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John McDonnell envisions an ‘economy for the many’ with co-ops at the forefront

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has set out his vision for responding to the fourth industrial revolution, in which the co-operative sector would play a leading role.

Speaking at the Labour Party’s conference in Brighton, Mr McDonnell focused on the changes brought by technological developments, explaining how the party would lay the foundations for a “new world”.

“Ours will only become an economy for the many, if we significantly broaden ownership. That means supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses, the genuinely self-employed and massively expanding worker control and the co-operative sector,” he said.

He added that the Labour Party would establish a Strategic Investment Board, comprising the chancellor, the secretary of state for business and the governor of the Bank of England, to co-ordinate the promotion of investment, employment and real wages.

The shadow chancellor also pledged to devolve decision-making through the Regional Development Banks, the local mayors, and regenerate the powers and resources available to local councils. In its manifesto for this year’s election, the Labour Party committed to establishing a National Investment Bank and regional development banks, which would be charged with helping support small businesses and the co-operative sector.

Referring to the ownership and control of utilities and key services, Mr McDonnell said the Labour Party would aim to bring these “into the hands of people who use and work in them”.

“Rail, water, energy, Royal Mail- we’re taking them back,” he said. On previous occasions the shadow chancellor has expressed support for co-operative models in such sectors, a commitment that was also present in Labour’s manifesto for the 2017 election.

The chancellor promised to introduce a real living wage of £10 an hour as well as pay ratios at the top.

In terms of personal finance, Mr McDonnell called for the same rules on payday loans to apply credit card debt to ensure that no one paid more in interest than their original loan. In the past the chancellor has been in favour of credit unions as an alternative to pay day lenders and credit cards.

In another speech at the conference shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, called for co-operation with the European Union, arguing for remaining in the EU’s customs union and also exploring the option of retaining membership of the single market.

History: William Thompson
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