, policies, direction, courage, determination or leadership.
It is the critical question of how we can communicate a narrative about our objectives and policies in a way that can cut through the bilious, cynical distortion of every aspect of the traditional media.
Any criticism of media bias by the left is always distorted as whining.
The various independent reports have proved conclusively that we are witnessing a level of media bias that certainly most have never seen on this scale before.
The evidence demonstrates that it ranges from the Sun and the Mail to the Guardian and the BBC.
This daily grinding out of distortion and attack can undoubtedly have its effect on our standing in the polls and in turn on the morale of some of our supporters, who are not always close to the action and may not be experienced in past trade union or political campaigns.
So we need to explain both what we are up against and how we can overcome this.
This is the time for determination in the face of whatever they throw against us. The best form of defence is attack.
Politically that means using the one resource that we have which the other side doesn’t. It’s true that we are the many, they are the few.
Mobilising our large base of support in the Labour Party, the trade unions, progressive campaigns and the wider community is the way to win.
How we do that is the key to our success. First, it means ensuring that our supporters and potential supporters have the opportunity to engage in the exploration, discussion, debate and determination of political analysis and policymaking.
That’s why we are going on the stomp around the country with a series of regional and national economic conferences to develop our economic thinking and planning from the grassroots up.
Similar exercises are planned in several other policy areas, including how we can decarbonise our economy based upon local initiatives facilitated by creative national policymaking.
New creative initiatives to enable large-scale involvement in digital democracy will facilitate and energise the discussion of politics and policy in and beyond our party.
Second, it means mobilising around consistent campaigning, setting up or using existing structures to co-ordinate our campaigning at local and national levels.
People are becoming increasingly angry at the Tories’ attacks on our public services and more workers are willing to take action to protect their jobs and their living standards.
We need to lead in mobilising support and solidarity with these campaigns. It will require the increasingly effective use of social media to communicate ideas and to assist mobilisation.
Third, it also means gearing up and training our members to give them the confidence and motivation to access the party’s structures and engage in the vital routine work that is needed to ensure the political direction of the party and deliver the votes that we need in elections over the coming years.
The message therefore is that the times may be tough and may get tougher — but it is the mobilisation of our committed, inspired and enthusiastic members that will see us through to success.
- John McDonnell is the shadow chancellor of the exchequer. This article first appeared on Labour Briefing: labourbriefing.squarespace.com.
By John McDonnell
This winter has pushed our national health service close to breaking point. Some areas are planning for a one-in-three reduction in bed provision. A quarter of all GP appointments now come after more than a week’s wait. Waiting times of more than four hours at A&E have quadrupled.
But while the Tories try to scapegoat hardworking NHS staff like doctors, it is their cuts and their mistaken priorities that are creating the crisis. Whilst Labour in office delivered real funding increases of 5.7 per cent annually, under the Tories NHS spending rises have fallen to 0.9 per cent per year – nothing like enough to meet rising demand from an ageing population. And because the Tories have slashed social care funding, they’ve left over one million of our more vulnerable elderly people without the care they need, putting yet more pressure on the NHS. Meanwhile, stealth privatisation has been pushed forwards, with spending by the NHS on private healthcare providers hitting £8bn a year.
The cuts are happening because the Tories are running an economy that’s been rigged for the rich. Under Conservative chancellors, since 2010, taxes on the wealthy and giant corporations have been slashed and slashed again. Already, the costs of Tory cuts to corporation tax and taxes paid by the super-rich come to £70bn over the next five years.
Now chancellor Phillip Hammond has hinted that he is prepared to turn the whole country into a tax haven, slashing corporation taxes to rock-bottom levels. On top of the existing tax cuts for the elite, that could mean a £120bn total giveaway by 2022 – more than the NHS spends in a year.
We couldn’t run a national health service worthy of the name in the bargain basement Britain the Tories are lining up. A majority people voted to Leave, and Labour respects that decision. But after the Leave campaign claimed that leaving the EU would mean more money for the NHS, not less, Phillip Hammond’s corporate smash-and-grab raid is surely not what anyone voted for.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Labour stands for a fundamentally different approach. We’ll stand with the British people against the elite. We live in a wealthy society – still the sixth richest on the planet. Yet whilst the super-rich and giant corporations have profited over the last few years, real wages for the majority have stagnated. According to the OECD, the share of our national income going to those who work is the lowest since before the second world war. Under the Tories, we’re living through what the governor of the Bank of England has called a “lost decade” for earnings and, with a Tory Brexit pushing up inflation, that squeeze is only going to get worse for many.
