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IN A keynote speech this week Jeremy Corbyn summed up how Britain’s economy has developed in recent decades by saying: “While the finance sector has continued to grow, a decade after the bankers’ crash the super-rich have grown still richer.
“For too long, many of our communities have lost out in the global economy free-for-all. The few have succeeded, but at the expense of the many.”
As an alternative to this, he outlined a serious and radical vision of an economic alternative alongside numerous specific policy pledges, in a speech which was widely lauded in the labour movement as giving real leadership at this vital time.
Corbyn said: “The next Labour government will not just sit back and manage the ongoing decline of swathes of our economy. We can and must make a difference.”
It’s easy to take the current Labour leadership, and the gains we as a party have made under that leadership, for granted but we should never underestimate just how much over the last three years Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell have done to change the economic debate.
Under their leadership, Labour is giving a clear alternative focal point to the dogma of austerity without end, starting to win the argument that instead we need to focus on investing in our future.
Many of our supporters know that Labour stands for a different set of priorities in terms of the future direction of our economy to the Tories, but nonetheless there is much more to do to convince the majority of British people that it’s Labour’s investment-based economic strategy that will best deliver quality living standards.
If we’re going to convince people up and down Britain about Labour’s economic alternative, then it’s also vital that we understand the thinking behind “Corbynomics” ourselves, the role of an enabling state within this, and how our specific socialist policy solutions can transform not just the economic landscape but also improve people’s lives.
After all, Labour’s plans to invest in our future aren’t just for infrastructure and industry, they are for our people too.
Corbyn’s speech this week brought out clear examples of one area in particular in which we can transform the economy by using the power of the state.
Currently, the state spends over £200 billion per year in the private sector. As Corbyn said: “That spending power alone gives us levers to stimulate industry, to encourage business to act in people’s interests by encouraging genuine enterprise, fairness, cutting-edge investment, high-quality service and doing right by communities.”
Labour has committed to use the huge weight of the government’s purchasing power to support our workers and industries using a three-pronged approach.
First, changing how we buy things with new procurement rules so that government supports jobs and industry.
Second, investing in infrastructure to support companies here in Britain to keep goods flowing efficiently and costs low.
Third, increasing investment in education, skills and lifelong learning through the national education service.
As Corbyn said: “By considering public interest such as job creation and the supply chains, we can grow our economy in a way that works for everybody,” and “this is about using the state to actively intervene in the economy, to create as much wealth as possible and ensure that wealth is shared fairly.”
In order to discuss both the ideas behind Labour’s alternative economic strategy and to enable a space for discussion on these ideas and the specific reforms and policies that flow from them, we at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity are pleased to be hosting a stream of sessions at this weekend’s Arise event on how we create an economy for the many not the few.
Participants including economists, trade unionists, MPs, environmental policy experts, public service campaigners and others will come together to discuss the themes of “Public services for people, not profit — why we need public ownership and to get the private sector out”; “A greener future — transforming the economy for people and the planet”; and “Beyond free market failure — why Corbynomics is the answer.”
I hope you will join us there to discuss how we can defeat free-market dogma, deepen our understanding of the alternative to failed Tory austerity and popularise Labour’s programme to rebuild our economy for the many, not the few.
Matt Willgress is the national organiser of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity, which is supporting Arise — a festival of Labour’s Left Ideas. Participants include John McDonnell MP, Diane Abbott MP, Richard Burgon MP, Shami Chakrabarti, Chris Williamson MP, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner and more. The opening rally for Arise takes place from 6.30pm at Student Central (formerly ULU), Malet Street WC1E 7HY from 7pm today and then various events take place there and at Unite House (WC1X) tomorrow from 10am-5pm. You can register on the door from 5.30pm at Student Central on Friday and 9.30am on Saturday. You can book advance tickets at www.arise-festival.com.
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