Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has just told business leaders that he wants a “new settlement with the corporate sector” that would involve the rewards of growth being distributed “more fairly.”
Speaking to the British Chamber of Commerce conference on Thursday, Corbyn tried to convince the room full of business people that he was their natural ally, and that the Labour Party wants to help them succeed.
This was Corbyn’s pitch:
“You may not like everything we say or do. But when it comes to the big decisions on the economy, infrastructure, skills and investment, we are natural allies. Labour is committed to what is needed for business to expand and succeed.”
In a speech delivered at a brisk pace and with little change in intonation, Corbyn gave a general overview of how he would like to change the way the people think about the economy. Basically, he wants the “interests of the public, the workforce and the wider economy” to be put ahead of short term profit.
“Wealth creation is a collective process between workers, public investment and services, and creative individuals and businesses.”
Corbyn was a little light on what this would mean in practice, but did talk about how he would like to see government funding used to back the reindustrialisation of Britain by setting up a “national investment bank .”
“We will put public investment in science, technology and the green industries of the future front and centre stage. Only by driving up the rate of investment will we achieve the higher productivity we need for rising living standards for all. ”
Saying that Chancellor Ger oge Osborne’s economic recovery was a “house built on sand,” Corbyn told the audience that the banks need to be co-opted serving the economy.
“And we need to reform the major banks so that they serve the wider economy, not just themselves. That includes; using the public stakes in banks such as RBS to drive lending and investment and rebuild supply chains.”
It might have been low on actual policy proposals, but Corbyn’s speech does give a good idea of how he is planning to appeal to people outside of his narrow base of left-wing supporters. It looks like Corbyn is proposing that business and government work together in was similar to the “strategic state” described by Professor Mariana Mazzucato in her book “The Entrepreneurial State“.
This isn’t really a surprise, because the Labour Party appointed Mazzucato to their Economic Advisory Committee in September.
Mazzucato’s argument is that state intervention doesn’t need to be lumbering and bureaucratic. She believes that the private sector only really invests when the state leads the way with investment in emerging technology and trends.
Corbyn didn’t use the words “state intervention” in his speech, but did say that the only way for living standards to go up is for the state to invest in science and technology.
“We will put public investment in science, technology and the green industries of the future front and center stage. Only by driving up investment will we achieve the higher productivity we need to guarantee rising living standards for all.”
In the past business leaders have criticised Corbyn for his “anti-market agenda” and “sixth-form socialism,” so he will be hoping that the promise of the state blazing the way for the private sector with public investments will be something that Britain’s business community can get behind.
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