Labour will take action to turn our economy around for working people. We’ll bring in a real living wage, setting a minimum pay of at least £10 an hour. We’ll invest in those communities the government and the elites have abandoned, delivering the good, secure jobs people deserve. No part of our country should be left behind.
And for the NHS, we’ll make sure that it’s never again starved of the funding it needs, or forced into creeping privatisation. What the Tories have done to our health service is nothing short of a national disgrace. I’ve written to the Office for Budget Responsibility, who watch over government spending decisions, to see if they can start to make regular fair and objective assessments of what the NHS needs – and how government can meet that need. Labour will reverse the tax cuts for the big corporations and the super-rich to make sure the NHS and all our public services are on a secure footing, now and in the future.
The NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement. It’s only when we have an economy that works for ordinary people that we can keep it safe.
John McDonnell is shadow chancellor and MP for Hayes and Harlington
It’s bizarre to have to point this out – especially in response to reports by newspaper journalists who should know this – but John McDonnell has NOT refused to intervene over Hilary Benn’s future as a Labour MP.
The Shadow Chancellor simply has no power to do so. As he made perfectly clear in his Radio 5 Live interview, Parliamentary candidates are chosen by Constituency Labour Parties.
So Rajeev Syal’s article in The Grauniad, for example, is misleading. I’d like to say I hope this is not deliberate, but it still reflects on the professionalism of the author.
It doesn’t matter whether close allies of Jeremy Corbyn remain angry with Mr Benn after he sided with the Conservative Government over air strikes and Syria, or any involvement of his in the attempted ‘Chicken Coup’ over the summer.
If it is true that supporters of Mr Corbyn have been elected as officers in Mr Benn’s constituency party, Leeds Central, then they can propose any action they see fit – within party rules.
That includes deselection of the incumbent MP, so he may not stand as a candidate in a future election (it would not affect his position as an MP in the current Parliament).
And it is important to clarify that, if anyone has “taken over” positions in Leeds Central CLP, they would have done so by democratic means.
I question why Rajeev Syal mentions that Patrick Hall, a vice-chair of Leeds Central CLP who has spoken against Mr Benn, is a national executive member of the Labour Representation Committee, described as “a radical grouping” chaired by McDonnell.
What’s the implication?
Mr McDonnell will not influence any decision on Mr Benn’s future in any way. If Leeds Central CLP deselects Mr Benn, it will be because Leeds Central Labour members wish it.
SHADOW CHANCELLOR John McDonnell MP told the Labour Party conference on Monday that productivity is falling in the UK because the Conservative government is not investing enough.
McDonnell told delegates in Liverpool that the first thing the Labour Party would do if it gets into government is end austerity.
In his speech, McDonnell outlined what a Labour government would do to change the economy.
“The national debt burden was supposed to be falling by last year, and it is still rising. In money terms, it now stands at £1.6 trillion.” John McDonnell MP
McDonnell said: “We need to appreciate the mess that the Tories are leaving behind for when we go into government.
“Six years on from when they promised to eliminate the government’s deficit in five years, they are nowhere near that goal.
“The national debt burden was supposed to be falling by last year, and it is still rising. In money terms, it now stands at £1.6 trillion.
“Our productivity has fallen far behind. Each hour worked in the US, Germany or France is one-third more productive than each hour worked here.
“Our economy is failing on productivity because the Tories are failing to deliver the investment it needs, and government investment is still planned to fall in every remaining year of this parliament.”
McDonnell added: “In the real world economy that our people live in wages are still lower than they were before the global financial crisis in 2008.
“There are now 800,000 people on zero hours contracts, unable to plan from one week to the next, and the number continues to rise.” John McDonnell MP
“There are now 800,000 people on zero-hours contracts, unable to plan from one week to the next, and the number continues to rise.
“Nearly half a million in bogus self-employment, 86 per cent of austerity cuts fall on women, nearly four million of our children are living in poverty.
“As the fifth richest economy in the world, it shouldn’t be like this.”
McDonnell went on to tell conference how a future Labour government would “rewrite the rules of the economy”.
