September 26, 2016 7:52:33 pm
Britain’s opposition Labour Party promised on Monday to take on big business and borrow to protect struggling industries, setting out a left-wing economic agenda it hopes will re-engage with working class voters who backed leaving the European Union.
Predicting a snap election next year, Labour is using its annual conference to outline plans to win back the voters that abandoned the party at a 2015 election and spurned the political establishment by backing Brexit.
Labour re-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday following a failed attempt to oust him after the EU referendum. Having won with an increased mandate, he is set on shifting the party further to the left, away from the pro-business centre ground that delivered it its last spell in power between 1997 and 2010.
Finance spokesman John McDonnell, a veteran left-wing lawmaker, said Labour would raise the minimum wage, change company law to prevent firms taking on excessive debts to benefit shareholders, and redouble efforts to clamp down on tax avoidance.
“We will rewrite the rules to the benefit of working people on taxes, on investment, and how our economic institutions work, he told the party’s annual conference in the northern English city of Liverpool.
He said Labour wanted to use low interest rates to borrow 100 billion pounds ($130 billion) and leverage it to create a 250-billion-pound investment fund focused on reviving British manufacturing. McDonnell has previously said Britain needs 500 billion pounds of infrastructure investment over the next 10 years, pledging to increase direct government spending by 250 billion pounds.
Backed by trade unions and historically the party of Britain’s working classes, Labour’s support in former industrial regions in northern and central England has fallen, undermining their chances of winning parliamentary elections. Britain, currently governed by the centre-right Conservatives, is not scheduled to hold a national election until 2020.
But Labour says the Brexit vote, which forced David Cameron to resign as prime minister, will push his successor Theresa May to call one sooner. May has said she has no need to do so. McDonnell said that under a Labour government, Britain would take a much more active role in protecting and developing industries such as steel production, which is under threat from high energy costs and Chinese oversupply.
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Making the party’s left-wing approach to promoting growth clear, he said the approach would see the government working “hand-in-hand” with businesses to guide research and development investment and help nurture new technologies. But a slow shift left, which accelerated a year ago when Corbyn first took power, has eroded the business community’s backing – a key component of its electoral success under former leader Tony Blair, who won three consecutive elections.
Some Labour lawmakers said far fewer businesses have turned up to the conference. “It’s a massive problem because we are further and further away from the people who create wealth in the country to fund public services,” said centrist Labour lawmaker Tristram Hunt.
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