Let’s hear it for the “right to own”

John McDonnellThis is more like it. From the BBC:

The Tories have offered a Right to Buy, Labour would seek to better this. We’d be creating a new Right to Own,” he [John McDonnell] said in a speech in Manchester. He said the “biggest hurdle” facing co-ops and other small businesses was getting initial funding from high street banks.

No other major developed economy has just five banks providing 80% of loans. We’d look to break up these monopolies, introducing real competition and choice. Regional and local banks, prudently run and with a public service mandate, have to be part of the solution here.

Mr McDonnell is also considering adopting the Italian government’s policy of offering funding to help employee-owned enterprises to get off the ground.

“With consortium co-operatives providing an effective means for new businesses to share and reduce costs, we’d look to support these at a local level, working with local authorities, businesses and trade unions,” he said.

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iPads + superfast broadband = socialism (or maybe just a kinder, fairer capitalism)

iPad for socialismSocialism is Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 plus superfast broadband! Okay, not as pithy as Lenin’s definition involving soviet power and electrification, but John McDonnell’s speech on Wednesday is a continuation of a fine tradition in left and centre left politics: the close alignment of our policy agenda with technological dynamism. Though, of course, it’s more than just a nice rhetorical flourish – the lining up alongside futurity in John’s case has a double purpose. His iPads and Socialism speech was an attempt to wrest the white heat of technology from the grip of George Osborne, who’s made much of his fetish for graphene and high speed rail; and to bring out the shiny contours of contemporary left Labourism against the soot-streaked brutalism of nationalisations past. Continue reading

Labour’s media strategy should be unspun but not unravelled

Corbyn media stormLabour has had a difficult week, politically. Though Corbynites will obviously want to support the leadership as far as possible, it is difficult to deny that John McDonnell fell right into the clumsy Osborne trap that was the Fiscal Charter. The Shadow Chancellor’s naïvety on this issue speaks to one criticism that has been levelled at Corbyn and McDonnell: that after a life on the backbenches, they are unprepared for the hard-nosed realities of front-line Westminster politics.

But there is a fairly massive contradiction in these kinds of criticisms. Those who call the Party’s organization a “shambles” and loudly proclaim how poorly it’s being run are the same critics who frequently and furiously predict that the Left will soon embark on a ruthless campaign of deselection, and use dirty tricks to steal the Labour Party from its social democratic roots. These arguments don’t match up. Corbyn and McDonnell can’t have a cunning plan to reshape Labour in their own image at the same as being politically inept. Continue reading

Putting the Political back into Political Economy

Corbynomics1The reaction to John McDonnell’s announcement that he would aim for a balanced current account, whilst maintaining borrowing for capital investment, revealed a recurrent fault line within left-wing economic thought. At its most banal McDonnell was accused of signing up to George Osborne’s ‘austerity charter’, whilst more sophisticated critics argued such policies would weaken demand and harm economic growth. This article will not address the technicalities of figures and whether Labour should borrow limited amounts rather than aim for a balance (see a critical account here). Instead we will focus on the key political division the fallout from this announcement has revealed, and what it says about the character of ‘Corbynomics’, and the barriers it faces. Continue reading

How Labour should deal with the Fiscal Responsibility Act

Corbyn at PMQsJeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are frequently in advance of many of their supporters on economic matters, including their supporters in academia and economic commentators. They are correct to argue against permanent budget deficits and in favour of the central role of public investment as the path out of the crisis, identify People’s Quantitative Easing as a useful policy tool, and to question the ‘independence’ of the Bank of England. They have faced unwarranted and confused criticism on all of these from some on ‘the left’.

The recent indicators point to a slower pace of economic activity and the Tory government is about to embark on Austerity Mark II, in nominal terms exactly the same level of cuts and tax increases as the £37 billion George Osborne announced in 2010. As the Tories have little popularity (the second lowest popular share of the vote for any government) it has been necessary for this project that there is a pretence that this is not a return to austerity, after the boost to consumption that helped the Tories get re-elected. So, there was the fiction that recently there was a ‘One Nation’ Tory Budget, that Osborne was ‘stealing Labour’s ideas’ and similar nonsense. Continue reading