With Jeremy Corbyn re-elected as leader of the Labour Party, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has presented the Party’s agenda, with a strong emphasis on co-operatives and employee-owned businesses.
Speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Mr McDonnell said the incoming Labour government would be an “interventionist” one.
He talked about plans to rewrite the takeover code to make sure every takeover proposal has a plan in place to pay workers and pensioners. In addition, Labour would seek to tackle tax avoidance, he said, by creating a new tax enforcement unit at HMRC and ban tax dodging companies from winning public sector contracts.
Earlier this year, the shadow chancellor said a Labour government would set up a £250bn National Investment Bank managed independently from the government to finance infrastructure development and support lending to businesses.
“The next Labour government will promote a renaissance in co-operative and worker ownership,” Mr McDonnell told delegates. “The new regional development banks will be tasked with supplying the capital that a new generation of business owners will need to succeed.”
As well as promising to raise the living wage to more than £10 by 2020, he touched upon worker representation on boards and employee ownership.
He said: “Theresa May has spoken about worker representation on boards. It’s good to see her following our lead. We know that when workers own and manage their companies, those businesses last longer and are more productive.
“If we want patient, long-term investment, and high-quality firms, what better way to do it than give employees themselves a clear stake in both?”
Mr McDonnell also pledged to introduce a ‘right to own’, giving workers first refusal on a proposal for worker ownership when their company faces a change of ownership or closure.
He said co-operation and collaboration were key to the functioning of the “emerging economy of the future”.
“We’ll look to at least double our co-operative sector so that it matches those in Germany and the US,” he added. “We’ll build on the good example of Labour councils like Preston, here in the north-west, using public procurement to support co-operatives where they can.”
A Labour government would also help create 200 local energy companies and 1,000 energy co-ops, said Mr McDonnell.
In addition, the shadow chancellor confirmed the Labour Party would seek to preserve access to the single market and Britain’s stake in the European Investment Bank.
“Imagine the society that we can create,” he said. “It’s a society that’s radically transformed, radically fairer, more equal and more democratic. Yes, based upon a prosperous economy but an economy that’s economically and environmentally sustainable and where that prosperity is shared by all.
“That’s our vision to rebuild and transform Britain. In this party you no longer have to whisper it – it’s called socialism.”