McDonnell promised that a Labour government would end “the social scourge of tax avoidance”, and introduce a £250bn investment programme to “bring Britain’s infrastructure into the 21st century”. He also promised a £10 per hour living wage.
He went on: “We will create a new Tax Enforcement Unit at HMRC, doubling the number of staff investigating wealthy tax avoiders.
“We will ban tax-dodging companies from winning public sector contracts.
“And we will ensure that all British Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories introduce a full, public register of company owners and beneficiaries.”
“We will create a new Tax Enforcement Unit at HMRC, doubling the number of staff investigating wealthy tax avoiders.” John McDonnell MP
According to McDonnell, the £250bn national investment programme, via a National Investment Bank, would stimulate long term investment for a more productive economy.
He said: “It means putting the investment in place that will transform our energy system, providing cheap, low-carbon electricity.
“It means ensuring every part of the country has access to superfast broadband, matching the best in the world. It means delivering the transport improvements, including HS3 in the north of England, that will unlock the potential of our whole country.”
He added: “For too long major decisions about what and where to invest have been taken by Whitehall and the City. The result has been underinvestment and decline across the country. It’s time for our regions and localities to take back control. So we will create new institutions, not run by the old elite circles.”
McDonnell spoke of his disgust at the fact that more than 200,000 workers in the UK are receiving less than the minimum wage, by saying it is “totally unacceptable”.
“It means ensuring every part of the country has access to superfast broadband, matching the best in the world. It means delivering the transport improvements, including HS3 in the north of England, that will unlock the potential of our whole country.” John McDonnell MP
As a result, McDonnell added that a future Labour government would “properly resource HMRC and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to make sure there are no more national scandals like Mike Ashley of Sports Direct”.
McDonnell also discussed the achievements of the previous Labour governments that includes establishing the national minimum wage.
He said: “Under the next Labour government, everyone will earn enough to live on.
“When we win the next election we will write a real Living Wage into law.
“When we win the next election we will write a real Living Wage into law.” John McDonnell MP
“We’ll charge a new Living Wage Review Body with the task of setting it at the level needed for a decent life.
“Independent forecasts suggest that this will be over £10 per hour.
“This will be a fundamental part of our new bargain in the workplace.”
John McDonnell, left, with Jeremy Corbyn: ‘Labour members and voters will not forgive us if we descend into infighting and introspection only a year after Jeremy Corbyn won his landslide victory as our leader.’ Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
The Brexit vote has delivered the most enormous shock across the political system. And as the resulting market turmoil demonstrates, it is creating an enormous economic shock too. The greatest danger we face is that this event, under this Conservative government, will be felt across the whole of society and fall most heavily on the most vulnerable.
It is impossible to understand this vote without recognising that huge numbers of people in our country have been let down, repeatedly, by successive Tory governments. While high finance has been allowed to run rampant, our historic industrial areas have been starved of investment. Secure, well-paid jobs have ebbed away, to be replaced by insecurity, zero-hours contracts and poverty wages. Many there feel, rightly, ignored and cast aside by the Westminster political system.
The campaign to leave made three claims to the disenfranchised. First, they claimed that pressure on public services and the lack of jobs was caused not by Tory governments imposing austerity and failing to invest, but by migration alone. We understand people’s concerns and will work to address the real insecurity that lies beneath them. But the leave camp’s second claim, that exiting the EU would be a simple solution here, was quite wrong.
And third, they were convinced by those on the leave side, including Boris Johnson, who said there would be no economic consequences from a decision to leave. Every reputable economist and economic institution warned the shock would be substantial. I don’t doubt that Boris Johnson and others knew this full well. The biggest danger here is that the shock will be felt most in those communities least able to withstand it. We should not let the leaders of leave shrug off their responsibilities here.
George Osborne has already threatened an emergency budget in the event of a vote to leave, doubling down on austerity and reversing his manifesto promises not to raise income taxes and VAT. There is no economic justification or mandate for this. Sixty-five of his own MPs have refused to support it, and Labour will oppose him every step of the way.
Labour and the whole labour movement will need to rally now in defence of working people and their families. That means immediately scrapping George Osborne’s fiscal surplus target for 2020. It has no support in the economics profession and Osborne’s desperate efforts to achieve it have resulted in the misery of spending cuts and the short-sighted slashing of vital investment. If a recession breaks, as forecasters now predict, maintaining spending will be essential to help avert an even deeper downturn than necessary. This will also mean abandoning the third pillar of the fiscal charter the government pushed through only last year: a comprehensive failure of economic policy within 12 months.
