Chuka Umunna, eye-wateringly New Labour
I don’t have a problem with people making a lot of money, so long as they pay their taxes and it’s good for our economy. Two-thirds of private sector jobs come from small and medium sized businesses and it’s tough out there. I speak to lots of business owners who pay themselves less than they pay their employees. They are keeping the economy going.
The first sentence is a deliberate echo of Peter Mandelson’s 1998 quotation.
I’m very clear: we want to help people make their first million. If you set up a start-up and you increase you turnover to over a million, you will be employing people and delivering tax receipts to the Exchequer and helping Britain pay its way in the world. We should be saying that.
But he pointed out that this is not just about money:
There’s a misunderstanding about a lot of entrepreneurs and business people. The sole driver in what they do isn’t just money. People who go into business simply to make money don’t necessarily succeed, there’s usually a mission behind it to do something useful for society and if it’s really useful then that’s obviously something you can commercialise.
He claimed the Blairite anti-establishment mantle:
And I also think there’s something about the buccaneering spirit of the entrepreneur which is very much in tune with Labour values. Because if you think about it, you’re entering new markets and challenging the establishment. And we kind of like to challenge the establishment in the Labour party. We’ve always been a party that is aspirational and looks to help people achieve their dreams and their aspirations.
He was asked about George Osborne’s raid on Labour language of full employment and turned it quite neatly:
I say, of course any job is better than no job. But we’ve got to be a more ambitious for our people and what we want to see is an economy that’s creating good, secure jobs that pay a wage you can live off, that are fulfilling, that can give you dignity. We are determined to ensure we get an economy that builds out our middle class and the number of middle income jobs that we have. The problem with our economy is, in relation to the other OECD economies we have a disproportionately high incidence of low paid and low skilled work.
Growing the number of middle incomes jobs – that for us, in this new era, is the new project. If in 1945 Labour was committed to and argued for full employment, we’ve moved beyond that now. George Osborne can move to a 1945 position, we are moving to a 2030 position.
And he defended Tony Blair’s record:
We achieved a huge amount in office, and we should shout more loudly about it. We all know what the Conservative strategy will be, and that will be to argue that Labour crashed the car. Well, that is not the experience of my constituents when they look at the six new and improved health centres in Streatham, when they look at our safer neighbourhood teams in every ward, when they look at improved school buildings, reduced class sizes and the increased numbers of young people going to university for the first time in their family’s history. Don’t tell me we crashed the car, because we left this country in an immeasurably better state in 2010 than we found it in 1997 and Tony Blair has a huge amount to do with that. And people forget that.
Asked if he is in contact with Blair:
I speak to lots of people … I’m very lucky. I’ve got the energy I suppose that comes with not having been around for so long. But I’ve never thought that I know everything. I think you always learn. Bill Clinton said that as a politician you’re always developing and evolving constantly throughout your journey. I suppose I’m a sponge for the wisdom and experience that lots of these people are happy to share.
When asked how often they phone each other, he laughs:
Tagged in: aspiration, Chuka Umunna, New Labour
I’m not going to go into that.
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