The outcome of the EU referendum has been unfairly blamed on the working class in the north of England, and even on obesity.7 However, because of differential turnout and the size of the denominator population, most people who voted Leave lived in the south of England.8 Furthermore, of all those who voted for Leave, 59% were in the middle classes (A, B, or C1). The proportion of Leave voters in the lowest two social classes (D and E) was just 24%.8 The Leave voters among the middle class were crucial to the final result because the middle class constituted two thirds of all those who voted. Continue reading
But even so, let me make three warnings.
We’ve seen ugly things happening up and down the country, and the license given to horrible, malign forces by the way the Leave campaign conducted itself. Notwithstanding those awful events: please let’s not think of the vast majority of the people I’ve talked about as stupid, or deluded, or bigoted or hateful. I don’t believe 17 million people are like that. In fact, I think I’m confident enough to say I know that.
If you woke up on Friday morning thinking the country was suddenly in the hands of a social tribe you didn’t know much about and you were suddenly terrified about the future, bear in mind: that is how millions of people in this country have been living for decades.
Please understand that the Labour Party has left a vacuum in these places which has been growing for ten or fifteen years. And if the result is denied, certainly while all of this is still raw, Ukip – with or without Nigel Farage, or maybe something even nastier – may well sweep through a lot of England and Wales, and the terrain for meaningful progressive politics will be destroyed. That’s how high the stakes are.
The number of children living in poverty in the UK has jumped by 200,000 in a year, according to the latest official data.
There were 3.9 million children living in “relative poverty” in 2014-15, up from 3.7 million a year earlier, the figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show.
Whoever emerges as Labour’s leader after the dust has settled will be dealing with a country riven by deep inequalities and divisions, and crying out for leadership and a bold vision of how to move on from here. McDonnell’s evolving economic plan has much that Labour should develop, whatever its future leadership, just as McDonnell and his team can themselves be seen as offering not so much a hard break from the Miliband era, but a further development of some of the best ideas, of using forms of predistribution to tackle the root causes of inequality, on which Miliband’s team had worked.
McDonnell has realized that, in the post-crash era of quantitative easing, in which macroeconomic policy is made as much by central banks as by finance ministries, parties of the left can no longer leave monetary policy to the technocrats. His commission examining the workings of the Monetary Policy Committee, chaired by former MPC member Professor David Blanchflower, should be central to Labour’s future economic thinking, and should not be ignored by any post-Corbyn leader. Similarly, McDonnell has asked Professor Prem Sikka to report on the future functioning of HMRC, and Lord Kerslake, a former head of the UK civil service, to report on the functioning of the Treasury, and to investigate the case for its future division into separate ministries of finance and economic development. This fundamental work will allow Labour to think more seriously about the future of a progressive macroeconomic policy.
As well as needing to reach out to the 48% of the population who voted ‘Remain’ and the millions, especially among younger people, who wished they had done so, Labour needs to speak to those who voted for Leave out of a sense of economic desperation. The sense of economic hopelessness that drove voters into the arms of the ‘Leave’ campaign in the northeast, south Wales, parts of Yorkshire and the East of England, and in many coastal towns, can be addressed only by an ambitious return to forms of industrial policy that direct investment towards areas that need to retool their economies. Plans for regional development banks under Miliband have been further developed under McDonnell, with the thinking of his team being much informed by the work of Professor Mariana Mazzucato, and her book on the Entrepreneurial State. Any future Labour strategy for regional economic development must also follow McDonnell in supporting innovative Labour councils, such as Preston City Council, which has looked for ways to develop the local economy through growing the cooperative sector, and using the power of procurement spending by the local authority and other local ‘anchor institutions’ in order to encourage an ecosystem of local enterprises to grow and thrive.
Corbyn was the strongest candidate for the Labour leadership last year, because only his campaign of the four seemed prepared to think at the right scale about the challenges of inequality and economic marginalisation. Throwing out the best and most popular features of Corbyn’s programme now would be self-defeating in the extreme, whoever is to be Labour’s leader into the next election.
Labour After the Earthquake