The imminent crisis in what is still laughingly called the British steel industry is being greeted just as other similar developments have been for decades – with consternation and anger, with concern for the implications for social cohesion in general and for workers’ families in particular, but with no recognition that this is just the latest episode in what is now a depressingly long saga.
As one British industry after another has either passed into foreign ownership or closed down, or – as in the case of the steel industry – both, very few recognise that this is not just a one-off but is part of the long and not so slow de-industrialisation of Britain. Continue reading
In order to defeat Osbornomics it is necessary to understand it. A central tenet is that the private sector is the key to prosperity and that therefore everything possible should be done to promote and encourage it. The state should shrink in order to release the inherent dynamism of the private sector. The argument runs that it may be that some people fail temporarily so some sort of safety net may be necessary, if affordable. In this framework, if it is necessary to cut support for disabled people and the poor in order to fund tax cuts for high earners and business, then so be it.
The attack on disabled people has rightly been the focus of hostility to Osborne’s Budget. But this is not an isolated case, as all those who have suffered those cuts can testify. This has been a repeated pattern of Osborne Budgets, supported by all Tory and LibDem MPs beginning in 2010. The right of the Labour Party has had no significant disagreements with it.
At the same time, the long-term decline of the steel industry has turned into a full-blown crisis. In a very useful report the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) debunks the myth that the crisis is due to ‘dumping’ of steel in the EU. The UK loss of market share in core industries producing intermediate goods, such as steel, is twice the rate of the industrialised countries as a whole over the long-term. Despite alleged ‘dumping’ by Chinese firms in Europe, German steel production rose by 2% in 2015. Continue reading
Rachel Reeves, a former Labour shadow secretary for work and pensions, has produced a short note for Progress which has been hailed in the right wing media, and by the Labour right, as ‘an alternative Budget’. The New Statesman was perhaps the most excitable, describing Reeves as the shadow chancellor in waiting. All of this is entirely incorrect as the article offers no alternative to the Osborne’s resumed austerity, which he is certain to recommence in the next Budget.
Reeves has declined to join the current shadow cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn and her intervention is clearly posed primarily as an alternative to the economic policy framework outlined by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, not to George Osborne. It confirms once more that the Labour right is disloyally more interested in attacking the Labour Party leadership than in attacking the Tories. Continue reading
Once the surprise and the shock of Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader had sunk in, many (including me) became impatient for policy initiatives and membership involvement in policy formation to come to the fore. Clearly cutting through media hostility is a major task but I find it difficult to see that more could not be done. For a start, direct communication through Labour Party channels has so far, to my knowledge, not been much used – as far as I can see, looking at things from a branch and CLP point of view. A case in point is Emily Thornberry’s excellent defence discussion paper. This does not seem to have been promoted throughout the Party with a request that the issues be debated. I cannot understand why not. And where is Seamus Milne’s communications team in all this? Labour’s communications effort to be ramped up a notch or two. Continue reading
The latest official data show how far the UK economy is lagging behind other industrialised economies in terms of productivity, in this case output per hour worked. There is too a long-standing discussion amongst economists in Britain about the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’. There is a genuine crisis of productivity in Britain. But in reality there is no productivity puzzle at all. It is easily explained by the weakness of investment. In particular, the recent fall in in the stock of capital in the British economy explains the almost unprecedented decline in UK productivity.
Currently, debate in Britain is dominated by the possibility of ‘Brexit’. This is an error. Under current circumstances, whether Britain is in or out of the EU is a trivial matter in economic terms compared to the crisis of productivity. This is because, contrary to George Osborne (and those on the left who are confused and echo him) it is not possible for consumption, or wages to lead economic recovery. Sustainable increases in consumption require sustainable increases in output. Unless that is achieved by more people simply working longer hours, then it must come via increased productivity. Without it, living standards will fall. This will be the case in or out of the EU. Continue reading