To transform a society in crisis we need radical policy solutions –  John McDonnell MP exclusive

“Over 820 million people – one in ten on the globe – are going hungry.”

John McDonnell MP

By John McDonnell MP

As world leaders meet at the Davos World Economic Forum this week, all the grave economic, social and environmental crises humanity faces are deepening.

As the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at Davos, the world is in a “sorry state” because of myriad “interlinked” challenges.

In terms of climate change, a report just last week confirmed that all around the world heat waves, storms and droughts are getting worse and worse. Here in Britain we have seen this starkly in recent years, yet the Government remains slow to act at best and simply criminal at their worst in their abject failure to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

In terms of poverty, the global picture is stark and shows the extent the system is failing. Oxfam analyses that at least 1.7 billion workers currently work in countries where inflation is outpacing wages, and over 820 million people —approximately one in ten on the globe— are going hungry.

Here in Britain, as the cost-of-living crisis becomes nothing short of a social emergency, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that more than one in five of the UK population (22%) are in poverty– 14.5 million people. Of these, 8.1 million are working-age adults, 4.3 million are children and 2.1 million are pensioners.

And inequality is at grotesque levels, both here and internationally, and getting worse. The richest 1 percent grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth $42 trillion created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99 percent of the world’s population, a new Oxfam report revealed this week.

In Britain, as the IFS has put it, “income inequality is high compared to most developed countries,” and whilst “the UK is not alone amongst developed countries in having experienced an increase in income inequality over the last 60 years [and] income inequality in the UK has grown more than in most OECD countries.”

What is striking though is that here in Britain – and indeed globally with the positive exceptions of the recent wave of left-wing governments elected in Latin America – is how many of the policy ‘solutions’ being put forward by governments and political parties are nowhere near radical or ambitious enough to even start to tackle these enormous challenges.

The reality is that if humanity is to have a shared and sustainable future, the need for a transformative policy agenda is more urgent than ever.

Without enormous and international efforts climate change can’t be tackled.

Without governments intervening on behalf of the interests of the vast majority of people, neo-liberalism will continue to create massive poverty.

Without taxing the super-rich, the big corporations and speculators, wealth can’t be redistributed and inequality – which does so much economic and social damage – can’t be tackled.

And without real investment in our future then economies around the world, including our own, will be stuck in year-upon-year of crisis and decline.

For these reasons, on February 11, I will be bringing together academics, think tanks, policy researchers and experts, campaigners and others to discuss the ideas that are needed to create a progressive policy platform for the future. Preparations for the event are well underway.

Discussion sessions will cover a range of key areas, including the economy and labour markets; inequality, wealth and social security; the future of our public services; climate and the environment; plus, the vital issue of our constitutional and democratic rights, (or lack of them!)

When we undertook the Claim the Future project during the height of the Covid pandemic it was widely agreed across the labour movement and beyond that it would be useful to bring together policy researchers and campaigners to touch base and discuss what work was currently underway on new progressive policies and what future work was needed to address the key issues we face. This initiative will now enable the next stages in this important work.

It will be a different kind of event to many political conferences in that it will be a “discussion conference” where – although we have structured the day around a number of broad policy areas and invited presenters to set the scene for individual sessions – the aim is to ensure that attendees participate fully in the discussions that follow.  We want as many people as possible from across Britain’s progressive research groups and movements and campaigns to update us on what they are working or campaigning on, and to set out their ideas on the development of the transformative policies we need.

I hope you will be able to come along.


  • The A Society in Crisis: Building a Progressive Policy Platform Conference will take place on Saturday 11 February at Brunei Gallery, SOAS, Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ. You can register here.
  • The event is organised by Claim the Future and the SOAS project Influencing the Corridors of Power, and there will be plenty of time for networking with fellow campaigners and contributions from attendees.
John McDonnell speaking as Shadow Chancellor at the Community Wealth Building conference in Preston on 8th February 2018. Photo credit Sophie Brown under Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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