What do Labour members think about the economy?

This week, we’ve been talking to Labour Party members from across the country and our party to find out what they think needs to change in our economy. You can tell us what you think here.

Simran, aged 20, Willenhall

Simran joined the party when she was 16 years old because she’d had enough of Tory austerity. She’s currently a student and secretary of her local Labour branch.

I don’t consider myself as an economic expert but for me it’s all about balancing the books and creating an economy that works for all. I know that we have a lot of debt, running into the trillions. It’s also about growth and whether people are in work and whether we’re spending money and actually where they’re spending money. This is what has an impact on local businesses. It’s a shame when local businesses are having to close due to austerity because people don’t have the money to spend. Spending money locally is important for the local economy.

I also think that the economy isn’t going great at the moment – I don’t think the uncertainty caused by Brexit is good. We are still unaware of the outcome and businesses are having to make adjustments. I want an economy where wealth is not just at the top for the few. There needs to be a re-distribution of wealth. It’s been nine long years of austerity and things really need to change – people have suffered for long enough. This is about inequality and fairness. Local councils are having to make huge cuts to their budget, and that means that they’re having to make really horrible decisions about what to cut next. I also think we have to come up with new indicators for the economy. It should be about people being in employment and local businesses thriving. For me it’s about having a good local economy and making sure that local communities are stronger.

Fran, aged 63, Vauxhall

Fran has been involved in Labour for a long time. She left the party around the time of the Iraq War but came back to the party just before Jeremy Corbyn was elected. She is a WASPI woman and chair of Disability Labour.

I think it’s very hard for somebody who was born into money to understand what it’s like if you weren’t. I’ve had the privilege of having had good jobs and earning a really good salary where I didn’t have to think about what I spent. Nowadays my life is very different. I grew up in very humble circumstances; as a child we lived on a pretty tight income and I’m back to doing that now. I see there is a huge imbalance in economic power in this country when you think about number of rich people and the obscene amount of people living in poverty today. We are the sixth richest country in the world and we should have nobody homeless and nobody living in poverty. That’s something that a lot of people could do something about and are deliberately choosing not to.

We have an economy that works for the few, not the many. We have got austerity by choice, not by reason, and I’m completely against that. We’ve got a system whereby you have 20%+ of the population who are marginalised. I’m not just talking about economic quality of life. I’m talking about psychological quality of life, sociological quality of life. What I would like to see is a social security system that works and a national independent living fund to allow people with a disability to have a normal life. It would make a huge difference. You cannot have a system as we have at the moment where universal credit is deliberately sending people into poverty and into debt. That’s fundamentally amoral. There’s no other way of describing it.

Will, aged 27, Croydon

Will joined the party because of its recent shift to the left. By joining Labour, he felt that he was finding his feet politically. He works in international development and is involved in his local party.

I often hear people say the economy is the means for distributing goods according to demand and supply, but I think it’s actually much more complicated than that. Too much importance is paid to making our social lives fit with the economy and not the other way round. It feels like we are subordinate to the economy, which is clearly run in the disproportionate interests of some. It’s also two systems: people like you and me live under a neoliberal system, but people with wealth enjoy a more socialist system. They seem to be able to take risks without there being any consequences, we give housing benefit to landlords, we bail out banks, we subsidise the wages of employers paying poverty wages. It’s like security is given to the wrong people.

Labour still accepts the narrative that growth is always good and the economy is the be all and end all. I think we need to deconstruct this idea as it relies on us living in a mass consumer society, which needs to be reigned in. GDP is not everything. If everyone started smoking 45 cigarettes a day, I’m sure GDP would increase but that’s not necessarily a good thing. GDP doesn’t measure your ability to go for a walk in central London without breathing in exhaust fumes, pumped out by cars that may have increased GDP. In the economy we don’t talk about human, spiritual or community needs. The more consumerism we have, the more the economy grows, but this destroys how we actually connect with one another. I would like to see more measures around inequality, environmental impact and happiness built into how we understand the economy.

Jane, aged 61, Wigan

Jane grew up in Caerphilly and has been a member periodically for the last 40 years. One of her first memories was getting involved in the miners’ strikes. She’s a retired teacher and is involved in her local party.

I was fortunate enough to save money but this was affected by interest rates so the value has diminished. This upsets older people because it seems unfair, though the interest rate changes also help young people so I guess it’s a balance. Inequality has also worsened over my lifetime. Back in the ’80s, greed took over – quite subtle but it’s really had an effect. People are more out for themselves. The acquisition of wealth has gained importance in our community consumer society. It’s a bad thing and it’s gotten much worse.

Society has become materialistic. It encourages the feeling that it is people’s own fault and that if you’ve got lots of money it’s because you’ve worked hard. It comes back to this divisiveness. There’s no feeling of care for others and people don’t seem to realise that people can work really really hard but still be struggling. I think there needs to be a higher interest rate on savings and it’s important that wages keep up with inflation. House prices also need to be more in line with what people can actually afford. For me the economy is the bread and butter of life. It’s about how much houses and food cost, people having stable, well-paid jobs that haven’t existed for a long time. It’s about the cost of living.

This piece was commissioned by Labour Together, which is guest editing LabourList this week.

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