Labour’s radical new Baroness: “The wealth of the City of London has been stolen from us”

Pauline Bryan also said Labour have "allowed our representatives to become distant, not just from the electorate but the party too."

One of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent appointees to the House of Lords has said capitalism is responsible for the ‘rape and pillage of continents’ and called for a radical overhaul of the City of London. 

In a session on federalism at Momentum’s The World Transformed conference in Liverpool, Baroness Pauline Bryan told activists: “The wealth of the city of London has been stolen from us. We need to get that back.”

Baroness Bryan was made a peer in May, alongside two others, on the condition that “at earliest opportunity we abolish it.”

The session featured Labour Holyrood Shadow Brexit Secretary Neil Findlay MSP, alongside Glasgow councillor Matt Kerr.

Pauline Bryan is a Glasgow-based campaigner and a member of the Red Paper collective, a group set up to ‘provide a Labour Movement alternative to the sterile nationalist v unionist debate around the referendum.’

The group say they are ‘more interested in the politics of class than the politics of nationalism, in social and economic change rather than constitutional change.’

In the session, titled ‘Federalism and Other Opportunities’, the Baroness criticised local Labour representatives for not attending local party meetings:

“I can’t remember the last time I saw a councillor at our party meeting, or an MP. I’ve never seen a regional MSP at our constituency meting.

She added that Labour politicians need to be more ‘accountable’:

“We’ve allowed our representatives to become distant, not just from the electorate but the party too. We need to insist our representatives are accountable. in councils we have to reclaim power from officers.”

Pauline Bryan has been a stern critic of the SNP, criticising the party’s ‘Growth Commission’, set up to work out the economics for an independent Scotland. In a June article for the Red Paper collective, she wrote:

“The Growth Commission document has many flaws but the most glaringly obvious is that it has woven into its fabric a belief that global capitalism with its free markets and neo-liberal policies is the only possible economic structure for a future Scotland.”

Labour’s Neil Findlay MSP also laid into the SNP in the session, saying:

“Some people on the left have been seduced by the SNP’s rhetoric of [being] a party of the left. Economically they are a party of the right…The Growth Commission is a neoliberal recipe book for Scotland after independence..

“Don’t be seduced by it – the SNP’s rhetoric in the House of Commons does not reflect the reality. Cuts are destroying local government, and we have almost same problems in our NHS and education system as you have elsewhere in the UK.”

In the fringe event, Baroness Bryan also stressed the importance of political education and class politics, noting: “When I joined labour I was encouraged to read and debate – to read Marx. I’d start there.” She went on to say: “We have to find a way of putting class interests above all other interests.”

She called for Brexit to be used an opportunity to reform democracy in the UK, saying: “Many feel power is unaccountable in Westminster. Islington is as remote from power as Aberdeen…unless things are done differently what we’re going to get is the neoliberal ideology that underpins [those powers] coming back to our government.” B. Bryan argued those rules include EU policies demanding compulsory competitive tendering for providers of public services.

She added: “We’ve got to find a way of sharing powers we originally gave away…Political democracy isn’t enough – we need a fundamental shift in power, and democratic control of our economy.”

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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