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What are the Labour leadership candidates saying on Greece?

Labour Leadership Candidates and now they are 4_edited-1Yesterday’s vote in Greece was a momentous occasion. Almost two thirds of a people, many with politics far removed from that of its leadership, said no to demands for more austerity from the well-heeled bureaucrats of the IMF and European Central Bank, and the ministers of the European Commission. It won’t be until tomorrow that we’ll know what the troika are going to do in response. Reasoned heads would suggest a debt write down and allowing Greece space to grow its economy to meet its obligations. This, after all, is the oh-so radical demand Syriza are pushing – it’s hardly all power to the Soviets combined with the socialisation of private property. Yet as past behaviour indicates, the troika are anything but reasoned.

Moving from the streets of Athens and the committee rooms of Brussels, how has this news been received by British parliamentarians? George Osborne has pretty much shrugged it off. Direct British bank exposure to Greece is only £10bn, though of course in our interconnected world of toxic financial instruments ostensibly trading as assets who can say what the real risk is? Nevertheless, the government stands ready to print money to protect the banks’ economy should the need arise. Labour’s response to the referendum outcome is not too dissimilar. Chris Leslie, shadow Chancellor, said “Eurozone countries need to do their best to offer the chance for fresh negotiations. And the Greek government must face up to its responsibilities for stronger governance and economic reform.” Perhaps if the troika stopped force feeding debt to Greece while hamstringing its ability to help itself, then I’m sure the Greek government would broadly welcome the acting shadow chancellor’s sage advice.

For Labour Party people who look to their leaders for a political lead, what then have each of our leadership candidate got to say about yesterday’s hugely significant event?

For Liz Kendall, it’s not a lot. We learn that 150 councillors are signed up to her campaign, and that she has caved to the Tories’ utterly abysmal English Votes for English Laws nonsense. On her Twitter feed there’s a retweet of Duncan Weldon’s musings, but that’s your lot.

Over to Andy Burnham’s gaff and it’s pretty much the same. While it is always nice to see Sally Lindsay doing Labour things, it’s just endorsement, endorsement, endorsement. Never mind the events in Greece, what if I wanted to know about Andy’s policy positions? I’ve said it about Liz Kendall before, I might not like what she says but it’s easy to find out what she stands for without having to trawl the web for policy snippets. There’s nothing on his Twitter feed either. Ho-hum.

What about Yvette Cooper? As a trained economist, has she got something to say about the Greek crisis? There’s something. Written before the outcome of the referendum became known, she writes that the situation remains pregnant with crisis regardless of the verdict. She argues, “Now that this failure risks reaping instability across Europe including here, we need big voices in Europe to persuade both Germany and Greece – and the whole of the Eurozone – that they need to agree an achievable long term plan that will actually get the Greek economy growing again rather than repeatedly putting it into reverse. Without growth any economy will struggle to pay its debts down.”

Exactly. I’m also buoyed to see Yvette using the occasion to attack the Tories. She notes, “The honest broker in that situation ought to be Britain. We are a major European economy, who can play a leading role and we are removed from the immediate negotiations because we are rightly not a member of the Eurozone. But instead our Government has taken a passive approach that is letting Britain’s interests down.” In other words, Dave and Osborne are striking an isolationist course in the hope the crisis will leave Britain alone and go away. Yvette is right, of course. If Dave was clever, offering its services as a neutral party in the Eurozone dispute might allow him to accrue some political capital that can be expended in return for treaty change concessions. But then Dave is anything but clever.

Does the final challenger have anything to say? As you might expect, Jeremy Corbyn puts his response to the Greek referendum in more forthright tones. As he put it, “Democracy has spoken in Greece. The people must rule, not the financial markets.” Quite right. While hoping for more, seeing as Jez has been on Greek solidarity demos and spoke outside the Greek embassy in London on Monday, there’s little more that needs to be said.

