Thomas Piketty, leading left-wing economist, resigns from Labour party role

'I am of course deeply concerned with the Brexit vote, and with the weak campaign of Labour'

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Thomas Piketty, one of the most influential left-wing intellectuals, has stood down as an economic advisor to Jeremy Corbyn and said he is deeply concerned with the European Union referendum result.

Mr Piketty, who is a professor of economics at the Paris School of Economics and the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, told The Independent he made the decision to resign “a couple of weeks” ago – long before Britons voted to leave the EU in last week’s historic referendum. 

Confirming he had stood down from the Labour leader’s economic advisory council – which was announced by shadow Chancellor John McDonnell after Mr Corbyn’s victory in the leadership contest last summer – Mr Piketty added the decision was “not because of political disagreement” but “simply because I was never able to find the time to be properly involved in this council”. 

But, he added: “That being said, I am of course deeply concerned with the Brexit vote, and with the weak campaign of Labour (even though Corbyn is obviously not the primary [person] responsible for this disaster).”

Upon joining the council in September 2015 the French economist, who advocated a redistributive wealth tax, said “I am very happy to take part in this economic advisory committee and assist the Labour Party in constructing an economic policy that helps tackle some of the biggest issues facing people in the UK.

“There is now a brilliant opportunity for the Labour party to construct a fresh and new political economy which will expose austerity for the failure it has been in the UK and Europe.”

News of Mr Piketty’s departure comes after Danny Blanchflower, who also had a place on the economic council, announced yesterday that he had resigned. He said: “In light of recent development I have decided to resign from the economic advisory council and wind up the review of the Bank of England”. 

It will come as a blow to the embattled Labour leader who, on Tuesday, shrugged off a blistering defeat in a vote of no confidence. In the parliamentary Labour party, Labour MPs passed the motion by a margin of 172 votes to 40. A leadership contest is expected to be announced shortly by the party – though, it is unclear whether Mr Corbyn will automatically receive a place on the ballot. 

Just last week Richard Murphy, a professor of practice in international political economy at City University and director of Tax Research UK, wrote in the Guardian: “Now his leadership is in crisis. I will make myself unpopular for saying this, but I think that those demanding change are right to do so, even if I will not agree with much of their reasoning.”

Mr Murphy added that the Labour leader had “not provided a vision of what his leadership will deliver”, adding that on economics “we have so far heard almost nothing that really progresses the ideas outlined last summer”. He is often referred to as one of Mr Corbyn’s economic gurus.

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