On Monday 2 October my political partner in crime, Peter Allen, and I went to see John McDonnell at Manchester Cathedral talking with Gary Younge on the theme of - 'An Economy That Works for All'. The event was part of a series of meetings and demos based around the Tory Party Conference. Predictably, the event was very well attended with an audience of several hundred people and began with the Dean welcoming McDonnell.
John McDonnell is an accomplished speaker who addresses the audience with respect. During the 'debate' he outlined Labour's plans for an expansion of democracy in the UK and spoke about Labour's economic plans. What follows is a summary of what John McDonnell said based on a recording Peter made:
"What we want is for people to come together in their communities to discuss the detailed implementation of our manifesto in their area….that is important to us….where are we going to build the homes that we need,….what sort of jobs do we want… how best to invest in our schools. We will all be going into government together so that change will become unstoppable and irreversible.we need to do work now to prepare for government.
We will have a constitutional convention, based on a fair nationwide distribution of resources. People are pretty fair. They do want to work together, to cooperate to address inequality. Consensus building is central to Jeremy Corbyn’s politics.
The reason why the Tories are resorting to personal abuse is because they are losing the argument. They say they are defending the free market but what we have is a rigged market. We have ‘corporate capture’, where corporations have taken over the levers of government which is being run in the interests of the 1%. In response, we are calmly proposing alternative solutions.
People are seeing through what the Tories are all about. They are recognizing that austerity wasn’t an economic necessity but a political choice. I million fewer adults are receiving care because of austerity. There are millions on housing waiting lists and 70,000 children are in temporary accommodation. In terms of political ideas, the Tory Party are bankrupt. As a political party, they are imploding.
I have been talking to business about our investment strategy. Business is seeking opportunities for stable returns on their investment and we will be offering that.
|John McDonnell at Manchester Cathedral|
We need a real living wage and strong trade unions, which offer the best means of protecting wages and conditions. We will restore and expand collective bargaining. Rising wages will lift people out of poverty and raise more taxes. It isn’t rocket science.
We recognise the contribution migrants have made to this country. We need to guarantee the rights of EU migrants living in this country.
Our opponents will always try to divide and rule. We need to bring people together on the basis of recognising injustices. We will clamp down on tax evasion/ avoidance which is on an industrial scale in this country and properly resourced HMRC. UKUNCUT have dragged tax avoidance to the top of the agenda by public protests and should be given credit for the role they have played in this.There should be greater tax transparency. Everyone earning over 1 million pounds and all leading politicians and public officials should be required to publish their tax returns.
From Thatcher onwards, neoliberalism became the dominant ‘hegemonic ‘ idea. After the crash, this dominant idea has been challenged. After 10 years, with the recession having supposedly ended but living standards still being cut more and more people are coming to the view that the current model will never work and I think we can convince a majority of people to accept a different narrative and support a different model.
We believe that education is a gift from one generation to another and not a commodity to be bought and sold. We want a National Education Service, free from the cradle to the grave. We will improve and expand provision in conjunction with service users.
We need to invest in new technology, as Germany has done. Business is not investing sufficiently and we will use public investment to encourage such investment. We will encourage workers co-operatives and worker representation on boards.
We need to prioritise addressing climate change. (loud applause). There will be no fracking. We intend that the UK will become world leader in decarbonizing the economy in its first five years of office."