I was in Liverpool for Labour’s Conference this year, with a balcony credential i.e. I could enter the conference, fringe rooms and exhibition hall. As I was not a delegate, I spent a bit more time in the fringe and the bars, and much less time in the hall. Last year I was able to report on nearly every debate, I cannot do that this year, but I observed both Reeves ( video | text) and Starmer’s ( video | text) speeches and the platform’s control-freakery, some of which I reported earlier.
Interesting highlights include Reeves’ promise that she will chase the beneficiaries of the covid procurements (and other corruptions in the government procurement chain). I am concerned about the promise to reduce consultancy fees, because while some consultancy projects are wasteful and of questionable value, many are caused by the fact that the Civil Service and local government won’t pay the going rate for scarce skills.
Reeves continues to play her, “I am an economist card”, but there are those of us who feel that it means she is tied to one and only one theory of macro-economic management. This fear was reinforced by a video of Mark Carney, the previous Bank of England Governor, who wished her well.
Both of these speeches if anything was slightly to the left of speeches made previously, or at least since Reeves’ secureonomics speech in NYC; I thought I had commented on the latter speech but it seems not. I did make some notes, in which I quote, Prof. Simon Wren Lewis, as saying,
“What is arbitrary is having a target for debt to be falling regardless of whether that debt arises from current spending or investment”
which I believe sums up his argument well. I also quote Richard Murphy on independence of the Bank of England, and James Meadway who argues that taxes must be raised and that conceding to debt fetishism traps Labour’s policy freedoms. He argues for clarity on tax, clarity on the financial rules and detail on the investment plan. It’s possible, that conceding the need to reduce debt will enable attacks on the policy not defend it. I have some sympathy with Murphy, and have come to agree with Meadway.
Starmer announced the increase in housing new starts target by proposing changes to the planning permission process to make Nimbyism harder.