As austerity comes under fire across the European continent, the UK Labour Party can show that “another world is possible,” Jeremy Corbyn’s top economist said Monday—one that rejects harsh cuts while embracing a platform of fair and progressive taxation, living wages, and “a radical review of the national institutions that manage our economy.”
Corbyn took over the party leadership with a stunning election victory earlier this month, one largely ascribed to his anti-austerity stance.
“We are embarking on the immense task of changing the economic discourse in this country,” Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the Labour Party’s annual conference on Monday in Brighton.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, “Mr. McDonnell has been a trenchant critic of the drive by U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron to close Britain’s budget deficit by slashing public spending.”
On Monday, McDonnell said austerity “is not an economic necessity, it’s a political choice.”
BBC reports that McDonnell “set out Labour’s thinking and priorities in key areas,” including:
Aggressively tackling tax avoidance and evasion
Introducing a “real living wage”
Cutting tax breaks for buy to let landlords in a clampdown on “corporate welfare”
Restoring and extending trade union rights
Tackling the gender pay gap and building more homes
Asking ex-civil servant Lord Kerslake to review how the Treasury works
Reviewing the Bank of England’s inflation mandate and the work of Revenue and Customs
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McConnell took specific aim at corporate welfare policies that benefit big businesses more than average people, saying: “We will force people like Starbucks, Vodafone, Amazon and Google and all the others to pay their fair share of taxes. Let me tell you also, there will be cuts to tackle the deficit but our cuts will not be the number of police officers on our streets or nurses in our hospitals or teachers in our classrooms.”
“We need to prove to the British people we can run the economy better than the rich elite that runs it now,” he told his party’s four-day annual conference.
“Idealists yes, but ours is a pragmatic idealism to get things done, to transform our society,” he added. “We remain inspired by the belief and hope that another world is possible. This is our opportunity to prove it. Let’s seize it.”
Over the weekend, Labour leadership announced it it had set up an economic advisory committee including Nobel Prize-winning U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz and Frenchman Thomas Piketty to help develop its anti-austerity policies.
“There is now a brilliant opportunity for the Labour party to construct a fresh and new political economy which will expose austerity for the failure it has been in the UK and Europe,” said Piketty.
“Be in no doubt, if you were before,” added Deputy Leader Tom Watson, in a separate speech at the party conference. “Labour is now unashamedly, unapologetically, avowedly an anti-austerity party.”
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