A group of 15 Labour MPs have released a statement calling on Labour leader Ed Miliband to lurch left. Following the electoral success of anti-austerity party Syriza in Greece over the weekend, the hard left MPs are demanding an end to austerity policies in the UK, including re-nationalisation of the railways and printing money to fund a massive expansion of the state.
Syriza, led by the Marxist Alexis Tsipras, stormed to success over the weekend, sweeping up 149 of Greece’s 300 Parliamentary seats, leaving them just two short of an overall majority. They have stormed to success on a platform which includes promises to write off large chunks of Greece’s national debt by renegotiation her £179bn international bailout deal. They also plan to grow the state by hiring scores of new civil servants.
Their election has been met with strong words by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who warned that any attempts to reverse austerity policies will result in the withholding of international funds.
However, left wing politicians across Europe have been delighted by Syriza’s success, not least those within the Labour party who would like to see their leader emulate Syriza’s success with a similar manifesto for Britain.
As news of Syriza’s victory broke, Peter Hain took to Twitter to declare: “Fantastic Syriza win: austerity does not work for Greece, for Tory/Lib Dem UK, nor for EU; we all need investment in growth not savage cuts”.
Now 15 of his colleagues have penned a statement calling on their leader Ed Miliband to adopt hard left policies in a bid to reverse austerity. The measures include “public investment” funded either by a £30bn loan or by taking the money from the two banks nationalised in the wake of the last public finance crisis caused by Labour in 2008. A third alternative put forward is quantitative easing – the printing of money to “be used directly for industrial development”.
Also on their agenda is the renationalisation of the railways, achieved by returning expired rail franchises to public ownership when they come up for renewal, and the “restoration of collective bargaining and employment rights”.
The statement reads “An incoming Labour government should choose to enhance the role of trade unions because trade union rights are human rights a trade union presence creates more just and equal workplaces, and trade union collective bargaining is more redistributive than statutory wage setting and will assist on the road from austerity.”
Michael Meacher, who co-ordinated the statement, told LabourList: “Jobs and growth are vitally needed rather than prolonged austerity as the best means both to cut the deficit fastest and to give hope to our people.
“Public ownership is urgently needed to reverse failed privatisations, and the railways should lead the way to a new perspective of the crucial role of the public sector. And an enhanced role for the trade unions is strongly needed both to promote economic partnership in our workplaces and to reverse the extreme inequality now so badly disfiguring our society.”
His co-signatories are Diane Abbott, Dave Anderson, Katy Clark, Jeremy Corbyn, Fabian Hamilton, Kelvin Hopkins, Ian Lavery, John McDonnell, Ian Mearns, Grahame Morris, Linda Riordan, Steve Rotherham, Jim Sheridan and Chris Williamson.
So far Miliband has shown few signs of adopting these proposals, although as his party has remained neck and neck with the Conservatives in the opinion polls for the General Election, he may choose to break left over the next few months as an electoral strategy.
Responding to the Greek election results yesterday, he sought to distance UK politics from Greek politics, saying: “Just like our elections are a matter for the people of this country, so who the Greek people elect is a decision for them.
“It is the responsibility of the British government to work with the elected government of Greece for the good of Britain and Europe and not to play politics. And it is up to each country to choose its own path on how to deal with the economic and social challenges they face. We have set out our path for Britain: to make sure our country is fairer and more prosperous and balance the books.”
But Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was adamant that greater state spending would lead to economic chaos. It was a “panacea, a false hope”, he said.
“Ultimately, if you take at face value all the things that the new Greek government has promised, including new big increases in public expenditure, I think that is going to be very difficult to deliver and incompatible with what the eurozone currently demands of its members. But I hope that both sides now act responsibly.
“Everyone has in the past looked over the precipice of Greek exit from the euro and pulled back. It is certainly in the UK’s interest that we have stability, that we have proper dialogue here between members of the euro. But ultimately what the UK needs is a strong partner, and the institutions of the eurozone are not working well enough for the people of Europe, and that has an impact on us.”