Tuesday 28 May 2024

We Mean Business

Not that it is an institution with which one should boast of an association, but how long was Rachel Reeves at the Bank of England, and what was she doing there? Labour's list of business backers included a number of fire and rehire merchants, so the party's complete abandonment of workers' rights makes sense. When are the unions going to disaffiliate?

Yet the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, including the Single Market and the Customs Union, provides a double opportunity, both to reorganise the British economy under State direction, and to begin to develop a fully independent British foreign policy, including in relation to the United States. On that basis, Britain should be entering a new pro-business age.

The pro-business tradition came down to the Attlee Government from the ultraconservative figures of Colbert and Bismarck, via the Liberals Keynes and Beveridge, and it held sway in Britain until the Callaghan Government's turn to monetarism in December 1976.

That tradition corresponds closely but critically to the Hamiltonian American School as expanded by the American System of Henry Clay, a pro-business tradition that between the 1860s and the 1970s worked to make the United States the world's largest economy, with the world's highest standard of living, culminating in the glorious achievements of the New Deal, which in turn made possible the Civil Rights movement.

With a strict division between investment banking and retail banking, large amounts of central government credit, over a long term and at low if any rates of interest, would build great national projects, notably enormous expansions in infrastructure. Those would then pay for themselves many times over, ably assisted by pro-business tariffs and subsidies, and by a pro-business National Bank to promote the growth of productive enterprises rather than speculation.

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. Those means therefore require to be under democratic political control.

For the good of business, we should implement Theresa May's original Prime Ministerial agenda of workers' and consumers' representation in corporate governance, shareholders' control over executive pay, restrictions on pay differentials within companies, an investment-based Industrial Strategy and infrastructure programme including greatly increased housebuilding, action against tax avoidance including a ban on public contracts for tax-avoiding companies, a real cap on energy prices, a ban or significant restrictions on foreign takeovers, a ban on unpaid internships, and an inquiry into Orgreave.

For the good of business, the approval of the House of Commons should be required for changes to interest rates, a strict Glass-Steagall division should be introduced between investment banking and retail banking, the Freedom of Information Act should be extended to the City of London, its municipal franchise should be conformed to that of local government in general, all tax havens under British jurisdiction should be closed, non-domiciled tax status should be abolished, the Big Four accounting firms should be broken up, auditors should be banned by Statute from selling extras, they should have unlimited liability, Crown immunity should be abolished, and Limited Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships should be required to have at least one member who was a natural person resident in the United Kingdom.

For the good of business, the State should buy a stake in every FTSE 500 company, large enough to secure Board-level representation, for the exercise of which both the First and the Second Lords of the Treasury would be accountable to the House of Commons, so that after any investment in public services, the dividends would be distributed equally to everyone by the Treasury.

And for the good of business, public bodies and public contractors should be required by Statute to buy British wherever possible and to buy local wherever possible, while employment rights should begin with employment and apply regardless of the number of hours worked, leading to a four-day working week as soon as practicable.

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.

The Workers Party of Britain is not contesting North Durham, so I am. Please contact davidaslindsay@hotmail.com, including if you might be able to help with, not to put too fine a point on it, money. But I will be on that ballot paper, come what may. At the time of writing, there is no Labour, Conservative, or Liberal Democrat candidate at North Durham. 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.