Don Brind on how Corbyn’s out of line with his shadow chancellor
For someone who insisted for years that Twitter wouldn’t catch on I’m pathetically pleased these days when one of my tweets gets liked.
I was somewhat surprised to get a “like” from a committed Corbynite Mrs Gee. I had told her “I’m a bit of a fan of John McDonnell — when he’s doing his day job”.
The qualification was crucial. By day job I meant Shadow Chancellor and I have been impressed by the serious way he has approached that job. He rejected austerity (rightly in my opinion) but he recognised that following two election defeats Labour wasn’t trusted on the economy by voters. This was underlined by polling commissioned former policy chief John Cruddas which showed anti-austerity was a vote loser.
So, early on McDonnell declared “We accept we are going to have to live within our means and we always will do — full stop …. We are not deficit deniers.”
He got into a bit of a tangle over George Osborne’s fiscal charter but came up with his own “fiscal credibility rule” aimed at winning voter trust for Labour’s He sought ideas from an impressive Economic Advisory Committee and he also organised a state of the economy conference with a wide range of speakers, including business bosses. The standout contribution for me was commentator Paul Mason saying the top priority must be boosting private industry.
After less than a year there was little to show in terms of changing attitudes but what couldn’t be doubted was that McDonnell was taking his “day job”
But Shadow Chancellor isn’t McDonnell’s only job. He is widely seen as the brains of the Corbyn project, the effective leader of Momentum and now the attack dog for re-election campaign. That campaign and in particular Jeremy Corbyn’s Ten Pledges has, in my opinion, undone everything McDonnell has sought to achieve.
What’s not to like about a wish list calling for full employment; security at home and at work, a national health and education service and wealth for all? But are sceptical voters expected to be impressed by a plan where to centre piece is an uncosted £500 billion of public investment?
There is a powerful case to be made for large scale investment in infrastructure and skills to generate economic growth. That investment could well extend to “soft” infrastructure such as child care, which many businesses identify as a reason they can’t get the skilled staff they need.
But the case has to be made in a painstaking and persuasive way recognising the deep scepticism it is likely arouse among voters.
The Corbyn wish list is definitely not the way to do it.