Tracing the British Labour Party’s fears of The City – Part 1

When I met with John McDonnell on October 11, 2018 at his Embankment office block in London he was then the Shadow Chancellor. The theme of the meeting was dominated by the concerns (near hysteria) about the power of the City of London (the financial markets), expressed by his advisor, a younger Labour Party apparatchik whose ideas are representative of the bulk of the progressive side of politics in Britain. The topic of the meeting centred on the fiscal rule that the British Labour Party chose to apparently establish credibility with the financial markets (‘The City’). I had long pointed out that the fiscal rule they had designed with the help of some New Keynesian macroeconomists was not just a neoliberal contrivance but was also impossible to meet and in that sense was just setting themselves up to failure should they have won office at the next election. Essentially, I was just met with denial. They just rehearsed the familiar line that the British government has to appease the financial interests in The City or face currency destruction. That fear is regularly rehearsed and has driven Labour policy for years. It wasn’t always that way though. As part of preliminary research for a book I plan to write next year I am digging into the history of this issue. What we learn is that the British government has all the legislative capacity it needs to render The City powerless in terms of driving policy. That raises the question as to why they don’t use it. All part of some work I am embarking on. The reason: I am sick to death of weak-kneed politicians who masquerade as progressive but who bow and scrape to the financial interests in the hope they will get a nice revolving door job when they exit politics. A good motivation I think.

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