Sunday, 20 September 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: just how left wing is his agenda?

In celebration of the election of Jeremy Corbyn, here’s a wild left-wing suggestion for an economic policy to replace Tory austerity.

Develop opportunities for new exports, investing where necessary in the appropriate industries. Whenever possible, look for investment from abroad to fund growth. To fill any skill gaps, or indeed gaps in the workforce generally, bring in immigrants to give us the depth we need (there’s no shortage of skilled workers ready to come over, from Syria and other troubled nations).

At the same time as looking for opportunities abroad, ensure that our domestic market remains buoyant by improving British wage levels. One way is to introduce Trade Union reforms, but not of the kind now being proposed, which would emasculate them further; on the contrary, they could be brought into management of industry itself, with a formally recognised role, perhaps through worker directors on boards, in setting company strategies.

The effect of that kind of measure would be not only to make the way we run our major corporations more democratic and equitable, it would also make sure that people on low incomes, who are more inclined to spend than to save, would have more purchasing power, keeping domestic demand lively and able to drive growth.

With the growth flowing from such measures, tax revenues would rise so that deficit reduction could happen with no need for the destructive cuts being made by the current government.

Wild left-wing dreams, without a hope of realisation?

Well, actually, there’s nothing wild or dream-like about them. Nothing left-wing even. These are the policies that Germany has been pursuing for years. Certainly under Angela Merkel who is approaching her ten years in office, but also under her predecessor Gerhard Schröder.The Social Democrat Schröder was particularly left wing; as for Merkel, she leads the conservative Christian Democrats.

Angela: dangerous left winger?
It would seem that Germany has more moderate, and above all more enlightened, Conservatives than Britain does. And their policies have worked. Germany recovered from the 2008 crash within two years. Germany has become once again the dominant economy of Europe, with the lowest youth unemployment of the continent.

So that only leaves three questions.

Firstly, given that this has worked so well for Germany, why are they so keen on austerity for others – in particular the Greeks?

Secondly, as these highly successful policies are being applied by a right-wing government, why do British conservatives denounce them as dangerously left wing?

And finally, why would Labour not rally behind Corbyn in following such an anti-austerity programme in Britain too?

I have no idea what the answer to the first question is. It would be good to see Merkel pressed to answer why Germany favours austerity for others.

The second question, about denouncing as left wing policies favoured elsewhere by Conservatives, is much easier. Adopting the kind of approach Germany has taken would involve some of the wealthiest people in Britain giving up a little. The right wing, and in particular the right-wing media, represent their views, and those views say that they will sacrifice nothing for the sake of the nation as a whole.

As for the third question, I have no idea why Labour should not back this kind of an anti-austerity approach. That’s something that Labour critics of Corbyn need to answer. And that any of us who feel it’s time to move away from austerity policies, need to keep asking.

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