Lesley Brennan

"The Coherent Alternative Our Country Desperately Needs"


"The Coherent Alternative Our Country Desperately Needs"

11 October 2015

Labour has brought together a team of seven economic heavyweights in its Economic Advisory Committee to advise the party on developing  “a pragmatic and deliverable economic policy for our country and in developing a fairer and more prosperous economic alternative based upon investment and growth which reaches all sections of society.”

Its formation follows from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership election mandate “to oppose austerity and to set out on economic strategy based on investment in skills, jobs and infrastructure.”

The Committee will be convened by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Some of its members will be better known than others; all oppose George Osborne’s spending cuts and agree that the austerity policies of the Cameron years in Downing Street have been a failure .

To select just three of them :

Perhaps the best known is Thomas Piketty, the author of the acclaimed recent best-seller “Capital in the 21st Century” who wants to assist in :

“constructing an economic policy that helps tackle some of the biggest issues facing people in the UK.

“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.”

Another Committee member is Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz

He condemns austerity as “an utter and unmitigated disaster” and expands thus :

“ But its defenders are willing to claim victory on the basis of the weakest possible evidence: the economy is no longer collapsing, so austerity must be working! But if that is the benchmark, we could say that jumping off a cliff is the best way to get down from a mountain; after all, the descent has been stopped.”

Another is Ann Pettifor of PRIME Economics :

“Osborne’s most striking political achievement, with the connivance of the economics profession and media, is to reframe the debate about the most severe crisis in living memory away from finance and towards the welfare state - identified as causal of the crisis.”

The setting up of the Committee is a significant move as Labour returns to its traditional Left-of-centre politics with a corresponding rejection of the economics of austerity .

The Tories remain in thrall to austerity as the “way forward”, and as a consequence, the failed policies of austerity will continue to overshadow the lives of millions every day.

This is despite the fact that these policies, where implemented, have been shown quite emphatically not to have worked, having created economic insecurity, a rise in social inequality, and a collapse in living standards for very many.

Austerity , as Jeremy Corbyn has said, is a political choice , and there are alternatives to this political doctrine that has vilified public spending.

At the same time as the new Committee has been formed, the latest “narrative” within the Parliament-media bubble is that the Tories are now occupying the “centre ground” that Labour has “vacated” by moving to the Left under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

However, George Lakoff, the American professor of cognitive science, specialising in the linguistics of political messaging, has his own interpretation of such “movements”.

He has previously strongly cautioned against accepting the analysis of this kind of spin from inside the bubble, and the consequence of settling for the compromise of a so-called “centre ground”

The “Guardian” describes his view thus :

“ He says : ‘The Left is losing the political argument – every year, it cedes more ground to the right, under the mistaken impression that this will bring everything closer to the centre. In fact, there is no centre: the more progressives capitulate, the more boldly the conservatives express their vision, and the further to the right the mainstream moves.’”

As Lakoff advocates, Jeremy Corbyn is standing his ground.

The Committee will provide a new voice, advocating the involvement of the state on behalf of the many, not the few, as Labour, in its own words, constructs a “coherent alternative our country desperately needs.”