John McDonnell is to be commended for wanting to get outside of the Westminster Bubble and seek the views of as wide a sample of the electorate as possible:
“The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, is convening a series of public events to broaden the debate around economics in Britain. A range of experts will present their views at a number of events across the country, with questions from members of the public.”
You will note, however, that he is seeking questions, but not input from those members of the public able to attend these seminars:
“Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has this morning (Monday 18th January) launched a series of free public seminars to debate economic ideas around the country.”
The country, so far, being London, Bracknell (a safe Tory seat), Norwich and Bristol.
“Eight initial events have been confirmed, with the first taking place next week with a talk from Mariana Mazzucato, who is a member of Labour’s economic advisory board. Most of the dates so far are in London, but more events are set to be announced, including in Bristol and Manchester.
Including among the lectures is a full day ‘State of the Economy’ conference in May, curated by McDonnell, and which will take place annually.”
The aim is to take the economic debate out of the Westminster bubble, in the “hope that the themes which emerge will help inform conversations about economic policy across the board.” ”
One of the lecture venues is Committee Room 12 of the House of Commons. Yes, that is the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster. Other venues are The Royal Institution, London; London School of Economics and Seumas Milne’s old college, Birkbeck, London. None of these locations is outside of the Establishment’s bubble nor are they ones easily accessible to average voters, the people with whom New, New Labour claims to have an intimate relationship.
“Those appearing on the tour include academics Ha-Joon Chang and Josephe Stiglitz, as well as former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, and Labour stress that they speak for themselves rather than representing the views of the party. However, the aim is to develop ideas that can feed into Labour economic position.
McDonnell told The Guardian: “On the most pressing issues of the day – for example, how to tackle inequality, the role of innovation and the future of the workplace – Labour will be listening to what is being said while we put together our own proposals.
“These meetings are an important first step on the path to reshaping the economic debate in the country, and getting away from it being a Westminster dominated view of economics.”
Only one of the lectures is not in the early evening, the one being given by Joseph Stiglitz, and all are in the week, either on a Tuesday, a Wednesday or a Thursday. Very accessible, in all senses of the word, if you are an affluent, middle class (pensioner) with time on your hands, who lives in or near London. Does not John McDonnell hear more than enough from such people already?
New, New Labour’s commitment to equal opportunities, which should encompass the timing and location of events like these lectures, is poor. The only event being held on a Saturday, in the daytime, is John McDonnell’s Annual State of the Economy conference.
Will that conference be held outside of London and in a location that is widely accessible? Would one be asking too much for crèche facilities and similar to be provided? If not, then New, New Labour will be strengthening the view that it is shaping a Labour Party that is, first and foremost, fit for affluent older people.
You can see the the full list of confirmed events below, and register to attend them here.
“Economic Policy: from market fixing to market creating and shaping” with Mariana Mazzucato, RM Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation, SPRU, University of Sussex (and author of The Entrepreneurial State: debunking public vs. private sector myths). Tuesday 26th January 6.30pm – 8.30pm, The Royal Institution, London. [All tickets have been allocated]
“Technology and the future world of work” with Francesca Bria (Senior Project Lead, Nesta), Nick Srnicek (author of Inventing the Future) and Daniel Susskind (Balliol College, Oxford, author of The Future of the Professions). Wednesday 3rd February 6pm – 8pm, Committee Room 12, House of Commons. [All tickets have been allocated]
“The new economics” speech by John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor. Tuesday 16th February 6.30pm – 8pm, The Sheik Zayed Theatre, London School of Economics. This event will be ticketed. Tickets will be free and all those wishing to attend will need to apply via the LSE website. The ticket line will open around a week before the event. If the event is over-subscribed then LSE will randomly allocate tickets. [All tickets have been allocated]
Joseph Stiglitz (author of The Price of Inequality and winner of Nobel Prize in Economics 2001) on inequality. Wednesday 2nd March 2.30pm – 4.30pm, Birkbeck College, London. [All tickets have been allocated]
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, in conversation with Danny Dorling (University of Oxford) on housing. Tuesday 8th March – 6.30pm – 9pm, Bracknell.
“A balanced and sustainable economy” with Ha-Joon Chang (Reader in the Political Economy of Development, University of Cambridge, and author of Economics: The User’s Guide) and Dr Johnna Montgomerie (Lecturer in Economics, Goldsmiths, University of London) hosted by John McDonnell MP, the Shadow Chancellor. Lecture, Thursday 10th March, 6.30 to 8:30pm. The Space, Roundtree Way, Norwich, NR7 8SQ.
Yanis Varoufakis (former Finance Minister of Greece) and Anastasia Nesvetailova (City Political Economy Research Centre, City University) on finance. 30th March 6.30pm – 8.30pm, London. [All tickets have been allocated]
“Framing the economic narrative” with Simon Wren-Lewis and Ann Pettifor. Lecture, Thursday 7th April, 6:30 to 8:30pm. Trinity Centre – Trinity Road, Bristol, Avon BS2 0NW.
The Shadow Chancellor’s Annual ‘State of the Economy’ Conference
Saturday 21st May. 11am – 5pm, details TBC.
Plus further events in Manchester and elsewhere to be announced in due course.
I am confident that there are Labour Members of Parliament, well outside of the M25 Beltway (which, like Islington, is as much a state of mind as a geographical location), who have convenient venues in their constituencies in which McDonnell may hold his meetings.
I know the Corbyn Boys are unstinting in their praise of Sure Start. And I know of a few Children’s Centres here in Birmingham that would make ideal locations for real meet the people events, if McDonnell would not be discombobulated by being light years away from the Westminster Bubble!
Debbie Abrahams does not fear discombubalation as she has taken to the road to reconnect Labour with disabled people. Debbie Abrahams is the Member of Parliament for Oldham East and Saddleworth and Shadow Minister for Disabled People. Ms Abrahams’ constituency is well outside of London and the South East …