Before undertaking this brief exercise, I was not surprised Jeremy – given his activist background – put out a statement. Nor was I about Yvette. Her presence in the leadership campaign so far has been a touch understated, but quietly formidable. Given her range of experience across most government departments and familiarity with economics, for her not to have commented and put forward a straight centre left position (which is miles better than the Chris Leslie press release), well, that would have been a strange occurrence indeed. It reflects badly on Andy and reinforces the image of him being a one-trick pony. As for Liz, what’s the point of coming across as a fresh start if you don’t have anything to say about the crucial issue facing the European Union and the economies of its member states?

A leader is supposed to lead. Jeremy and Yvette have staked out their positions on an issue of enormous import. It’s a credit to their political nous and strength as politicians. Liz and Andy haven’t, and says pretty much the opposite about them.


  1. Mervyn Hyde says:

    Fair comment, but what is missing is that the Banks created Greece’s and Europe’s problems.

    What I want to hear from Labour’s leaders is how we can all escape the downward spiral thrust upon us by the system that was supposed to be our saviours.

    The Financial sector was supposed to replace our Manufacturing base and create the necessary wealth to provide for all, in affect it has of course ruined our economy not saved it.

    We need a vision that understands how money is created out of thin air and instead of issuing it as debt through the private Banks, the Bank of England could spend that money into our public sector and create real jobs paying real wages.

    All the other candidates except Jeremy talk in terms of waiting for some philanthropist multi billionaire to come along and decide that they want to make more money by employing people to produce goods or services.

    Well the facts are we were promised that under Thatcher and we are still waiting whilst even more jobs are being exported to the far east, 6oo hundred Goodyear jobs only a week or so ago.

    We need government to create real jobs with real wages, that would force the private sector to do the same, we need to get the private sector out of our public services and invest in research, nationalise the Banks and all those industries that were privatised, we need to create new industries in renewable energy, better transport and communications, since privatisation telecommunication has seen minimal real exploitation of it’s true potential and costs are extremely high, a society that understands communication knows what a progressive society can offer.

    Greece has the same potential and could show the rest of Europe how to grow in a way that serves people and not corporate greed.

    We have the money, what we don’t have yet is the government with the will to achieve it.

    Capitalism is strangling the life out of the economy, whilst we will never get a perfect society as no matter how well intended there will always be problems to solve, but life for all of us does not have to be like this, unless we let it.

  2. Barry Ewart says:

    I agree Mervyn with everything you said, and just think then with state-led public investment (and good wages) we could make solar panels for around the World to harness the free energy of the sun and help address climate change, we could make toilets for the billions around the World who don’t have access to them, we could equip health centres in poor countries, all as well rebuilding the UK.
    But our public ownership should be democratic – staff could elect boards & communities have a say.
    We could also have free public transport which would help the transport poor and environment plus as people left cars at home, the roads would be safer, quieter, and air would be fresher, and more people would feel confident to cycle.
    And we need the Left in every country to be campaigning for the same things.
    The Left has always had vision (but has perhaps not always communicated this well).
    Jeremy has it, and I am 100% behind his campaign.
    Jeremy I believe will get power back to members and CLPs.

  3. swatantra says:

    Yes. You don’t get anything for doing nothing in this world.

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      Barry sums it up very well, What you are saying swatantra is wrong, the Banks spend and make their living every single day on free money.

      That is a fact, but when we ask the government, through the Bank of England which is the issuer of that money, and ask for that money to be spent on public services, suddenly we are broke.

      Greece has already published a paper to spend their money directly into the economy, they have also recently put their corrupt Bankers into prison, when do you think this country will do the same?

      This isn’t a debate about opinion, but actual facts, you may be entitled to your opinion but when are you going to face the real facts.

      I have all the evidence from a multitude of academic sources of major repute to back up what I say, can you honestly say the same?

      1. Mervyn Hyde says:

        Sorry correction, it is not Greece but “Iceland” that has just published a paper on money creation, I have got Greece on my mind.

        1. swatantra says:

          … not Georgia, or Ukraine?
          Two more failed economies, because of corrupt politicians. Honestly, a few of them need to be put on Trial and jailed, for incompetence and immoral behaviour, just as an example to the rest.
          That is what the Labour Leadership should be saying. The bankers were at fault but so were the politicians, not just in Greece but much nearer home as well.

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