Liam Byrne urges Labour to “call time on neo-liberalism”

liam byrne

Liam Byrne will urge the Labour Party today to “call time on neo-liberalism” and rewrite the rules governing the British economy to tackle inequality and injustice. The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury will also call on the party to rewrite Clause 4 of its constitution to commit itself to creating a more equal society.

In a wide-ranging speech to Policy Network, Byrne, who backed Yvette Coopr for leader, will concede that Labour’s moderates lost the argument during the leadership election. “As a party we had stopped making big ethical arguments,” he will admit. “If Mr Corbyn’s election said one thing to the Labour family it was this: We want the debate about injustice and inequality front of house, not somewhere lost in the wings.”

Byrne will welcome this renewed focus on tackling inequality, arguing that Britain is being “scarred ever deeper by … gross inequalities in income, wealth and power” because of the failures of the rules and institutions that govern the country’s economy.

“That’s why I love Jeremy Corbyn’s passion for challenging inequality,” he will say. “That idealism unites us. It’s why he’s not a Trot – and I’m not a Tory. It’s why we’re both in the Labour Party. There is much he campaigned on that we agree on. ‘Tax justice’, rebalancing the fiscal burden, ‘welfare efficiency’, industrial policy, a green plan and devolution.”

Byrne will question, however, Corbyn’s plans for peoples’ quantitative easing, renationalization and a substantial rise in public spending. He suggests instead what he calls a radical ‘Alternative Economic Strategy’ to “rewrite the rules” for the Bank of England, the financial markets, companies and the Office of Budget Responsibility.

This strategy would:

  • Change the Bank of England’s mandate to prioritise full employment as well as controlling inflation – like America’s 1978 Humphrey Hawkins Act.
  • Reward long term investors with extra voting rights on company boards like America, France and Italy; change the rules for pension fund trustees to encourage long term investment; and introduce a Community Reinvestment Act to unlock “social investment” in deprived communities.
  • Change rules for company boards by giving greater voice to long-term stakeholders, such as creditors and workers.
  • Rewrite the rules for the Office of Budget Responsibility so it reports to Parliament on how we close the tax gap – the difference between the amount of tax that should, in theory, be collected by the government, against what is actually collected.
  • Boost the budget for science in universities, raising science spending to 3% of GDP like the Germans and South Koreans to crowd in more investment to science and innovation.
  • Rewrite the National Curriculum for our schools to help accelerate a young entrepreneur’s revolution by delivering enterprise education to every child in every school.
  • Rewrite the rules for our social security system, reintroducing the contributory principle and an earned entitlement to subsidized lifetime loans for college, apprenticeship study – or simply reskilling, like the HELP loans in Australia.

Byrne will conclude his speech by calling on the Labour Party to rewrite its aims and values. “I want a party of entrepreneurial socialism. Expecting, encouraging, urging the individual to make the absolute most of their abilities – that’s the entrepreneurial bit. Building a society where each of us are contributing to the common good and a country that makes it easy to flourish. That’s the socialism.”

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