This summer marked a paradigm shift in Labour’s recent history and British politics. Jeremy’s election represents a change in the party which, to be frank, no-one would have predicted a year ago. But no-one should be under any illusions about the origins of his win.
It wasn’t simply about his undoubtedly persuasive and polite demeanour and his inspiring campaign. Rather, it was a win that reflects the huge desire for change and hope across Britain.
That is why as Shadow Chancellor I have the huge honour of developing Labour’s economic policy and vision that rejects austerity. I intend to deliver on that by working alongside Jeremy, colleagues in Parliament, and across the whole Labour membership and wider movement.
Our economic vision is clear – to balance the country’s finances by ending the unfair tax cuts to the wealthy, opposing austerity, tackling tax evasion and avoidance and investing for growth. To make these plans a reality, I’m bringing together an expert panel of leading economists including Danny Blanchflower, former Bank of England Monetary Policy committee member, and the Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, to test and test again our fully costed plans.
Having this unstinting vision is quite clearly resonating with people. Since Jeremy ran for leader, the numbers joining increased dramatically, with new sign-ups equating to more than the entire Conservative Party membership. Those numbers still continue to grow. Many are young people who represent the future of Labour. Jeremy is aiming for one million members. I think we can do it.
Of course, we want to restore the faith many Scottish people once had in Labour but has now dwindled. But we also want those on the left who were inspired by the referendum campaign last year to remember they have a place in Labour still, and that they can use that energy to achieve our shared socialist aims.
After all, the history of the Labour left and Labour in Scotland are intertwined – from Keir Hardie to Jennie Lee and Tam Dalyell. Although, the debate has moved on since last year, the desire for a better nation has not.
Therefore people who share with us many of the same values should know they have a space to express these views. Enabling that space means that we need to get back to being more like the movement that created our party and being interwoven across all our communities and civic society. This is why Jeremy and I were pleased to launch Momentum last month – a grassroots network organically born out of Jeremy’s leadership campaign.
Momentum intends to be a gateway for people who feel unsure or want to know more about joining Labour yet still want to stand with us and campaign on shared causes. It calls on people to organise in every town, city and community in the campaign for social justice. I urge anyone who wants to get rid of the Tories and build that better society we all know is possible to get involved.
“So, if the SNP is serious about tackling poverty and challenging austerity, I call on it to fix the Scottish NHS.”
However, we must point out flaws wherever we find them and yes that means a focus on the Tories at Westminster but it also means that we cannot ignore the failings of – and the choices made – by the Scottish Government either.
In Scotland, like elsewhere, Labour has traditionally been seen as the vehicle for transformative change. Yet somewhere along the line we have badly disappointed people. This disappointment hardened after the referendum, culminating in May’s electoral catastrophe.
Our job now, working alongside our excellent and energetic new Scottish leader, Kezia Dugdale, is to inspire people and to regain our vigour again as the party of progress that is for the many, not the few.
Our catastrophe was matched by the SNP’s triumph. Its apparent stance on austerity came through clearly in the same way the Tories ‘long term economic plan’ cheap slogan did.
I honestly welcome a genuine anti-austerity SNP in Scotland but I challenge it to stick by its word on this. The truth is the SNP’s record is coming under increasing scrutiny. It welcomes Tory cuts to corporation tax while proclaiming its anti-austerity credentials.
It needs to put its rhetoric into action. For example, will it now support Kezia’s stance on using the new powers over taxation at the Scottish Parliament to mitigate the impact of Tory cuts to tax credits on working people?
We are clear we want to redistribute wealth and rebalance our economy. Whereas, the SNP despite having the power and the ability to turn rhetoric into reality – has not introduced one redistributive policy in eight years.
So, if the SNP is serious about tackling poverty and challenging austerity, I call on it to fix the Scottish NHS, which Audit Scotland say is under so much pressure. I call on it to reinvest the money it has taken out of colleges and ensure young people – and those seeking to re-train and start again from the most deprived areas – get the opportunities others receive. Likewise I call on it to sort the widening educational attainment gap between Scottish children, which we know is all too often determined by the socio-economic circumstances of our children.
If it doesn’t then then perhaps the SNP’s anti-austerity stances is just games that reflects the old politics – spin and deception in order to gain one over your opponent. Only time will tell. But time is not on the side of people who need change the most. That is why if you want to oppose austerity then you must stand with and help strengthen the only British-wide anti-austerity party.
John McDonnell MP is Shadow Chancellor