A Labour government that would be more radical than Clement Attlee’s but more economically responsible than the last administrations which gave free rein to bankers, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has pledged.
He and party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a “transformation” in how capitalism works in Britain which, under Labour, would no longer be a tax haven for the super-rich.
In an implicit criticism that the last Labour governments presided over a light-touch regulation of the financial sector on which the economy became too dependent, McDonnell said: “I want us to surpass even the Attlee Government for radical reform. The situation demands nothing less.”
Citing the achievements of the post-war Labour Government which founded the National Health Service and the welfare state, and brought coal, electricity and rail into public ownership, he told the New Economy conference in London that: “When we return to government, we must aspire to be another great reforming administration.”
Speeches by the Shadow Chancellor and Corbyn marked a significant point in the leadership strategy of making Labour accepted as a credible party of government as well as a break with past policies which saw five million votes slip away from Labour and the rise of UKIP.
McDonnell called for a new “entrepreneurial state” based on different forms of social ownership, supporting strategic industries such as steel and more resolute opposition to Tory policies. Implicit in the message was that it is time Labour threw off the charge that it was the party responsible for the financial crash and subsequent recession.
“We must lay the foundations of a new society that is radically fairer, more equal and more democratic”, McDonnell told the conference on May 21.
It is important for Labour to be resolute in protesting against Tory policies, as forced U-turns on a range of issues, from tax credits to academisation had shown. But it is not enough, he said, to “block and protest” without aspiring to be a serious party of government.
In a later speech to fans at an event hosted by the right-wing Prospect magazine, former Prime Minister Tony Blair sought to raise doubts over Corbyn’s leadership, saying: “It is not yet a proven concept that Corbynism can win an election. It is clear they can take over a political party: what is not so clear to me yet is that they can take over [sic] a country.”
Blair also said that he is not sure he understands today’s politics.