By Theo Russell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Number Two, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, discussed the challenges facing a future Labour government with Jenny Manson at the Clayton Crown Hotel in Cricklewood last week. Jenny is a veteran Labour supporter and co-chair of the Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) movement that was established partly in response to the Jewish Labour Movement's profoundly Zionist orientation. But the chair made it clear that the discussion would concentrate on Brexit, Labour’s answer to the economic crisis, and would not deal with any questions relating to Israel, Palestine or anti-Semitism.
Jenny Manson is firm favourite to be Labour’s parliamentary candidate in the Finchley and Golders Green constituency at the next election, and a wide range of issues from a socialist perspective were taken up, including how a future Labour government will pay for its plans and how Jenny Manson as a future MP could help realise these.
The first question she put to McDonnell was why Labour failed to challenge the lie that the 2008 financial crisis was the caused by government over-spending.
McDonnell replied: “After the 2008 crash I called for the government to ‘nationalise and stabilise’ the banks, but when the banks were nationalised the government failed to take control of their boards of directors.
“As a result, the injection of massive amounts of quantitative easing into the banking system was to the advantage of wealthy asset holders, while the rest of the population saw their living standards slashed. Those who caused the 2008 crisis are not the ones who ended up paying for it.
“When Gordon Brown lost the election and resigned as leader there was a vacuum when the myth of the government over-spending and the deficit causing the crisis went unchallenged.”
Asked by why the Labour leadership had adopted “austerity light” under Ed Miliband, McDonnell said that this was “one of the issues that propelled JC [Jeremy Corbyn] into the leadership”.
He described Andy Burnham’s abstention in the vote on the Tory benefit reforms as “shameful” and said: “Added to that, at that time people didn’t understand the full implications of what the Tories were doing.”
McDonnell said that Britain had been starved of commercial investment, saying “corporations in Britain have funds of £700 billion which are not being invested. We plan to set up a Strategic Investment Board bringing together the Bank of England, trade unions and employers.”
He said Labour also planned to spend £49 billion on the NHS and to abolish university fees.
Speaking about the shocking levels of poverty after eight years of LibDem and Tory government, he said that in his constituency, Hayes and Harlington in West London, “there are people sleeping on the streets, families renting sheds and garages to live in, people living in abject poverty because of benefits sanctions and bans, and children are out on the streets every day getting into drugs and gangs because their parents work such long hours.
“We’ve seen an 83-year-old asylum seeker taken to hospital in handcuffs where he died, still in handcuffs, and only recently a homeless person died only yards from the Westminster parliament.
“Record numbers of children are being taken into care because of families collapsing and we have four-million children living in poverty, two-thirds of them in families that are working.”
Without an election and change of government, this situation is only going to get much worse. McDonnell warned that: “The Tories are now planning cuts of £1.7 billion in the autumn budget and the Local Government Association has said many local councils can’t go on much longer. We are now facing a situation in which the entire social fabric of our society is at risk.”