A Labour shadow chancellor: the impossible job?

by Callum Anderson

Earlier this month, Labour decisively turned the page from the Corbyn era.

An eagerness to look to the future was the prevailing emotion for the many Labour activists and supporters, who had watched with varying degrees of resignation and despair as Labour crashed to its worst general election defeat since before the Second World War.

Yet we must not forget that Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader can not be an end in itself. Rather, it must provide the Labour movement with a critical lifeline to change where change is needed, and rethink where rethinking is needed. We must all rally behind the new leadership to support this essential work.

As the new shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds will play a particularly key role in helping Labour earn back both the trust and the economic credibility that it so desperately lacked during the last decade.

Dodds is extremely well qualified. Despite an absence of executive experience, she served as a shadow treasury minister for the last two and half years. As an MEP, she sat on the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

Nonetheless, her task is no small one.

Long regarded as one of the most difficult job in politics: a prospective chancellor must be able to understand and absorb economics, and articulate the Party position in a way which can command respect in Parliament, and is comprehensible to the person on the street, the small business owner and financial markets.

For the last decade, Labour’s achilles heal could be simply posed as a question: can it be trusted to prudently manage the public finances, while still delivering economic and social justice?

As we all remember, Messrs Miliband and Balls were never able to shrug off the (false) Conservative frequently claims that Labour profligacy had caused the 2007-8 financial crisis and had necessitated austerity.

Then came Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow chancellor: John McDonnell. On the one hand, McDonnell did much to build a genuinely intellectual (if, ultimately, unwinnable) economic case for substantially more public spending and common ownership of public services such as mail, water and energy.

Yet his approach fell short for a number of reasons.

A combination of a colourful history fro his time at the Greater London Council and his appreciation of Marxist ideology meant that, despite his best efforts, he was never trusted by either the public or the business community.

Further, despite claims to the contrary, the costings of Labour’s manifesto were not as robust as claimed. Arithmetic has always been a loosely appreciated virtue at the best of times. While the principle of the so-called Grey Book was a good one, it was subsequently undermined by huge, uncosted splurges announced straight after the manifesto was formally launched. Similarly, cogent explanations for how the various nationalisations could actually be financed never came. So people never trusted us. We gave them little reason to.

Finally – linked to this – Labour was nowhere near convincing anything approaching a majority of the public that its manifesto – regardless of the many good things it contained – could be delivered simply by taxing the top 5% and clamping down on tax avoidance alone. The sums didn’t add up. It wasn’t believable.

So how does Dodds secure Labour’s position as both fiscally responsible while being an agent for social justice? I would propose three initial steps:

First, assemble a shadow Council of Economic Advisers. McDonnell and Corbyn tried this, yet the group proved pretty toothless. Members Joseph Stieglitz and David Blanchflower, for instance, felt that their expert views were thrown by the way-side in favour of a brand of voodoo economics.

A Dodds-led Council therefore would need to have a clear remit with Council members given guarantees of meaningful input on Party economic policy. It should also have the remit of providing Dodds, her shadow treasury colleagues and the Party with an additional intellectual ballast in economic policy.

Second, conduct an extensive and thorough listening exercise with voters in the seats Labour lost in 2019. The exam question is simple: how can Labour make the economy work better for you and your family?

Callum Anderson is a Labour activist. He tweets at @Cavlar_Anderson.

Tags: , , , ,

10 Responses to “A Labour shadow chancellor: the impossible job?”

  1. Anne says:

    Richie Sunak is certainly a class act – very confident in his presentation. However, even for the best there is a massive task ahead to control the economy in the years ahead. There is also still the likelihood of a hard Brexit which will compound the economic downturn. I think your suggestion of a shadow economic council is a sound one – Anneliese will need a good think tank to help her, and the country.

  2. anosrep says:

    “As we all remember, Messrs Miliband and Balls were never able to shrug off the (false) Conservative frequently claims that Labour profligacy had caused the 2007-8 financial crisis and had necessitated austerity.”

    No, not “were never able” – what you mean is “never even tried”.

  3. John P Reid says:

    Thing we’re forgetting, we just stood in a ridiculous manifesto that would have taken 15 years to implement(and that’s without covid delaying stuff which ripples in to Thr EU negotiations)
    Dawn Butler even called it the Toby Calvary of taking up a plate and ones eyes are bigger than ones belly and taking too much to fit in the image
    The problem with Gordon Brown felling those in their departments in 94 was I’m not giving you extra money, it made him unpopular with the shadow teams
    anneliese Dodds even if we have A Marshall plan and borrow money off the middle Rast or second world Countries or devalued the pound
    It’ll take decades and things like ingested rate of pensions will be desecrated
    I can just suggest the stare creates not banks but agencies for giving mortgages or
    A nationalised life insurance, if people wish to pay in rather than a company

    Bonds first the NHS for additional funds if people want drugs to counter their own resins they got ill, Prozac or if self mitigation caused them to need it, also if people getting diabetes through to much sugar(?in those casss only) and drugs with it
    And no vanity projects for NHS spending saying trans re assignment survey should be free as if someone doesn’t get that cosmetic surgery they’ll be depressed and giving them vanity surgery helps their depression is silly

  4. Mike G says:

    The Labour party are a bunch of crooks. I don’t trust them with money. They don’t even want to win elections. Ha-ha.

  5. Vern says:

    Even the most swivel eyed would recognise that Dodds is not up to this task. Never left school as such, never had a job on civvy street and so far removed from the workers. She will be exposed regularly.

  6. RobinM says:

    It’s pretty evident, I suppose, from the opening paragraphs where this “analysis” is coming from. But still, in light of the unmentionable Leaked Report it surely takes some gall to refer to McDonnell’s “unwinnable” economic case, McDonnell never being trusted by the public because of his “appreciation of Marxist ideology,” etc. Before any serious and legitimate “extensive and thorough listening exercise with voters in the seats Labour lost in 2019” can be conducted, these voters and everyone else might need to be satisfied that the virulent anti-left cancer which has corrupted internal Labour politics for the last many years has been eradicated. It’s surely time for some genuine openness and genuine decency.

  7. Rocinante says:

    @John P Reid – Brexit is already yesterday’s chip wrappers, completely overtaken by events. I know a few “red wall” voters who are already saying “Brexit is what I got at the last election, what do I get at the next one?” – the party that can answer this question best will win.

  8. John P Reid says:

    But will they believe labour can deliver whats promise
    Especially if we tie ourselves to close to the EU ehat starmer wants we wouldn’t have been able to do half the stuff in the 2019 manifesto
    And also I don’t think that labours 2024 will be that far away from 2029
    Do you dint think people who voted for a party as they disliked what the other one did come back after 4 years?
    There’s still people voting labour because they recall thatcher
    And there was people voting Tory as they recalled the winter of discontent in 1997

  9. John P Reid says:

    Tocinante A, the public haven’t forgot starmer having their 2nd referendum

    b, they’re arguing to rejoin

    c, they esnt to stop no deal even if it becomes BRINO

Leave a Reply