Tuesday 7 February 2023

A Realistic Chance To Enact

If Trussonomics had been accompanied by spending cuts, then the markets' reaction would have been even worse. The fantasies of the Walter Mittys on Tufton Street and on the former Fleet Street bear no resemblance to the views of the Masters of the Universe.

Since October 1997, when I was a fresher at Durham, types from the City have been telling me that I "would be surprised" at the real political centre of gravity there. I believe them. Ken Livingstone worked very effectively with it for eight years, his office largely staffed by  Socialist Action, which was what Tariq Ali's International Marxist Group had become. And now, this.

As Shadow Shadow Chancellor for decades, and then on the frontbench, John McDonnell cultivated all sorts of links that Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng and the rest of the Tufties simply never did. They assumed that they had the Square Mile on side, when in fact nothing could have been further from the case. The City might not have liked any of McDonnell's fiscal events awfully much, although it is rarely all that keen on anyone's, but it could and would have lived with them all. It simply could not live with Kwarteng's only one, to the point of forcing first his removal from office and then Truss's.

And nothing could suit British business better than a First Lord of Treasury with a profound understanding of, and close connections to, the rising peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa, including the popularly elected President of more than 200 million Brazilians. That will never now be Jeremy Corbyn, and he largely has himself to blame. But it does need to be someone, and soon.

Soon after the collapse of the Truss "Government", McDonnell rightly reminded us that while he and Corbyn had been derided for having explored the possibility that their policies might have led to a run on the pound, Kwarteng and Truss had obviously never even considered it. In reality, as McDonnell detailed, the City did not like many of his and Corbyn's agenda, voted against them, and gave plenty of money to the other side, but had those agenda become Government policy, then the City would have factored them in, because that is what it does.

If it can. Kwarteng's and Truss's programme was demonstrably incapable of being worked with, in, within, or even around. Briefly, but memorably, we were governed by people whose fixed ideological presuppositions had led them to thoroughly unsuccessful careers in the field for which they had purported to speak ever since that failure had spurred them into the full-time politics that they had always been going to take up eventually. They still cannot comprehend that, having been put into practice, everything in which they had always believed had turned out to have been an unmitigated disaster in its own terms.

Yet while Labour opportunistically pretended to oppose the abolition of the 45p rate of income tax, the only mini-Budget measure than had not been in Truss's prospectus to her party's membership, it supported everything else that even Jeremy Hunt, of all people, has felt the need to reverse. Had the mini-Budget ever been put to a Commons Division, then Labour's whipped abstention would have saved Truss and Kwarteng from Hunt, Rishi Sunak, and all the rest of them. Labour is going into the next General Election as the only party that still thought that Trussonomics was broadly, and often very specifically, a good idea.

Starmer versus Truss could have resulted in a Labour overall majority, but Starmer versus Sunak will result in a hung Parliament. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.