After years of austerity the Shadow Chancellor says he and Corbyn will return power to the local communities and “left-behind” towns who have suffered most.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell today unveils a radical new plan to put power in the hands of local people.
Starting next week, Mr McDonnell and other senior Labour figures will tour some of Britain’s most “left-behind” towns.
And they will take the information they gather to help draw up the party’s next manifesto.
Mr McDonnell said: “When Labour goes into government, everyone goes into government.
“Different areas have had different experiences over the last two generations. Take northern towns, or coastal towns, where they have lost their traditional industries. Nothing has filled that gap.
“But overlay that with the eight years of austerity that’s hit the whole of the country – the whole social fabric goes. The police, NHS, education – all of those elements are being kicked from underneath them.”
Mr McDonnell will launch Labour’s tour with a visit to the coastal town of Hastings in East Sussex next week.
It is the hub of the constituency where ex-Home Secretary Amber Rudd held on as MP at the last election with a reduced majority.
Other visits will cover much of the country and run most of the summer.
He added: “We’re going to areas where we think even though they might be Labour there needs to be a radical change in the local economy.
“We’re looking at basic issues like employment. What’s the nature of the employment there? What’s the balance of it?
“Is it one that’s looking toward the future? Have they got the infrastructure, road, rail, skills to develop their economy?
“A lot of the feedback we get is that people like living in their local area but they don’t feel connected.”
Mr McDonnell refuses to rule out an early election and believes Labour must be on a war footing.
And he believes that by focussing on local issues the party will be in an ideal position to get into Downing Street.
The election can come at any time and so we’ve got to be ready for it. That’s in terms of our policies and how we draw up a fresh manifesto.
“I think the Tories will cling on for as long as possible. But we’ve got to be ready just in case there is an autumn or spring election.
“They are completely irresponsible, more interested in the party interests than the country.
“And they are so divided it’s very difficult to see how they can sustain themselves in government.”
Labour will hold “town meetings” every two weeks in different places. They plan to focus on areas where they narrowly missed out on victory
Mr McDonnell said: “We bring together the local party, trade unions, community organisations and businesses.
“This is real grass-roots stuff. We are on the stump every fortnight, all the way round the country. They are areas where we feel we can gather ideas for policies round issues people are facing.
We’re leading from the Treasury team first of all. That means we’ll go along with our statistics and say, ‘This is what the stats say, what do you say as local people?’
“The first discussions will be on the economy. What we know already is that insecure employment, low pay and heavy costs are issues.
“The fabric of local communities is falling apart. There’s no sense of hope.
“So we want to find out what the problems are and give people the solutions.”
Mr McDonnell believes that people are proud of their areas but haven’t been given the means to develop them properly.
And he feels years of neglect have taken their toll. He added: “The expression that keeps coming back is, ‘The Government has run this area down’.
“So we want to draw up local prospectuses. What plans should we bring in as the Government?
“Our view, when we go into government next time, is that our manifesto will be a national manifesto based on those local discussions.
“We’ll also be publishing local manifestos in particular areas.
“It’s a new form of democracy, democratising the whole process.”
Mr McDonnell gave the example of a visit to Pendle in Lancashire. He said: “Employment has increased but it’s all very low-paid and insecure.
“They were saying, ‘We know what the problem is: one of the local rail lines closed under Beeching’.
“If we could get it reopened that’s east-west traffic and then we’re away.
“That’s the wisdom of crowds and what we want to tap into.
“When we go into the next election everyone will know what they will get. We can’t give people the confidence that we can transform the nation if we can’t give them the power to transform their local area.”
Keir Mudie, Daily Mirror, 14th July