Building a Progressive Policy Platform – John McDonnell


“If humanity is to have a shared and sustainable future, the need for a transformative policy agenda is more urgent than ever, and our job is to put those radical policies front and centre.”

By John McDonnell MP

Each day we see more evidence that we are living in an economy and society in crisis.

To give some examples from just this week, new figures were released that showed 13.4 million people were living in poverty in the first year of the pandemic from 2020 to 2021 in Britain.

This meant that one in four children, including 1.3 million primary school children and one million under the age of four, are growing up below the poverty line.

And as if these figures weren’t horrifying enough, they are despite the fact that in this period many families were benefiting from a temporary £20 uplift in Universal Credit.

Now that the Tories have reversed that uplift we can be sure more households have been plunged into poverty. And with the Government totally failing to address the massive declines in real-terms wages taking place, we can also be sure that in-work poverty is spiralling at the moment.

This situation is made worse by the grotesque levels of inequality.

In this area, Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on inequality for 2021-22 released this week is one of a number of pieces of clear evidence that low-income households are seeing incomes fall, at the same time as incomes are rising at the top end of the income scale. These ONS figure show that the richest fifth saw a 7.8 per cent increase in wages, while the poorest fifth saw a 7.5 per cent fall in wages.

Generally speaking, wages today are lower than they were in 2007, and they are not forecast to reach 2007 levels again until 2028. That is 21 years of pay cuts.

When we talk about these massive issues of declining wages, alongside increasing poverty and inequality, it is particularly striking that many of the policy ‘solutions’ being put forward by the Government 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, and our job is to put those radical policies front and centre.

We need wealth taxes, action on wages, benefits boosts, investment in publicly-owned public services, deep devolution, a real Green New Deal and much more besides if we are even to start tackling the crises we face.

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.

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.

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 join me there.

  • The  Building a Progressive Policy Platform – Transforming a Society in Crisis Conference will take place on Saturday 11th 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 Powerand supported by the Rosa Luxemburg London Office.
  • This article was originally published by Labour Hub on February 2nd, 2023.
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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