When an overwhelming consensus now exists on the necessity of public investment to support weakened economies – from the CBI to the TUC to international organisations such as the IMF and the OECD – it was clearly mistaken for the chancellor to pursue major cuts in investment, which is now scheduled to fall until the end of the decade.
Under current circumstances, with shockwaves still being felt, it is critical that the government is prepared to bring forward shovel-ready investment projects – not only to create jobs today, but to lay the secure foundations for the future economy. Investment spending should be targeted on those areas of the country that have most suffered from neglect and long-term decline under the Conservatives. We should no longer tolerate a situation in which some privileged areas of the country receive the lion’s share of public investment.
These are uncertain and dangerous times for all of us. Labour must be at the forefront of putting forward an alternative to the present economic mess, which makes unity more important now than ever. At a time of such economic uncertainty, with the Tory party split clean down the middle, Labour members and voters will not forgive us if we descend into infighting and introspection only a year after Jeremy Corbyn won his landslide victory as our leader.
The current Conservative administration has piled failure on failure. Its economic legacy will be the continuing devastation of communities across the country, the shoddy low-paid jobs it has created, and now the shock of Brexit. Together we can, and now must, do better than this.
Labour has called for “immediate and urgent action” in order to stabilise the economy following the referendum result, saying the choice to Leave was a rejection of the Conservatives’ economic policy.
The party says the victory for Out was the result of widespread dissatisfaction with growing levels of inequality.
John McDonnell has demanded the Tories ditch the budget surplus targets, which he says have damaged growth. He added that they must also undertake a priority investment programme in order to stimulate the economy.
He has also warned Labour MPs will oppose any attempt to enact further austerity in an emergency Budget.
The party will also undertake an assessment of the extent to which pension funds are damaged, as these rely heavily on stock markets.
McDonnell said “The government must now take steps to stabilize the economy, and to protect jobs, pensions, and wages.
“Labour will not allow any instability to be paid for by the working people of this country. There is no justification or mandate whatsoever for an emergency austerity budget. We need a clear programme of action to protect our economy.”
The pound plummeted to its lowest levels against the dollar in 30 years this morning as well as billions being wiped off the the FTSE 100. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, was forced to intervene in order to stabilise the economy, promising they would provide £250 billion of additional funds as a result of the vote.
Labour has renewed pressure on the Government over the leaked Panama Papers by publishing an expanded set of demands for tackling tax avoidance.
John McDonnell has repeated his call for a public inquiry over the revelations of a super-elite taking ultra-complex measures to cut their tax bill.
The shadow Chancellor has published a ten-point plan, embracing increased powers for HMRC and EU-wide deal for multinational firms to adopt country-by-country tax reporting, as he tried to pin the blame for the scandal more closely on David Cameron and George Osborne.
McDonnell described the furore as a leadership issue for Cameron, who has been battered by the disclosure that he benefited from an offshore fund set up by his late father, and Osborne, who has been dogged by the emergence of a BBC clip from 2003 in which he recommended the use of “clever financial products” for families to cut their inheritance tax liabilities.
“This is a test of leadership”, McDonnell said in an opposition day debate in the House of Commons.
“The leadership of the [Tory] party opposite could take this opportunity to correct the series of errors it has made.”
McDonnell published a tax transparency enforcement programme in which he demanded:
- A public inquiry to examine the loss of tax revenue and consider reform proposals.
- Forcing MPs to publish details of all their offshore holdings.
- Increased powers for HMRC including a “specialised tax enforcement unit” and a doubling of the number of staff looking at the wealthiest individuals and firms.
- Forcing foreign firms to list their owners and beneficiaries if they are bidding for public sector contracts.
- Negotiating an EU deal to force multinational firms to file public reports on their dealings, country by country, and to protect whistle-blowers.
- The introduction of a General Anti-Avoidance Principle and the extension of current rules to cover offshore abuses.
- Cracking down on accounting tricks, including telling courts to ignore “artificial steps” inserted in transactions to try and reduce tax.
- Working with banks to uncover who owns the companies and trusts they work with.
- Introduce minimum standards on transparency for crown dependencies and overseas territories like the British Virgin Islands – where more than 100,000 Panama Papers firms were based.
- Drawing up plans for a register of trusts which transfer trustees’ residence offshore.