Wednesday 27 March 2024


Throughout the Corbyn years, the entire Labour Party agreed about one thing, and that was WASPI. Blairite ultras asked Prime Minister's Questions about it, and held rallies in their constituencies to which they invited, by post, every woman in the age range. They were of one mind with a Corbynite activist base that, being largely one or more of young, male and working-class, was by no means sympathetic to the entitlement that can often characterise middle-class, female Boomers.

The Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the Workers Party, the Greens, the Alba Party, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the DUP are all going into the General Election with that commitment intact. If neither Labour nor the Conservatives did so, then bet your house on a hung Parliament. Now, in coalition negotiations, the first things to go are the things that would cost the most. But the point is that such negotiations would be necessary.

In any case, this very day, the Government is expecting us all to dance in the streets that it has sent yet another $1.5 billion, and that is pointedly how it is phrased, to Ukraine. Over two years, Test and Trace cost £37 billion. And so on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Is there no money, or nowhere enough as would be just? For the victims of contaminated blood, who have to come first? For the victims of Orgreave, Grenfell Tower, the Windrush scandal and the Post Office scandal, who have to come next? For the WASPI women? For anyone? No money? No money? No money?

A tax of one to two per cent on assets above £10 million could abolish the two-child benefit cap 17 times over, while merely taxing each of Britain's 173 billionaires down to one billion pounds per head would raise £1.1 trillion, an entire year's tax take. Labour was always wrong to make the £28 billion about the Green stuff. It should have said that that was an industrial strategy, much of which happened to be Green. "Without an industrial strategy, then why have a Labour Government?" Why, indeed? £28 billion for investment? This Government has borrowed £1.7 trillion for nothing. £28 billion could easily be raised by taxing dividends and capital gains at the same rate as wages, as was the case under Labour's once again beloved Margaret Thatcher.

Put those together with other things, including the massively popular renationalisation of the utilities, and in the right hands there would be no question of rivers running with sewage, or of doubling the pay of the boss of British Gas to £8.2 million, or of withholding NHS Covid bonuses from agency staff until they had been on strike, or of Mel Stride's plan to order DWP staff to take an arbitrary 150,000 people off sickness and disability benefits as if that would cure them or find them jobs, or of Liz Kendall's even more hateful scheme in the same vein.

A sovereign state with its own free-floating, fiat currency has as much of that currency as it chooses to issue to itself, with readily available fiscal and monetary means of controlling any inflationary effect, means that therefore require to be under democratic political control. The responsibility of the Government is to ensure the supply of goods and services to be purchased with that currency. There is no debt. It is an accounting trick. The Treasury, which is the State, has issued bonds to the Bank of England, which is the State. Even if those bonds were held by anyone else, then the State could simply issue itself with enough of its own free floating, fiat currency to redeem them. There is no debt. There is no debt. There is no debt.

It is impossible for the currency-issuing State to run out of money. Money "lent" to the Treasury by the Bank of England is money "lent" to the State by the State; such "debt" will never be called in, much less will bailiffs be sent round. Call this "the Magic Money Tree" if you will. There is no comparison between running the economy and managing a household budget, or even a business. There is no "national credit card" to "max out". Terms such as "taxpayers' money" are extremely and intentionally misleading. "Fiscal headroom" is nothing other than the gap between the Government's tax and spending plans and what would be allowed under the fiscal rules that it sets for itself and changes frequently.

Giving up democratic political control of monetary policy has been a disaster. Without a manifesto commitment, Labour farmed out monetary policy. The Lib Dems forced the creation of the Office for Budget Responsibility. The Conservatives have created the Economic Advisory Council out of thin air. Yet on none of those occasions have the salaries of the First Lord of the Treasury, of all other Treasury Ministers, and of all senior Treasury civil servants been halved, as in each of those cases they should have been.

If there is an Economic Advisory Council, then what is the Treasury for? And look who is on it. Imperial protectorates and Indian princely states had British advisers whose advice had to be taken, and our nominally sovereign little colony of BlackRock and JP Morgan is in much the same position. Rupert Harrison was George Osborne's long-time Chief of Staff and then Evening Standard employee, while Osborne, Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid are also all advising Hunt. Harrison has been selected as the Conservative candidate for Bicester and Woodstock. Yet whom would you have instead? Rachel Reeves? Even if Harrison were a sitting Conservative MP, then would Reeves remove him from the Economic Advisory Council? Merely to ask that question answers it.

But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Keir Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

I have no plan to join the Workers Party of Britain, although nor would I expect to stand against it. If, however, it did not contest North Durham, then I would. 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. We have made a start.

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