Monday 9 December 2019 / 11:09 AM Economy / John McDonnell

Full text of John McDonnell’s speech on the first 100 days of a Labour government

Speaking at a press conference laying out the main priorities for the first hundred days of a Labour government, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, said: 

***Check against delivery***

Only three weeks ago Jeremy Corbyn launched our manifesto. The most inspiring manifesto of any election I’ve ever stood in. Since then we’ve won the debate out there in the country.

First the Tories denied they were brutally slashing our public services, then they admitted it but said it was necessary, now Boris Johnson has admitted austerity was wrong… while promising in their manifesto to continue it for five more years.

As the IFS said about the Conservatives’ Manifesto, it has austerity “baked in.” So we’ve won the argument for our vision of a brighter, fairer, more sustainable future.

A future in which all can share – not just a lucky few. But some say it can’t be done, that we’re too ambitious.

Ten years of Tory austerity, of undermining any hope of change, have had their effect: of limiting people’s horizons and the potential for real change.

So let me be crystal clear about this – we’re setting our sights higher than any opposition party has ever done before. And we’re doing that because we have to.

Because the scale of the challenge is greater than ever.

To rebuild the shattered communities and public services from the wreckage which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have created over the past ten years.

While at the same time we’ve got no time to lose.

If we are going to stop the climate emergency becoming something even worse, any future General Election will be too late. We need to start this week, and we need to start together.

Only a Labour government will mobilise the necessary resources and put communities, which the Tories have held down for so long, at the heart of our plan to rebuild Britain.

And of course that ambition needs to be matched by a plan. So I’ve been meeting with Shadow Cabinet colleagues for months now, drawing up detailed plans for their department budgets, talking to them about their priorities. And working up draft plans to hand to the civil servants on Friday.

So let me now set out my priorities for my first hundred days in the Treasury and how we’ll put power and wealth into the hands of those who create it.

Firstly, the next few years are vital if we are to tackle the climate and environmental emergency, and doing that will mean getting money moving out of the City and Whitehall into the places that need it.

We’ve wasted ten years of the Tories serving the interests of big polluters. And in too many parts of the country, we have been wasting people’s potential for much longer. That’s down to successive governments sitting back and leaving the fate of whole communities at the mercy of market forces.

Good jobs and whole industries that were once the pride of our country have been lost and replaced with dreary, exploitative, insecure and low paid jobs, or in some cases no jobs at all. No wonder people feel disillusioned in politicians.

As our manifesto makes clear, turning these two things around will be our number one priority in government. Our Green Industrial Revolution will deliver the changes we need to avert climate catastrophe.

And it will put British industry back on the map, bringing prosperity to every part of our country. It will give every community something to be proud of.

The pride that comes with an honest day’s work, yes, but also more than that. The pride of being on the right side in this crucial moment of human history. The pride, quite literally, of helping to save the planet.

A few weeks ago I launched our regional manifestos setting out how every single part of the country will be part of our Green Industrial Revolution. They set out a plan to expand and create new industries in each region.

The first priority of a Labour Government will be getting investment going to make this happen. We’ll set up our National Transformation Unit immediately – before Christmas – so it can start work in the Treasury, before being moved out to its new office in the north of England early next year.

It will provide the initial finance for our new National Investment Bank, regional development banks and Post Bank, using the power of the Treasury to get affordable finance onto every high street in Britain.

We’ve already started our meetings with the Treasury, they are working up plans and getting ready to implement all this. So don’t be fooled by the doubters who say our plans are unachievable.

A decade of austerity, and forty years of believing the market knows best, have dulled people’s sense of what’s possible, just as they were intended to do.

That’s why – if we are to help make hope real again – we need to remake government, and what people expect from it.

We’re creating new institutions – institutions that will become a normal part of people’s lives, like the NHS. Institutions that we will come to cherish and rely on, like the NHS.

And, like the NHS, institutions that will only be set up under a Labour government.

Central among those institutions will be publicly-owned and democratically run utilities, because when Labour put money in your pockets, we will also put power back in your hands.

In the last election our manifesto was leaked by someone who thought public ownership would be unpopular. It turned out to be something that unites people right across Britain, young and old, Leave and Remain. And that’s not surprising when you think about it.

