Monday, 26 September 2016

Shadow Treasurer speech

That was an interesting speech by John McDonnell to the Labour Conference in Liverpool today. In many ways it was a repudiation of the Blair-Brown-Mandelson attitude towards the banks and financial services industry. He promised to abolish tax avoidance - though not admitting the vehicles for tax avoidance provided by the Blair-Brown governments. There were promises to intervene in industry, including threats to renationalise some companies. So far, so socialist, as his ringing acceptance of the label in his peroration made clear.

But there were a couple of policies which an old Liberal would have endorsed. He spoke at length in favour of worker participation on company boards and of worker cooperatives (the one successful policy which the Liberal side of the Lib-Pact pact of the 1970s was able to push through). He also supported the demand for "sectoral collective bargaining". I had to look up this piece of jargon, which turned out* very similar to the wages councils (steadily dismantled by the Thatcher government and given the final blow by Cameron) which had their origin in the Liberal government trade boards established in 1909.

There was also an endorsement of small business and even independent traders. He went so far as to promise support for this sector in implementing a genuine legal minimum wage. This is a considerable break from the monopoly-loving Labour of the past (though McDonnell also promised to support BT in providing broadband).

Another refreshing aspect was the absence of attacks on Liberal Democrats - indeed, there was implicit praise for Liberal Democrats in the Lords who cooperated with Labour to halt some oppressive Tory legislation.

There was the usual backing track of attacks on Conservatives, deserved to a great extent, but the ritual does get wearing after a while. However, there were at least firm policy proposals which can be debated, rather than the woolly mess which has marked Labour economic policy in the past.

*From a helpful Canadian site:
How would unions obtain sectoral bargaining rights?
A sector would have two defining characteristics:  a geographic scope and type of work involving “similar tasks”.  So for example if this was applied in Ontario, you could have a sector such as “employees working in fast food in the City of Toronto”.  There would be questions for the labour board to sort out, such as how narrow the tasks can be divided.  Can a sector be “employees working in coffee shops” or “employees working women’s apparel”?
Once a historically underrepresented sector is identified, then any union that can obtain at least 45% support majority support at two or more employers in that sector can apply for a sectoral certification.  The union would have to win a vote at each location as well as  win a majority of all employees combined.  If the union is successful, it would obtain a sectoral certification.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

I have to report that on the afternoon after I posted the root message, one delegate did slag off the Liberal Democrats.