John McDonnell warns of 'social avalanche' unless global economic rules are rewritten

Speaking ahead of his first visit, the Shadow Chancellor said if the ‘Davos few stand in the way of change that’s needed, they risk raising the price they pay’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 24 January 2018 17:46
McDonnell will travel to Davos later this week
McDonnell will travel to Davos later this week

John McDonnell has warned of a “political and social avalanche” unless the global economic rules are rewritten ahead of his first visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Referring to the global elite gathered in the Swiss ski resort as the “Davos few”, the Shadow Chancellor warned: “If they stand in the way of the change that’s needed, they risk raising the price they pay. Change is coming either way.”

Mr McDonnell, who is one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies, said that many attendees to the World Economic Forum have been “patting themselves on the back” as international growth figures have started to rise.

“But they should be worried,” he warned. “In the real world, outside the Davos bubble of Alpine restaurants and chalets, the global economic system they have built isn’t working for billions of people.”

“And just as Davos faces the risk of an avalanche this week, growth for a few risks a political and social avalanche unless there is fundamental change to our rigged economic system.”

It is the Shadow Chancellor’s first visit to the annual event, with his name appearing on the speakers list alongside world leaders including Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May.

Before leaving for her trip to Switzerland on Wednesday, the Prime Minister joked in the House of Commons: “Who knows, I might even bump into the Shadow Chancellor while I’m there.”

A source close to the Shadow Chancellor said Mr McDonnell will be in Davos to campaign on social justice and global inequality issues, alongside NGOs, to “speak truth to power and give a voice to the voiceless”.

The World Economic Forum at Davos: what is it, who attends, why is it important?

“People are not going to put up with it,” Mr McDonnell added. “In the depths of a recession people focus on getting by. But when they are told things are getting better and see no evidence of it in their own lives, they begin to demand real change.

“In country after country people have suffered a decade of austerity since the crash of 2008. They know austerity was a con trick when they see that the wealth of the super rich has doubled and banks and corporations have been rewarded with tax cuts.

“Ordinary people have worked hard to dig us out a slump they didn’t cause, as they have been forced to accept low wages and long hours while paying off the costs of the crisis with their taxes.

“What did they get in return? Their public services cut and sold off, soaring pay and bonuses at the very top and tax dodging on an industrial scale, exposed by the Panama and Paradise papers.”

Setting out Labour’s vision for an alternative, he continued: “Real change to the system is Labour’s mission, one we share with parties and movements all over the world. The real wealth creators – that means all of us, not just those with offshore bank accounts – must share in the prosperity we all create.

“To achieve that, we must launch a global drive against tax dodging and financial secrecy, for democratic control over our economy and to protect our planet.”

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