Monday, 14 March 2016

Even Labour’s handpicked economists think Corbyn is a loser

Back in  September 2015, newly elected Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn announced a team of economists to advise him and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell. McDonnell’s stated ambition - “to develop a radical but pragmatic and deliverable economic policy for our country”.

Member of the new Committee, Professor Thomas Piketty, said: “There is now a brilliant opportunity for the Labour party to construct a fresh and new political economy which will expose austerity for the failure it has been in the UK and Europe.”

Which all sounds very good. The trouble is that at least two of the seven members of this band of economists don’t believe that Corbyn can actually win the next election and deliver his new policies. I know because they have told me this in such terms.

It is not the anti-austerity policies that will lose Labour the election, they say, but Corbyn and McDonnell themselves. The expert view - that Labour’s top team just haven’t got it.

One of the two members of the Corbyn team who spoke to me was Ann Pettiffor. When asked if Team Corbyn could win the next election she said:
“I don't believe that Mr Corbyn will win the next election. But that doesn't mean that I'm not going to give him advice and present the alternative to austerity. My belief is that the public, once they have a better understanding of how the economy works, will vote differently. But they won't do so until they have that better understanding.”
(Ms Pettiffor was speaking at a public event hosted by St Catherine’s College, Cambridge)

The second member of Labour’s team to speak to me did so off the record, so I am not going to name them or quote them directly. But they were much more candid about the problems the party is facing and equally adamant that another electoral defeat was looming. They told me that they thought Jeremy Corbyn himself had improved a lot and ‘got’ what they were proposing. However they were hugely disparaging of John McDonnell who they said would speak but not listen to the opinions of others. Could Labour win the next general election - No.

If Corbyn and McDonnell’s own team of advisors don’t think the party can win, what hope is there for Labour?

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