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.
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Last night’s vote in the Greek Parliament rejecting the government’s candidate for the presidency for the third time now opens the way for a snap general election on 25 January which could well bring the Syriza party to power (it has a regular 4-7% lead in the polls over the current right-wing government). If so, it will be because the Greek electorate adamantly refuses to accept any more austerity (shades of Britain, 2015?) and despite the risks is determined to break with the EU orthodoxy which has rocketed unemployment to 40% and laid waste the country with nearly half the population driven below the poverty line.
The significance of this moment cannot be exaggerated. It is the first time that a political party anywhere in Europe with a real chance of gaining power has repudiated austerity as the central instrument of economic policy. Fundamentally it is therefore a challenge to the right-wing ideology that has ruled the Western economies ever since 1980, producing the biggest financial crash since the 1930s and the longest and deepest depression since the 1870s, yet still clung to by the EU Commission, the ECB, and the IMF as the source of their power. If however Syriza succeeds, it will have consequences that ricochet across the EU, not least Portugal, Spain, Italy and perhaps Belgium. From that point the unravelling of austerity will gather momentum.
Read more “The alternative to austerity takes shape” »