The Cooking the Books column from the May 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Chuka Umunna, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, is being touted as among those who may succeed Miliband as Leader if Labour lose the election. It could therefore be revealing to look at what empty promises he is making in his bid for re-election in Streatham in London.
One ‘Re-elect Chuka Umunna’ leaflet states (the obvious): ‘Too many people don’t earn enough money.’ So what is he going to do about it? Make employers pay higher wages all round? He’s not that much of a demagogue, if only because no-one would believe a Labour government could deliver it. Instead, what he promises is:
‘Labour believes that helping people get higher paying work is the right thing to do … Labour will support areas of the economy like low-carbon and creative industries which can support new high paying jobs … Labour believes that the least everyone deserves is a wage they can live off, and a Labour government will help more people get higher paying jobs.’
This is carefully crafted to suggest one thing while meaning another (note the repetition of the term ‘higher paying’). The suggestion is that a Labour government will help workers earn more money. However, this won’t be for the job they are now doing. It would only be for workers who moved to work in some other sector of the economy said to be able to ‘support high paying jobs.’ Two sectors in particular are mentioned – low-carbon and ‘creative’. Umunna doesn’t spell out how or why these industries would be able to offer higher-paid jobs than other industries nor how a Labour government would ‘support’ them, though probably there’s a Labour Party policy paper somewhere, full of provisos and let-out clauses, explaining this.
‘Creative’ is generally used to refer to specialised legal and commercial services that are sold to overseas clients (and which are not really ‘creative’ at all since they don’t actually create any new wealth, just make a profit from capturing a share of wealth already created in some other part of the world). As to ‘low-carbon industries’, it is hard to see how they could be made profitable without government help, whether tax breaks or direct subsidies, i.e., by being subsidised from the profits of other sectors of the economy.
Wanting to earn more money is a perfectly legitimate aspiration for workers under capitalism, but they would be better advised to pursue this through their own trade union action than relying on the promises of ambitious politicians.
Elsewhere, Umunna makes a really wild promise:
‘I want a Labour government so we can fix the root causes of the problems people come to me at my surgeries for help with. I believe we can tackle the massive problems that exist with the cost of housing and childcare, with our transport system, and with low pay and insecure work.’
Fix the root causes? Really? Since these ‘massive problems’ have a single root cause in capitalism, with its minority ownership and production for profit, a Labour government is going to do nothing of the sort. They would just tinker around without being able to tackle them. If re-elected he and the other MPs will find people continuing to come to their surgeries for help with the same problems as before since their root cause – capitalism – will not have been fixed. To really solve them capitalism will have to be ended but Umunna accepts capitalism and is on record as standing only for a ‘better capitalism’