June 17: New Labour leader must tackle challenge of casino banking

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From: Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley.

YOU were recently kind enough to cover a joint statement I’d signed with other new Labour MPs about the sort of leader Labour needs to take us forward. Your columnist Tom Richmond was decidedly at odds with our position, so I thought I might be able to clarify it a bit further.

I believe candidates in Labour’s leadership race must lead the much needed debate on the economy.

This means, to start with, a critique of the last Labour government’s record on the economy and inequality followed by a response to the 2008 financial crash and the Government’s subsequent response.

I want a leader who will oversee this debate and not one who will merely fall back on a playbook that was relevant in the mid 1990s but is horribly outdated now. The boundaries for debate are set by our core values and these values should influence the range of answers we find but they must also address the new economic challenges we face.

The current economic model has become increasingly unpredictable and unstable. Tory austerity is hitting our public services hard whilst letting the financial sector of the hook.

I was stirred to stand in my home constituency after working in the City of London and seeing the disgusting malpractice first hand in our financial sector. I was sickened then and I am even more so now that nothing in the City has changed since the financial crash. Whether it is bankers’ bonuses or recent banking scandals, the public are not benefiting from the structure of our economy.

In fact it is the public who are facing cuts to services, jobs and increasing instability in our public services as a result of the City’s high-risk casino attitude. In fact the rewards for risk have continued and worsened with bankers being rewarded for epic failures. We need a massive overhaul of our economic structure, so that it starts serving the public not the interests of unaccountable business.

Looking at Labour’s defeat, I believe the leadership candidates need to start tackling the massive challenges we face in our economy. It is right that we can’t write off the last five years and we need to move away from the close-knit elite that has been dominant in our political system to appreciate the economy’s difficulties fully.

If Labour are going to start speaking for, and to, working people across the whole United Kingdom again, we need a leader who understands ordinary people’s lives.