John McDonnell speech in Glasgow: We are presented with the opportunity of a lifetime
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John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, speaking from Glasgow today, said:
We are presented with the opportunity of a lifetime.
To change the direction of political travel in the UK in a way not seen since the 1980s.
Our time is coming.
And it may be coming quicker than anyone expected.
That’s why I’m here today – with an election maybe just around the corner – to support Richard Leonard and talk about what we can achieve together.
I’ve known Richard for years and couldn’t be prouder to call him a friend and comrade.
I want to talk to you about the future of our country.
Because Labour – hopefully in government soon – will have an enormous responsibility.
Not just to rebuild the economic after ten years of damage inflicted on it by Conservative austerity.
Nor even just to restore dignity after decades of managed decline for key area of the economy.
But to do all that at the same time as preparing us for rapid technological change and the decarbonisation of everything we do.
That’s an enormous task, but one which we in the labour movement and the Labour Party will have to deliver.
If we don’t, the alternatives are bleak.
A far-right nationalist Conservative Party that will stop at nothing to deliver a No Deal Brexit, screwing over whoever it wants in the process: continuing austerity.
And failing to lift a finger to tackle the climate emergency.
And north of the border a Scottish National Party government.
Who have passed on Tory austerity to Scottish councils and users of public services.
And who – despite all the rhetoric – have failed to deliver the investment needed so the jobs building our sustainable future are coming to Scotland.
When I was here in March, I spoke about the ridiculous situation whereby wind farms being constructed off the Scottish shoreline are shipping their components in from Spain and the United Arab Emirates, while the BiFab yard in Fife was laying workers off due to lack of orders.
I spoke recently about the three approaches we’ll need to take to eliminate in-work poverty within a Parliamentary term.
And we’ll need to take the same approach if we’re going to deliver that transformational socialist change – north and south of the border – which our people rightly expect from us.
So let me lay out the programme we’ve developed to make that better, brighter, more inclusive and more sustainable future a reality in Scotland.
Firstly, our public services will need proper investment after years of neglect.
Those services are at the backbone of any civilised society.
“Socialism or barbarism” isn’t just an old left-wing quote, it’s the reality of the choice facing the UK.
A decade of Conservative and SNP neglect has left services in Scotland at breaking point.
At the 2017 election the commitments we made on spending would have meant £3bn a year in additional Barnett consequentials for the Scottish government.
And I can tell you that – when we publish our commitments for the next election, hopefully in a few weeks – we will go further.
We believe that there are things that are just too important to leave to the market.
Health, education – but also libraries, parks and public swimming pools which were part of the inheritance which local government gave people of my generation.
Many of them now closed, or closed to those who can’t pay subscriptions to the private companies who run them.
And why not – as Richard Leonard has pledged – free bus transport?
What message does it send to a young person if they can’t afford a bus fare to a job interview, or to get into a town to see friends?
The universalism that underlies our most vital services is one I believe we should always be looking to expand.
That strong collective social provision which our movement has fought for over the years isn’t just popular, it’s at the core of our everyday socialism.
Of course, however much we provide free through the state, we will always need the second pillar of our approach: a strong social security safety net.
For those temporarily or permanently unable to work, or those thrown out of work by things outside their control.
And to give us all the security we need that we will be secure in our retirement and aren’t one missed pay cheque away from destitution, as was the case in the past and still is for many in the world.
I’ve made Labour’s opposition to Universal Credit clear now on several occasions.
It’s leading to queues at food banks and children going hungry in school holidays.
And while welfare policy has been devolved to Scotland, the SNP Government have said they don’t want the responsibility yet.
They don’t want to accept the responsibility to use their powers and protect Scottish people from the nearly £40 billion of cuts that the Conservatives have voted through since 2010.
But Labour will.
And we’ll scrap the bedroom tax, increase ESA and increase carers’ allowance.
But ultimately we will be judged not just on whether we can increase the support everyone receives from public services and social security.
We need to rewire the whole economy so it delivers good jobs, high living standards and strong communities right across Britain.
It’s not enough – as governments in the past have believed – to oversee industrial decline if it’s replaced with insecure jobs or tax credits.
As I’ve said before: we reject the belief that it’s OK if your local factory closes, as long as you have cash transfers from the finance sector in the South East of England.
Or a new warehouse opening on the edge of town paying minimum wage on its zero hour contracts. That means real structural change.
Including a real industrial strategy, like Richard has promised for Scotland.
It means a £10 an hour Real Living Wage.
It means stronger trade unions and collective bargaining.
Rewriting corporate governance rules.
With workers having a role in owning and running the corporations where they work.
It means a massive programme of investment in renewables and low-carbon transport.
A National Transformation Fund of £250 billion over ten years.
Which would mean £20 billion for Scotland if spent proportionally.
It means a UK-wide National Investment Bank.
Channelling £250bn more of lending to businesses, new infrastructure projects, environmental transition and the new technologies that will power the economy of the future.
Anything less will be papering over the cracks again.
And we’re seeing what happens if you try that.
Which is why there is nothing more important than getting Richard Leonard into government up here, and Jeremy Corbyn into government in London.
I truly believe that we have that era-defining change within our grasp.
A radically better Scotland in a radically better, socialist, United Kingdom.
If we can stick together, and fight together, another world really is possible.