John McDonnell: My message for the Davos elite – austerity was a con trick

John McDonnell

This is the full statement published by shadow chancellor John McDonnell before attending the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.

I am going to Davos with a warning for the global elite.

Many of those attending the World Economic Forum have been patting themselves on the back as international growth figures have begun to pick up.

But they should be worried. In the real world, outside the Davos bubble of Alpine restaurants and chalets, the global economic system they have built isn’t working for billions of people.

And just as Davos faces the risk of an avalanche this week, growth for a few risks a political and social avalanche unless there is fundamental change to our rigged economic system.

In the depths of a recession people focus on getting by. But when they are told things are getting better and see no evidence of it in their own lives, they begin to demand real change.

In country after country people have suffered a decade of austerity since the crash of 2008. They know austerity was a con trick when they see that the wealth of the super-rich has doubled and banks and corporations have been rewarded with tax cuts.

Ordinary people have worked hard to dig us out a slump they didn’t cause, as they have been forced to accept low wages and long hours while paying off the costs of the crisis with their taxes.

What did they get in return? Their public services cut and sold off, soaring pay and bonuses at the very top and tax dodging on an industrial scale, exposed by the Panama and Paradise papers.

So my warning is this. If the current system isn’t radically changed and its rules rewritten, people are not going to put up with it.

Real change to the system is Labour’s mission, one we share with parties and movements all over the world. The real wealth creators – that means all of us, not just those with offshore bank accounts – must share in the prosperity we all create.

To achieve that, we must launch a global drive against tax dodging and financial secrecy, for democratic control over our economy and to protect our planet.

The Davos few have hoarded power and wealth and failed the many. If they stand in the way of the change that’s needed, they risk raising the price they pay. Change is coming either way.

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