Barber: progressives must “fight back” against spending cuts

Brendan Barber urged the progressive centre-left to "fight back" against spending cuts. He called for a domestic 'Tobin' tax to raise £30 billion a year.

Brendan Barber concluded the TUC’s ‘Beyond Crisis’ conference by urging the progressive centre-left to “fight back” and “expose what a ‘slash and burn’ approach to public spending would really mean in practice.” He also called for a domestic ‘Tobin’ tax on sterling transfers to raise £30 billion a year.

Speaking at the end of a day of discussion and new ideas on the recession, Barber said:

“Our opponents on the right have captured the public debate about where we go next. The talk is not of nurturing recovery, nor of avoiding mass unemployment, but of paying down our deficit as soon as possible.

“Yes, in the long term, Britain’s public debt is unsustainable and will have to come down before the gilt markets go on strike – but in the here and now, it is a distraction from the critical economic challenges we face.”

In setting out his own vision for an economic policy, Barber called for a “greener” economy, a “new kind of financial system”, and “ensuring growth is driven by wages rather than debt.” Setting out a policy approach for the financial sector, the TUC general secretary suggested “clamping down on the tax avoidance that costs the Exchequer £25 billion a year … ending the scam that allows leading players in hedge funds and private equity to classify their earnings as capital gains rather than income … [and] exploring the potential for an international transaction tax.”

He went on:

even if international agreement proved impossible, the TUC believes a transaction tax could be implemented domestically. For example a 0.05 per cent tax on instant sterling transfers between UK financial institutions could net £30 billion a year.

The logic is clear for all to see. The finance industry takes a small hit – a levy of one twentieth of one per cent – but helps repay the massive debts that the government has incurred fighting the financial crisis.

Earlier, Pat McFadden spoke on the transition to a low-carbon economy. Answering a question from the audience Pat McFadden said, “No, I do not agree with everything that Brendan said.”

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