John McDonnell’s speech was a chance to win over voters. But while his pitch went down well in the hall and was greeted by raptures of wild applause from (some of) the party faithful, there was little on offer to entice those on the fence to come over to Labour. If anything, this looked to be business as usual for a party that voters just don’t trust on the economy (the latest YouGov poll puts Labour nine points behind the Tories). McDonnell talked about sharing the burden, investing and ‘calling a halt to austerity’. He said:
‘We will rewrite the rules to the benefit of working people on taxes, investment and how our economic institutions work.’
So what does this rewriting of the rules actually mean? Given that there was little flesh on the bones in McDonnell’s speech, it’s hard to tell. He did promise ‘there’ll be no more Philip Greens under Labour’ – an idea which guarantees applause but not much else, But there wasn’t much in the way of information to alleviate the worries of ordinary voters about the big question: where will the cash for all this come from?
It fell to Labour MP Chris Leslie to point out the obvious. Leslie said after McDonnell’s speech that these plans would lead to a doubling of not only income tax, but also national insurance, council tax and VAT – enough to, as he suggested on the Daily Politics, send any taxpayer legging it for the hills.
It seems then that McDonnell’s big economic re-imagining is nothing of the sort. Instead, the shadow chancellor showed that – after Corbyn’s successful defence of his leadership – he feels stronger in his position than ever.