Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Events and Opportunities

Last night was a night of events and opportunities. LEAP hosted a meeting in the House of Commons, based around our publication Building the New Common Sense - social ownership for the 21st century. Speakers at the meeting 'The Economic Crisis - what role for social ownership?' included many of the contributors to the pamphlet: Gerry Gold, Rosamund Stock, Maria Exall and Professor Gregor Gall.

There was an excellent debate about the role of social ownership in the crisis - and a poignant warning from Gregor Gall, "an opportunity is only an opportunity if we have the resources to act. Otherwise it is just an event". While the crisis brings capitalism into sharp relief, and gives us the opportunity to explain its inherent weaknesses, the opportunity to change things relies on us mobilising around these issues and that requires resources.

One contributor to the pamphlet who could not make the meeting was LEAP Chair John McDonnell MP. John was locked in the House of Commons chamber attempting to convince a Labour government to repeal a few technical measures of Thatcher's anti-trade union laws. The amendments to the Employment Bill were derived from the Trade Union Freedom Bill which was passed as both TUC and Labour Party conference policy in 2005.

John forced the largest rebellion - 45 Labour MPs - since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, but it also showed that even with every union in support and most actively campaigning in favour only 45 MPs from the party of Labour support strengthening trade union rights.

Over the pond, and the US was electing a Democrat President to great fanfare. This was an event - with great opportunities. However, it remains to be seen whether reality will match expectations.

LEAP's own Graham Turner said: "'Change We Need' was the popular slogan of the Obama campaign, and while it would be churlish to ignore the wider political significance of yesterday's election, there is a harsh reality. Unless the Democrats execute a major policy U-turn, there will be no change. A more expansionary fiscal policy, courtesy of a stronger grip on Congress, will not solve the crisis. It may make it worse. Paul Volcker is tipped by some to be the new Treasury Secretary, but that too provides real cause for concern. It is more of the same, ensuring that the US will slide towards a debt trap. Other candidates in the frame, including Lawrence Summers, offer little encouragement. Democrat policies to date have been contributing to the rise in mortgage rates, which has culminated in a plunge in mortgage demand. The point was underlined this morning by the steep decline in the MBA's purchase index to just 260.9, its lowest level since early January 2001. There is no chance of stabilising the housing market in 2009. Unemployment will soar. Choosing Volcker or Summers as the new Treasury Secretary will be a mistake. In the absence of a radical shift in monetary policy, Obama will not be the next Roosevelt."

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