Theresa May defends free market capitalism after Jeremy Corbyn's criticism

British prime minister Theresa May. Photo: Ben Stansall – WPA Pool/ Getty Images.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May defends free market economics, calling it the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created.”
  • May’s comments come after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said capitalism was facing a “crisis of legitimacy.”
  • The prime minister said capitalism “led societies out of darkness.”

LONDON — Theresa May defended the free market after Jeremy Corbyn’s criticism of capitalism by saying today that it is the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created.”

The prime minister rebuked the Labour leader after he told his party’s conference on Wednesday that capitalism was facing a “crisis of legitimacy” and that it was “time we developed a new model to replace the failed dogmas of neo-liberalism.”

Speaking on Thursday, May told the Bank of England’s 20th anniversary of independence conference that capitalism “is unquestionably the best, and indeed the only sustainable, means of increasing the living standards of everyone in a country. And we should never forget that raising the living standards, and protecting the jobs of ordinary working people is the central aim of all economic policy.”

The prime minister said it was free-market economics that “led societies out of darkness and stagnation and into the light of the modern age.”

Corbyn in his speech to Labour conference in Brighton set out proposals that he claimed were the “new mainstream” in British politics, which included rent controls and widespread nationalisation.

He also claimed that the Grenfell Tower disaster was a symbol “for a failed and broken system, which Labour must and will replace.”

The prime minister retorted that the government needed to continue reducing the deficit but also invest in public services, saying: “To abandon that balanced approach with unfunded borrowing and significantly higher levels of taxation would damage our economy, threaten jobs, and hurt working people.

“Ultimately, that would mean less money for the public services we all rely on.”

First Secretary of State Damian Green said on Wednesday that “Jeremy Corbyn’s speech summed up the problem with Labour: lots of big promises, but no explanation of how they would deliver them.”

The Conservative cabinet minister, who is effectively deputy prime minister said: “Labour say they are ready for power but everything we’ve seen this week suggests they’re not fit to govern — and it’s ordinary working people who would end up footing the bill.”

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