John McDonnell MP
This week should be an opportunity to rule out both a bad deal and a disastrous ‘no deal’.
We still hope to have an opportunity to replace Theresa May’s deal with a deal that works for jobs and industry.
To achieve that we need politicians to have the courage to stand up for the long term future of our country.
But what disappoints me is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself isn’t acting with the sense of responsibility that this moment deserves.
We’re on the verge of a No Deal Brexit which could decimate British industry and bring about – in the words of the Bank of England – a worse economic catastrophe than the financial crisis ten years ago.
Philip Hammond has repeatedly spoken about the dangers of a No Deal Brexit.
But here we are, a couple of weeks away from one, and all he has to show for his high office is words. No actions.
Can you imagine Rab Butler, Nigel Lawson or Ken Clarke allowing their Cabinet colleagues to best them in this way?
Let alone Hugh Gaitskell, Denis Healey or Gordon Brown?
Whatever differences you might have with any of them, the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer comes with a responsibility which Philip Hammond has utterly abdicated.
If Brexit ends up leading to even half of what the Government’s own forecasts suggest could happen, history will judge harshly the few who could have averted this potential disaster.
The effects of their complicity are already there for everyone to see.
The slowest growth in six years.
Manufacturing in recession.
A trade deficit over ten billion pounds last quarter.
Growth forecasts being revised downwards by the Bank of England and others.
Firms announcing their intentions to leave the UK.
All avoidable, were it not for the political weakness and, yes, the cowardice of the Chancellor.
And whatever happens with Brexit, that’s damage to people’s lives which cannot be undone.
But the referendum result did not come on the back of a healthy economy.
The slowest recovery since the 1920s.
Wages below where they were ten years ago.
Job figures which disguise the reality of insecure work, zero hour contracts and short time working.
Nearly three million people – in work – working fewer than fifteen hours a week.
Last year the top 20% had an income rise of 5% while the poorest saw their incomes fall by 2%.
This is an economy which is stagnant and unbalanced, with millions shut out from the rewards which it creates.
With planned transport investment in London two and a half times larger per person than in the north.
While Inner London’s GDP is more than six times the European average, West Wales and The Valleys has GDP only two-thirds the EU average.
Male children born in Kensington, Liverpool, can expect to live 18 years less than those born in parts of Kensington & Chelsea.
Over 20% of young people from a Bangladeshi or Pakistani background are unemployed.
Over 25% of black young people are without a job.
A society where 155 women and 103 children a day are turned away from refuges because of funding cuts.
After nine hard years of austerity, we see the effects not just in the headline economic figures.
No doubt the Chancellor will celebrate a fall in government borrowing on Wednesday.
But at what cost?
The Chancellor hasn’t eliminated the deficit, he’s just shifted it onto the shoulders of others.
Deficits passed down to NHS managers, council leaders, headteachers and police commissioners…
Local government on its knees…
Child poverty rising…
Children being stabbed to death on our streets…
87 people a day dying while waiting for social care…
Universal Credit – sold to us as ‘making work pay’.
Rolled out in a way that’s driving people to food banks and into poverty.
Surely even those who go home with the highest salaries in their pockets must be shocked by the number of homeless people they have to step over on the way to their cars?
Surely those 54 British billionaires on the Forbes Billionaires List last week must be shocked by infant mortality increasing in this country, and life expectancy dropping?
Surely that top 20% whose incomes have risen by 5% in the last year must be shocked by the 1 million pensioners we have living in severe poverty?
The whole social fabric of our society torn apart…
Sacrificed on the altar of an economic approach which was never supported by economists…
And which has failed on even the terms which it set itself…
Remember the “march of the makers”?
Whatever happened to that?
Or the Tories in opposition eliminating the deficit by 2015?
A failure from start to finish.
And with a human cost almost too unbearable to describe.
I’ve had enough.
And, I believe, so have many others.
It’s time to call out those responsible.
Philip Hammond was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury when George Osborne devised his austerity strategy.
He is complicit in every cut, every closure, every preventable death of someone waiting for hospital treatment or social care.
That will be this Chancellor’s legacy, whatever happens with Brexit negotiations and votes.
And history will hold him responsible for that too, as much as George Osborne.
There are no alibis.
And there will be no hiding places from history’s judgment.
I saw to the Chancellor: “you were there, you made it happen”.
You need to look people in the eyes and own the reality of what you have created.
And while the Chancellor has spoken about the productivity crisis, and other challenges facing us in this country, he has done nothing about it.
We still have an economy 16% less productive than other G7 countries.
Lack of investment meaning that many regions of our country struggle to even meet average levels of productivity, while London and the South East soar ahead.
We have a government that will have cut on average 14% from departments between 2010 and 2020, and over 40% from some.
Our economy is not just failing people here and now, it’s failing future generations.
We face challenges that require the whole economy to pull together.
By failing to invest now we are leaving behind to our children an economy poorer, weaker and less prepared than they deserve.
We need a finance sector that invests in the industries of the future, not lending for more housing speculation.
We need a manufacturing sector working with government to develop the new technologies and services that will enable us to cope with the fourth industrial revolution.
And we know now that it has to be a Green Industrial Revolution.
The UK was the first country to go through the industrial revolution, and the names of John Kay, James Hargreaves, Richard Arkwright and others are fixed into the memories of generations of students.
But the failure of the government to support the next industrial revolution – the revolution that will begin to reverse the damage done by the industrialised age – means we risk missing out on the world-changing research and development that will define the next century.
If the government doesn’t make that happen here, we face two options.
Either it doesn’t happen at all,and future generations face the consequences for our planet…
Or other countries will do what’s needed, and the UK will be left behind.
In the Autumn Budget, Philip Hammond did not mention the words ‘climate change’ even once.
You won’t hear much about that in Wednesday’s Spring Statement.
There won’t be much on the existential threat that faces our planet, nor the real challenges facing our economy.
We can expect more of the same.
Warm words about the need to avoid a No Deal Brexit.
Maybe some more rhetoric about the end of austerity.
But nothing to relieve the suffering of millions out there today…
Or to prepare us for tomorrow…
A Chancellor stuck in the economic model of the past, clinging to the dogmas of the past and passing the buck for the results of his inaction.
We can have no more of this.
This is a week when we say: no more.
When we will lay bare the failures of this government and the damage it has done to our society.
But also where we will seek in Parliament a route through the Brexit chaos the Government has created.
And an end to austerity once and for all.
To give our people a vision for the future and restore hope to our communities.