Even the Financial Times has conceded that privatisation was an organised rip off. People are fed up of paying higher bills just so that money can be siphoned off by shareholders, but they are also fed up of feeling like they’ve lost control over their lives.

This isn’t just a feeling. Thanks to privatisation and outsourcing and offshoring and similar initiatives pursued by the Thatcher Government since in the name of market efficiency, more and more aspects of our lives are shaped by remote corporate interests over which we have little control.

The second key priority for me and a Labour Government will be to change that.

When we win power it will be to give it to you, because we believe in democracy and we believe in you.

Since we first put public ownership back on the political agenda, we’ve been talking about our plans more, and consulting on them with experts, trade unions and industry. And we are ready to go.

In our first hundred days we will start the process of bringing water and energy into public ownership. We’ll set up boards to run these utilities made up of who, the customer, and you, the worker, as well as representatives from local councils, metro mayors and others.

We’ll make sure decisions are taken locally by those who understand the services – those who use them and deliver them.

Meetings will be public and streamed online, with new transparency regulations set higher than ever before, so you can see if your road is being dug up, why, and for how long. And we’ll create new People’s Assemblies to give everyone the option of participating in how their utilities are run.

Meanwhile of course, during this period, Jeremy Corbyn, our new prime minister, and his negotiating team will have secured a new Brexit agreement with our EU partners to put before the British people within 6 months.

Despite all his promises it is clear to all now that far from getting Brexit done, under Johnson Brexit won’t be done for years or we risk a catastrophic no deal.

And finally, but in some respects most importantly, our first Budget. The Budget which ends austerity once and for all.

This is the budget that will save the NHS, that starts to rebuild the public services the Tories have brought to their knees.

A Budget that will put money in people’s pockets, a Real Living Wage of £10 an hour. Money to fix the worst aspects of Universal Credit, while we design its replacement, a 5% pay rise for public sector workers after years of pay freezes.

The Waspi compensation scheme will be established and legislation brought forward to scrap tuition fees

Urgent funding will be brought forward rapidly to tackle the funding crisis in our NHS, our schools and education service. To establish free personal social care and childcare, to bring forward urgent homeless support, and inject much needed resources into our council services, with a full Comprehensive Spending Review to follow later in 2020 to allocate resources for the full five years.

So I can tell you today that my first act as Chancellor will be write to the Office for Budget Responsibility asking them to begin their preparations for my first Budget which will be given on the 5th of February. The date when almost ten years of cuts will come to an end.

And when it happens, it will be down to the millions who stood up against what they saw happening in society.

Just in the last few weeks we’ve seen the dedication and creativity of Labour Party members, ordinary people, up and down the country, inspiring us and inspiring millions of others by stepping up.

In the last few days, as we push as hard as we can for every vote, we should be immensely proud of what we’ve achieved already in this campaign.

There will always be those at the top who will do anything to stop us – we’ve seen character assassinations, lies and smears taken to a new level.

The more people we convince on the doorsteps, the more they ramp up their attacks because those who’ve had it good for so long are terrified, terrified of losing control.

When they attack me, or Jeremy, we know it’s not really about us. It’s about you, they hate the people of this country.

They think – and I quote the Prime Minister – that you’re drunk and criminal, they hate the idea you might dream of a better life. They hate the idea you might want real change in how things have been done for so long, and a say in how things are done in future.

No wonder they will stop at nothing to keep you from taking control of the country where you live, and which you’ve given so much to.

But when they come to write the history books, and write about when it all began to turn around.

When your children or grandchildren ask you:

“What did you do to end that world of rough sleeping and food banks?

“What did you do to save the NHS and stop the Tories selling it off?”

“What did you do to bring back pride to our town?

“And to finally wrestle back control from those who had kept it to themselves for so long?”

You can tell them:

“It all began when we voted Labour, when together we laid the foundations of that new society, foundations so deeply rooted that no Tory could ever tear them up.”

You can tell them:

“It was when we proved, once and for all, that the doubters were wrong. That the doubters are always wrong: another world really *is* possible.”