"Tonight I want to tell you about a hoax. It’s a hoax invented by the Tories, aided and abetted by almost every news outlet. The hoax is called ‘austerity’ and it goes like this: we in the Labour government caused a terrible crisis for the whole population. We did that by borrowing too much money. The solution to this crisis is for everyone who earns a living from salaries and salaries alone, to have less money in their pockets; any form of service run by the government should be either cut or sold off.
Why is this a hoax?
It wasn’t Labour who caused the crisis. Whatever way we describe that crisis, it was caused by people who make a living out of lending money. They gambled with billions and trillions - and lost.
Then: austerity. Austerity says that the way out of the difficulties is to make the least well off in society worse off, and to make the services that they enjoy disappear - or become a means by which people can make a profit. Meanwhile, the richest people in society have at the very least stayed being very, very rich, or for them to become richer.
So, let’s be clear: this thing called ‘austerity’ has been a way in which rich people have stayed rich or got richer, while poor people have stayed poor or got poorer.
But all we hear is that the ‘economy’ is getting better. So we say, what does this mean? Surely what they saying is that the system is running just nicely for those with money. For all the people who earn money from wages and salaries only, it’s not very nice at all. This business of ‘getting better’ is really the business of ‘getting worse’!
So...what is to be done?
At the heart of everything is how do we make sure that everyone in society gets the goods and services they need. This government says that happens thanks to the market. But hang on, it was the market - the money market bit - which destroyed billions and trillions of money, which has had the knock-on effect of making poor people poorer.
Then again, when the market takes over public services, what happens is that billions that could be used for those services goes off into the pockets of the business people who run the services and often back to the people who run the money markets. More for the rich, less for the poor yet again.
So, what we’ve got to do, is start with all the basic utilities and services and take them into public control. This doesn’t mean that I or my colleagues in the Labour Party run them and get very rich in the process. It means that we have to find a way in which you run them for your benefit. It means that instead of politicians in Westminster doing it all, it means that the people who work in all those industries and institutions that provide the utilities and public services must have a way of taking part in running them. At the same time, the people who use those utilities and services must have a way of joining in that too.
This means a new kind of voting and elections. Not just this old business of voting for politicians who work hand in glove with the super-rich making sure that they stay super-rich. It means extending democracy into running the things we need. There’s been a lot of talk about Westminster being distant. That’s true. But it won’t be solved by sticking some other people into Westminster who for half a second seem a bit more chummy. It can only be solved by getting everyone involved in running the utilities and services we need.
Whenever people talk about this sort of thing, wiseacres chip in and tell us that what’ll happen is that all the rich people will take money out of the country and all the rich people abroad won’t lend us any.
Excuse me if this gives me a reason to laugh: it would be hard to imagine a situation in which more rich people’s money could fly out of the country than what happened in 2008. When we let the money markets do what they want, they do that sort of thing anyway!
Then, if you have elected us to do these things, we would be elected to have power over the banks. You the people would have given us the power to control what happens to the money in the banks. What’s more, just like the kind of democracy running the utilities and services, we could have something similar running the banks. As for money from abroad, well, that would all depend on whether this country can make things and service things in a way that people here and abroad find useful.
But I’m running ahead of myself.
Let’s just stick to the things we can do first. Let’s remind ourselves what we mean when we say ‘wealth’. To listen to the Tories talk, you’d think wealth is something that rich people earn by being terribly clever or terribly wise. No, wealth is something else altogether. Wealth is the combined power of our minds and bodies. Or put another way, wealth is what we are capable of when we can put our minds and bodies together to make the things we need and to carry out the services we need. At the moment, wherever I go, I see millions of people using their minds and bodies - yes - but over and over again, the result is that very rich people make off with a vast portion of the money made by all that work. Billions of that money is not used in order to improve the standard of living of the majority of people, nor is it used to make goods and services more and more useful for every single one of us.
So, we’ve got to move towards a society where we get this ‘wealth’ thing right.
That’s all I’ve got time for just now. In the meantime, I hope that as many of you as possible will work on ways in which you can defend the services you need, and your standard of living. Only when you all do that, will you have the will and the power to run them yourselves."