As Syriza win on anti-austerity platform in Greece, Labour MPs seek change in direction here

As Syriza wins a remarkable victory in Greece on a platform of ending austerity and greater state intervention in the economy, fifteen Labour MPs including myself have today expressed concerns about elements of Labour’s policy agenda, and proposed a change of course in three key areas. We have issued a statement calling for an alternative to austerity, for public ownership of the railways and for a return to collective bargaining and employment rights in the workplace.

Jobs and growth are vitally needed rather than prolonged austerity as the best means both to cut the deficit fastest and to give hope to our people. Public ownership is urgently needed to reverse failed privatisations, and the railways should lead the way to a new perspective of the crucial role of the public sector. And an enhanced role for the trade unions is strongly needed both to promote economic partnership in our workplaces and to reverse the extreme inequality now so badly disfiguring our society.

Here’s the statement in full:

1 An alternative to the continuation of austerity and spending cuts till 2019-20

All three main parties, tragically, seem to agree that deep spending cuts must continue to be made until the structural budget deficit is wiped out in 2019-20, even though wages have already fallen 8% in real terms, business investment is still below pre-crash levels, unemployment is still 2million, the trade deficit in manufactured goods at over £100bn is now the largest in modern history, and household debt is now over £2trillion and still rising.

The Tories want to continue with these cuts because it gives them political cover to achieve their real objective which is to shrink the State and squeeze the public sector back to where it was in the 1930s.

It isn’t even as though the deficit is being reduced by these savage cuts. Because the reduction in the government’s tax revenues as a result of shrinking incomes exceed the spending cuts, the deficit (which is still nearly £100bn) is likely to rise, not fall, in 2014-15 and in future years.

There is an alternative way out of endless austerity. We need public investment to kickstart the economy out of faltering growth and to generate real job creation and rising incomes.

It can readily be funded. With interest rates at 0.5%, a £30bn investment package can be financed for just £150m a year, enough to create more than a million real jobs within 2-3 years. And even without any increase in public borrowing at all, the same sum could equally be funded either through the two banks which are already in public ownership, or through printing money (quantitative easing) to be used directly for industrial investment rather than for bond-buying by the banks as hitherto, or through taxing the ultra-rich by a special levy.

2 Returning rail franchises when expired to public ownership rather than subjecting them to competition

The essence of rail reform must be to reverse fragmentation, to reintegrate the system under public ownership, and to run it in the public interest. At present Britain has the highest fares in Europe. The additional costs of privatisation to public funds are estimated at more than £11bn, or around £1.2bn a year, so that the costs to the taxpayer are now three times as much as under British Rail.

Since 2010 rail fares have increased 25%, yet at the same time more than £200m a year has been paid out in dividends to shareholders or overseas state-owned rail companies which now hold two-thirds of the current rail franchises. Over 80% of the public want the railways re-nationalised, which must include a significant proportion of Tories.

The most obvious and simplest way to achieve this is by letting the rail franchises expire and then taking them back into public ownership at no cost whatever to the taxpayer. To subject them to a public bidding competition with private bidders is not only wholly unnecessary but sends out the wrong signals, as though we’re not confident of our own ideology. The Tories certainly didn’t offer a competitive option when they forced through privatisation

Anyway, the franchise process, so far from being economic, encourages the gaming of wildly optimistic passenger number projections and this, combined with huge legal contract complexity which is bureaucratic and wasteful both in time and money (except for the lawyers and accountants), has led in the past to franchise failures and operating chaos, most notably on the East and West Coast lines. From past experience public ownership has consistently worked better, and we should not gratuitously throw obstacles in our own path in getting there.

3 The need for the restoration of collective bargaining and employment rights as a check against excessive corporate power

When the Thatcher government came to office in 1979, 82% of workers in the UK had their main terms and conditions determined by a union-negotiated collective agreement. The latest figures now show that the coverage is down to just 23%. One very significant result is that the share of national income going to salaries and wages has fallen dramatically from 65% in 1980 to 53% in 2012 – a loss to employees of some £180bn!

This has happened partly from the collapse in trade union membership from 55% of the workforce in 1979 to 23% in 2012. But it has also happened partly as a result of the anti-trade union laws introduced in the 1980-90s and partly because the state has withdrawn support for collective bargaining as part of the free market ideology of de-regulation of all markets, including the labour market. It is somewhat ironic however that de-regulation of the labour market requires the tightest regulation of one of the key players in that market, the trade union movement.

An incoming Labour government should choose to enhance the role of trade unions because trade union rights are human rights, a trade union presence creates more just and equal workplaces, and trade union collective bargaining is more redistributive than statutory wage setting and will assist on the road from austerity. We should therefore actively promote sectoral collective bargaining and strengthen the rights of trade unions to recognition, and of their members to representation.

Diane Abbott
Dave Anderson
Katy Clark
Jeremy Corbyn
Fabian Hamilton
Kelvin Hopkins
Ian Lavery
John McDonnell
Michael Meacher
Ian Mearns
Grahame Morris
Linda Riordan
Steve Rotherham
Jim Sheridan
Chris Williamson

9 thoughts on “As Syriza win on anti-austerity platform in Greece, Labour MPs seek change in direction here

  1. its a start but then whot about the blair babys they put a spanner in the works the 99percent who aint rich do nt owe monies do they its the rich 1percent who lost out and the 99percent get to pay it back strangely but then dont forget last chance saloon has i see another true labour party arising jeff3

  2. This is exactly what the country needs!

    But what about the other 242 Labour MPs, and all the others? Are they not on the list because they don’t know about this? I trust it’s not because they all don’t agree with it! I hope you’ll keep us informed as to how this is received.

