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The economy, the state and my crisis of faith

11858987_sLast week I had a crisis of faith in Labour. Looking at the Scottish polling, it looks as if Labour’s journey back to government may be longer and harder than we thought. Yet that is not what caused my questions to synchronise into a cacophony of doubt.

My worries are for what happens if we do get into government in May 2015.

It’s not just about policy, it’s about attitude too. On Thursday I was watching Question Time with Tristram Hunt and Caroline Lucas. Hunt fudged all his answers, limited by the narrow set of opinions permitted by Labour’s current policy set. Lucas, free to say what she thinks, answered convincingly and honestly.

Of course Labour, being a bigger Party has to represent a wider range of views, stick to the ‘centre ground’, etc., etc., ad nauseam. But I have decided that these are not good enough reasons to justify the limited vision for Britain that we are currently putting forward.

We have a fair amount of good policy, but it is the policies that we have refused to endorse that infuriate me. What the leadership must realise is that Britain has seen wage growth fall behind productivity growth since 1979, the wealth of the 1% grow and grow, and the myth that an economy wholly relies on the efforts of a few super-rich ‘wealth creators’ grow more and more endemic in British society (and I’m ashamed to say, helped greatly by New Labour).

Let me absolutely clear here; it is simply untrue that the prosperity of the many is dependent on oligarchs swanking around Chelsea mounting increasingly elaborate tax avoidance schemes. The narrative of the ‘wealth creator’ has been twisted into a myth justifying a return to income inequality not seen since 1929.

This myth tells us that technological and economic advancement is reliant on pioneering entrepreneurs in the private sector making amazing discoveries. This is just not the case.

Small business is important for flourishing economies – and the private sector is important for actually delivering the nicely-packaged products, but Labour seems to have consciously ignored recent work by the excellent economist Mariana Mazzucato showing that the major technological advances of the last century overwhelmingly grew out of state enterprise – the Entrepreneurial State. Computing, the internet, touch screens, jet engines, GPS? All thanks to Mr/Ms Taxpayer.

If Labour really wanted to rebalance the British economy, allow us to compete in the ‘global race’, and bring properly paid manufacturing jobs back to this country, it would show no qualms in putting forward far more ‘lefty’ policies like major state investment in R&D – not the well-intentioned but paltry regional investment banks we currently propose.

If Labour really wanted to change things it would not come up with this ridiculous muddle of a railways policy that we have: it would do what Germany has been doing for years; have a properly funded state operator capable of giving profit back to the taxpayer – and end the perverse situation whereby the British privatised system subsidises investment in German and French railways.

Such pathetic policy, attempting to placate different parts of the Party, makes me want to scream.

I could go on. A list documenting where Labour should adjust policy based on actual evidence rather than paper-thin ‘centrist’ ideology would last dozens of pages. But the main point I want to get across here is that not only is our current offer to the nation boring and disjointed, it’s not sensible either.

Labour’s electoral promise should be simple: commit to reversing inequality, reduce poverty, and get Britain making things again. Until then, we don’t really represent the interests of the workers, and we don’t really deserve to win.

Image Copyright: robig / 123RF Stock Photo

5 Comments

  1. Lois Radice says:

    Spot on, Dan. I hope, though, as your branch secretary, that you are going to carry on the good fight within the Labour Party. For information for other comrades reading this, Dan is Youth Officer for Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP and our youngest activist. He is exactly the kind of young member that the Labour Party needs and whom we are not attracting.

  2. Dan McAteer says:

    Thanks Lois!

  3. Robert says:

    I agree total but it’s not going to be easy getting those companies back.

    We do need to expand the infrastructure of this country, new roads or rather doing up our old roads, railways not the super fast for the super rich either doing up the railway net work we have now..

    I think your right sadly our politicians will think spending nope we have to have money by cutting.

  4. David Pavett says:

    I am a member of the Labour Party (just) but there is no danger of a loss of faith in Labour since I have none. I am in it because it is a place where I can meet like-minded and equally frustrated people. I do not come across any Party members with a serious interest in politics (for other than career reasons) who have any real belief that Labour can be transformed into a vibrant party of the left.

    I certainly know what you mean about Tristram Hunt. It speaks volumes about the Labour Party that anyone could think for even 1 second that he would be an appropriate choice for Shadow Education Secretary.

    We need a new party of the left but all the attempts so far have been, to me, deeply unattractive. Our electoral system is the last thing propping up the Labour and Conservative Parties but it is looking as though we are getting closer to a break-down of the whole system with the rise of the SNP, UKIP and possibly the Greens.

    How would Labour transform itself? I just can’t see how it could happen. It is a party run by a small group of careerists, spads and apparatchiks. They are a permanent block to any such transformation.

    1. Dan McAteer says:

      Hi David
      As far as I can tell, the left is screwed when it’s split – meaning that our only way forward is a reformed Labour Party capable of radicalism but also electoral success.

      That would not be necessary under a PR or even AV system where coalitions are a regular occurrence – then our agonising wouldn’t be so acute as we could vote for Parties which represent our views more accurately. However such a transformation in the voting system seems unlikely in the foreseeable future.

      Labour has transformed itself in the past – to the left in the ’70s and to the right in the ’80s, no reason that such swings will not happen again in the future.

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