Labour needs to rediscover comprehensive economic planning

manifesto1945In his barnstorming 2015 and 2016 Labour Leadership campaigns Jeremy Corbyn outlined a series of, very enthusiastically received policy offers of a distinctly left Keynesian, anti-austerity hue. These proposals ranged from renationalising the railways, to fully re-nationalising and refunding the NHS, establishing a universal free national education service, nationalising key utilities, controlling the banks more closely (the last two, significantly, subsequently dropped in the 2016 contest) and creating a National Investment Bank.  Unfortunately since his 2015 victory essentially nothing has been done to put flesh on the bones of these proposals, or indeed to position these disconnected proposals within a wider comprehensive radical Left Economic Programme.

This seems most peculiar to those of us old enough to have imbibed in our socialist youth the concept of socialism as intrinsically involving the modification, amelioration, and re-direction of priorities created by the unfettered free play of the capitalist Market, and their eventual replacement by a better, fairer, more rational, society beyond the capitalist marketplace. This transformational process was always seen by socialists as being driven forward by conscious, democratically determined, state-led comprehensive overall direction and planning, even in a still capitalist, “mixed” economy in a process of transition. Continue reading

Do we want predatory capitalism or an economy geared to the common good?

Vulture feedingDespite the predictable whines of some FTSE-100 bosses reported yesterday about a post-election Labour-SNP pact, Ed M should flesh out more about his vision to replace ‘predatory capitalism’ both because that is what a majority of people want and also to put paid to the ignorant mantra that self-interested executives like to propagate that anyone who says business practices could be improved is somehow ‘anti-business’. The real truth is that theself-interested executives are anti-public interest.

Britain has some world-class industries and many thrusting, innovative small businesses, but our economic performance is still marred in places by exploitation (the energy sector), failure to meet need (house-building), lack of investment (utilities), short-termism (City of London), profit-driven misconduct (Big 4 banks), as well as by dysfunctional structure (lack of stakeholder commitment) and perverse ideology (the market über alles). So what should be done? Continue reading

The ‘Black’ Route: a black day for Wales

M4_motorway_IEIn July 2014, the Welsh Government, which claims that sustainability is the central organising principle of everything it does, decided to build a motorway relief-road across a wetland containing four Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Anyone who cares about sustainability, who regards it as more than a pious aspiration or just something one says – anyone, in fact, who still believes, in this cynical age, that what a  government or a politician says should some connection with what they actually do – needs to mull over every word in that sentence.

This is a truly appalling decision, which leaves the Welsh Government’s sustainability credentials in tatters. It represents a lurch back from the lofty aspirations in the Government of Wales Act and the nobly-named Future Generations Bill to the post-war by-pass mania, now largely discredited in the eyes of anyone who takes sustainable transport seriously – although very much favoured by what can loosely be called the ‘roads lobby’, namely the construction industry, motoring organisations and various well-funded free-market think tanks. Continue reading

Fracking may be coming to somewhere near you – without your permission

It is scarcely credible that the government is including in the Queen’s Speech on 4 June the right for the shale industry to drill on your land without your consent. Such a gross infringement of the rights of private property would be unthinkable, especially for a Tory government, were it not to secure a bonanza industry. Private land is inalienable – until it is wanted by the oil and gas industry, at which point private property rights get trampled on all over the place.

After heavy lobbying from the shale industry the government are changing the trespass laws so that companies can drill without permission in return for only minimal compensation to landowners. Following the demonstration at Balcombe in Sussex, this can be expected to become a focus for all-out resistance against the Tories, perhaps with a similar political impact to the poll tax riots which did for Thatcher. Already a nationwide network is operating across Britain, well organised and effectively connected via social media as well as by a shared passion overriding political divisions. Continue reading

Floods, climate change and Cameron’s money burning machine

climate changeCameron is a rootless chameleon politician, but his daily masquerades putting on new guises sometimes do get in the way of each other. Having delayed and reacted late as the floods engulfed the Somerset Levels and then beyond, as soon as the growing climactic violence put his own leadership on the line he swung round, admitted that climate change lay behind the storms and devastation, and went to the other extreme of offering ‘money no object’ assurances to all and sundry. Continue reading