The Shadow Chancellor will head to the Alps next week to take on the elite. But what will he say?by George Magnus / January 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
You know truth is stranger than fiction when Nigel Farage wants a second referendum on Brexit and John McDonnell accepts an invitation to go to the World Economic Forum in Davos next week. We are used to politics throwing up all sorts of surprises, but there are few things as incongruous as this Labour Shadow Chancellor joining up with what he might easily call “class enemies” as they descend on the Alpine village.
Davos attendees comprise, for the most part, senior corporate executives, bankers, mainstream politicians and journalists. Some of the 2,500 attendees qualify for grants, but most have to pay. In light of various membership and partnership arrangements, the cost ranges between 60,000-600,000 Swiss francs, or £45,000-£450,000, plus the attendance fee, travel, accommodation, entertainment, and, if required, security costs. For about £500, you could get admitted but your access would be highly restricted. While many present, including NGO leaders and academics, may be politically sympathetic to McDonnell, the global elite is for the most part the opposition.
Davos couldn’t be more different from the annual Labour Party or TUC conference in a provincial city or faded seaside town. In 2015 Jeremy Corbyn, promoting a piece he’d written in the Morning Star, summarised his view on Twitter when he wrote: “The obscene hypocrisy of Davos and its lectures to all of the 99pc. Morning Star: Dealings in faux concern.” Much more recently, when the investment bank Morgan Stanley reported that a Labour government would be a bigger threat to British business than Brexit, Corbyn responded that the authors were right: Labour would be a “threat to a damaging and failed system that is rigged for the few.”
So, what might John McDonnell hope to achieve by going to Davos, which will be full of the very people he views as the problem?
The only information provided at the time of the announcement of his attendance was that he would be going to “set out the party’s alternative economic approach” and to explain why “capitalism is failing and why it is vital to rewrite the rules of the global economy.”
The irony is that Davos is keenly aware of these failings but suddenly finds it has no scribes to rewrite the approach. At least, not the kind of approach that it would like. It certainly has little faith in…