    As always, the best of luck!

  3. The other 242 MPs are not there cos they’re not socialists! That’s a trend you might’ve noticed lately. Michael and the 14 others on the list are probably the last ones left in the party, which makes their continued presence there a heroic, but futile, gesture. They might even have the guts to join Left Unity if there were a chance of getting that MP’s salary!

  4. I was wondering what the, (Post Socialism,) response from Fake Labor would be to the clear victory and political mandate for the radical left in Greece yesterday, would be and here we are, it’s typically limp wristed and completely disingenuous.

    And of course no one seriously believes a word of it.


    As I’ve commented previously:

    You continue to talk about the Greek SYRIZA party as if there was really some kind of common ground between them and the sleazy, and shabby Labor wing of the Tory party.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Like Miliband’s trite posturing, (hug a Palestinian,) or like all those iconic pictures of Che Gavarra, (“The revolution is just a tee shirt away,”) that so many trendy students, (that Blair was a member of CND and David Nicholson a card carrying Communist still makes hugely angry,) used to be so fond of before they all went on to become merchant bankers and rotten politicians and so on.

    This is indeed a clear and mandated victory for the radical left in Greece, (caricatured here and misrepresented elsewhere as being an, “anti-austerity,” party.)

    For anyone who needs to be reminded of what real political socialism/Marxism is about, I commend: Greece: SYRIZA’s 40-point program, to their attention:

    Contrast that with the apologetic and largely empty rhetoric above.

    Labor have become nothing more that simply the Tory party in drag, (and not particularly convincing drag at that,) they’re really not fooling anyone.

    Time to vote UKIP, (unpleasant as find that council of desperation,) if nothing else it may serve to kick Balls and Miliband and his whole narrow and unrepresentative post Blair clique/consensus into touch and to clear the political ground for some real, genuine and principled socialist policies.

    Contrast SYRIZA’s 40-point program:, with the sickening and deafening silence from Ball’s Fake Labor about for example, all the tragic deaths and the abuse of the disabled and unemployed resulting from IDS’s vindictive policies at the DW&P and you’ll immediately understand just fake and how dishonest the posturing above actually is.

  5. “With interest rates at 0.5%, a £30bn investment package can be financed for just £150m a year, enough to create more than a million real jobs within 2-3 years?”

    Ta-Da: Abracadabra.

    Or to put it another way a complete load of absolute cobblers.

    Also, “real,” jobs, (doing what and where is the demand,) where and for whom?

    Which in any case would still leave between at least 2-5 million people scraping a desperate living on meager and arbitrary benefits without even the hope of employment.

    And so on…………………………….

  6. Today I learn through through the rt news site yes I now russian but atleast its not biased like the tory run bbc channels 4and 5 but denying the russians from Polands death camp is just another yanky ploy isnt it funny
    but sadly its not you are all grown people chucking the dummy out of the
    pram once again yanks gets their way just like that submarine who took the inigma machine nothing about the british getting it first shsmefull for allowing this wasnt it the russians who liberated the death camp not the yanks jeff3

  7. This comment from todays Guardian sum things up perfectly:

    “Too fu*king gutless to even support Syriza’s victory, so does anyone really think you are going to stand up against the establishment as they transfer the last remaining elements of public wealth into the hands of the rich.”

    “Is this the best he can really do, god we need an alternative to the spineless Labour party.”

  8. Ed Miliband is not for turning he still thinks he can bribe his way back as the Tories do, with all the major parties singing off the same hymn sheet the public are not made aware of the alternatives.

    New Labour meekly allow the Tories to blame them for the Bankers crash and the New Labour bail out transferred the debt of the Bankers on to the structural deficit. I do not believe Ed is at all worried about losing the next election so long as the core vote stands up, that way like Nick Clegg he would hope not to be blamed for what they all know is harmful policies against the nations interests.

    As we have seen in Labour’s past history, like syriza we need to start again afresh, those left wing labour supporters need to beak away from New Labour and join Left Unity which are mostly disenfranchised labour supporters and present a real opposition to the Tory Neo-Liberal agenda.

    Labour has done it in the past and like Syriza it will take time but with the Greens, Left Unity and the NHA Party, we can show the establishment parties that their tenure in parliament is over and the longer time goes on the less support they will accrue.

    Voting out one set of Tories for another is not progress and will taint Labour’s name whilst taking the rap for a bankrupt system.

    We need an alternative voice, it is obvious though it won’t come from New Labour.

  9. What a lot of disappointingly negative comments!
    Fortunately the comments on “Left Futures” are more constructive.

    Jon Lansman ends by saying:
    “But the real point of this exercise is to let the public know that there are Labour MPs who will oppose austerity and argue for what needs to be done, and they will do so both inside the party and in Parliament.”

    I’d recommend that people read the other comments on there.

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