Report: FEPS international seminar on economy in the framework of the Labour party’s National policy forum



FEPS and Labour party international breakfast seminar on the economy –Report of the discussion

FEPS international breakfast seminar on the economy, in the framework of the Labour party’s National policy forum, which took place in Milton Keynes, 18th – 20th July 2014.

The breakfast seminar was organised by FEPS and the Labour party, the seminar aimed to provide a broader context to the policy discussions on the economy. It took place during the three-day forum where the party discusses its policies in depth.

The National policy forum is a key moment in the Labour party’s policy making process, especially in the run up to the General election. This year there were several policy consultation documents which have been put forward and amendments may be submitted on these papers from constituency Labour party branches and some other affiliates.

A full report of what was agreed at the NPF will be published at the time of Labour's annual conference in the autumn and it will form the foundation of the party's election manifesto.

Some 150 delegates attend the Forum itself. Our seminar attracted around 40 people where some very good discussions took place between the audience and the speakers.

The main conclusions drawn was that Labour needs to make the positive case for the EU because it is our single biggest market and is fundamental for jobs and trade in Britain. In addition the Conservative economic policy agenda is not working for debt and sustainability in Europe.

Speakers:

Stefano Fassina, former deputy finance Minister of Italy and economist at the International Monetary fund.

Shabana Mahmood MP for Birmingham Ladywood and a lawyer

Ruari Quinn, former finance Minister for Ireland,

Chair - Glenis Willmott MEP for the East Midlands

The discussion focused on the importance of new employment and economic stimulus and a wider European context was given on the economy. Taking place just after the recent European elections, some discussion was held on that, in particular, how elections in general are affecting European economies. The speakers highlighted the importance of investment policies in the next political phase looking towards the general elections next May.

Stefano Fassina gave an economic outlook of Italy which was interesting for the UK audience to understand more aspects of the economic crisis there. He went into more detail on different economic policies and stimulus that could be provided to overcome it. He gave an outlook of the political and cultural changes that are taking place in Italy since the crisis too such as electoral reforms and changes to address tax evasion.

On the Euro he believes that there is a weak recovery due to conservative policies not working. He put the emphasis on export for recovery is not fitting for all European countries, as is the case for Italy. He explains how the employment situation is very difficult for young people and spoke about the large numbers of SME’s in Italy closing down over the last few years.

The debt level has increased by 30 GDP points in the Eurozone since the crisis and now stands at 95% now. This illustrates that Conservative economic policy agenda is not working for debt and sustainability. We are in a deflationary situation and growth is not on its way.

Ruari Quinn addressed the importance of the recent European elections on the UKs relationship with its European partners especially with regards to the Labour party and in particular in combatting conservative economic policies. He also referred to the economic policies at EU level and some of the effects of how this has been shaped by a Conservative majority for so many years.

Ruari spoke about the problem of misinformation of the British media and all the speakers spoke about their unprofessional behaviour. It is indeed largely unhelpful in the way it reports EU affairs, using the recent Cameron Juncker spat as an example, simply telling lies, which deeply shapes British attitudes to the EU. This is something which could have serious long term effects on EU-UK relations.

All the speakers emphasised that the UK is an important actor in Brussels. The Labour party could make a big difference for the economic agenda if it spoke with a louder clearer voice on these issues.

Shabana Mahmood spoke about the UK economic situation and how it is currently off forecast towards achieving growth. The Conservatives believe there is improvement but she feels that living standards are not reflecting this.

Speaking in more detail on some reasons why she believes the Labour party has not seen a wave of voters since the economic crisis and she puts this down to people’s last of trust in the institutions. Phone hacking, the MPs expenses scandal and cover ups being exposed of the Police force and energy wholesale costs are examples of serious issues which have deeply affected trust in the system. Labour is working to address this.

The speakers also emphasised that people are our biggest asset. In addressing the economic crisis with concrete policies, it was agreed that long-term reforms are needed. There needs to be a strong focus also on improving infrastructure, science and research as reform of the markets are our priorities. Moreover giving people the important skills required for jobs and skills with fast technological change.

A lively discussion followed the debate which gave light to further economic and investment policies.