Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize-winning economist, has waded in on the Labour leadership debate, arguing that centre-left parties have “wimped out” when it comes to taking on austerity.
Speaking in London this weekend, Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor, stated he was “not surprised at all” that a vocal anti-austerity candidate like Corbyn was seemingly steaming ahead in the polls.
“I am not surprised at all that there is a demand for a strong anti-austerity movement around increased concern about inequality. The promises of New Labour in the UK and of the Clintonites in the US have been a disappointment,” argued the economist, who has 40 honorary doctorates, and at least eight honorary professorships to his name.
Stiglitz went on to lambast left-wing parties like Labour for failing to oppose austerity regimes, arguing they’ve “wimped out” of proposing an alternative to cuts and privatisation.
“Unfortunately the centre-left parties have wimped out. They have joined in saying: Oh yes, we have to have a kinder version of austerity, a milder version of austerity," he said. Only last week, the majority of Labour MPs, including all the Labour leadership hopefuls bar Corbyn, failed to vote against controversial welfare reforms.
When it came to the causes of Corbyn’s success, Stiglitz, who based on academic citations is the fourth most influential economist in the world, explained that an anti-austerity left-wing agenda, as is being offered by Corbyn’s campaign, is representative of what many people believe.
“Talking about the broader impact on the UK and elsewhere, it is very clear outside Germany that the view that austerity is bad is very widespread. I think it is the correct view. Its obviously going to lead to a stronger sentiment, people saying we have to fight austerity.”
The success of Corbyn’s campaign has been compared to the Democratic presidential candidate when Obama’s term of office comes to an end. Bernie Sanders, a State Senator from Vermont, has thrown his left-wing hat into the 2016 election ring, and has been drawing bigger crowds than his rival, Hilary Clinton. Stiglitz argues a lack of economic message has paved the way for these left-wingers to present a more progressive alternative.
“It’s just very hard to say these centre-left parties – with emphasis on ‘centre’ – have been able to deliver for most people.” Said Sanders. “Their economic models have not delivered and their message is not working. So to me it’s not a surprise that you have seen, say in the United States, which obviously I know better, that [anti-austerity] progressives are getting a much stronger voice in the Democratic Party.”
The results Labour leadership election will be announced on 12 September 2015.