Sunday, 11 June 2017

THE ELECTION HAS STARTED SOMETHING, BUT FOR LASTING CHANGE WE NEED TO GO DEEPER

If we're interested in long-term change, if we want a new economic and political system that values human wellbeing and respects the environment upon which it depends, then the outcome of the general election may well have been as much as we could hope for.

For the millions supporting Corbyn's Labour, that message could be hard to hear. After all, with only a handful more seats Corbyn could now be installed in Downing Street, framing a minority government programme that the other "progressive" parties would find hard to vote down.

Enticing as that sounds, however, its is likely that such an outcome would have ended in tears, and not only because coalitions thrown up by the UK's dodgy electoral system are inherently shaky. Even with a majority, Labour would still be obliged to operate within the neo-liberal economic system. That system would blunt its effectiveness, or even destroy its programme, risking disillusionment particularly among the newly-engaged young voters with whom Corbyn is so popular.

If you doubt that, think back to 1997 and the return, with a massive majority, of a Labour government that was going to rebuild the social and industrial fabric destroyed by Thatcher. Blair embraced the market in his attempt to achieve this, and in the process gave us an independent Bank of England (concerned only with monetary policy and not social consequences); eye-wateringly expensive Private Finance Initiatives, an increasingly privatised NHS and a rise in the wealth and influence of the "filthy rich".

Corbyn may not embrace the neo-liberal market system with Blair's fervour, but he still knows it's there. So his policies, with their cautious costings, are primarily focused on relieving its unfairer aspects rather than changing it at source. This is not to say that he, and particularly his ally John McDonnell, do not want to change the system. It's just that they don't (yet) have a project to do so.

The ideas are all there. Academics, think tanks and campaigning groups have been working for decades to develop new models for corporate governance, banking, money-creation, fair trade, land ownership and wealth distribution, as well as the crucial question of how wealth is measured. Progressive parties have picked up on bits and pieces of these - the Universal Basic Income featured in the Green Party manifesto and Labour have a working group looking at the idea - but no one is weaving them together into a coherent political and economic programme.

Since the crash ten years ago the existing economic system is widely acknowledged to be broken, yet conventional political wisdom says we're stuck with it. The idea that wealth is created through capital investment and asset appreciation rather than the work of people's brains, hearts and hands is so firmly ingrained that no threat to the owners of that capital - whether murky offshore funds, big corporate rentiers or merely home-owners basking in the glow of rising house prices - can safely be contemplated.

If we want things to change, therefore, the primary and essential task is to shift that conventional political wisdom, and not just in parties or among activists or in the progressive "echo-chamber" but in the collective mindset of ordinary people who rarely think about such things. This means framing new, collaborative economic and political ideas not in working papers and policy documents but in the instinctual, emotional, personal and familial terms in which most people do their politics.

Looked at rationally, high house prices are not good for our collective or individual wealth or wellbeing, but how do you convince a homeowner of that? A Basic Income will free people up to create real wealth for themselves, their families and communities, but won't people think they're just sponging off the state? Fair trade, social enterprise and community banking will tackle poverty and social exclusion while keeping wealth in local communities, but to many it may seem inefficient and unrealistic. These are feelings, not arguments, so they cannot be countered directly. Instead, new forms and pictures must be shaped, to help change the landscape from which those feelings are drawn.
 
I don't know how to do that, but I mean to spend time in the next year or so trying to find out. While the Tories are making a hash of Brexit the task of true progressives is to crack this puzzle and thus change the central premise on which the next election is fought. Only if we do that can the passion and enthusiasm that Corbyn has tapped into find its full, meaningful expression as a driver of profound, sustainable, political and economic change.

Picture credit: Sophie Brown (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Trump's victory, like the Brexit vote, doesn't solve anything, but it puts the system in play and we must be ready for that

Memory soon adjusts to a new reality. A few months ago I woke up (in France, as it happens) to the news of Brexit; this morning's news of the US election is of the same shocking quality. As with Brexit, we have no idea what this really means, but the sense of shock will pass, probably sooner than it should.

It's far too early to start speculating on what Trump's presidency may hold. It's worth remembering, however, that, just as the left was rapidly disappointed by Obama, so may Trump in office prove less radical than his supporters hope. The Republicans will still control Congress, but that party is now so divided that "control" may not be quite the word. And Trump is not an experienced political operator, so the administrative machine is bound to slow him down.

On one thing, however, the pundits are likely to agree: the Democrats put up the wrong candidate. I flagged this up in a post last April: although the polling back them suggested that Clinton would beat Trump, it also showed that Bernie Sanders would beat him much more easily. The U.S. electorate was in the market for radical change. Trump and Sanders were both offering it, but Clinton was not.

Before the shock passes, therefore, it is worth reflecting again on what lessons can be learned for British politics. At the moment we're enduring the triumphalism of the nationalist right, buoyed up by the fact that predictions of post-Brexit economic fallout have not (yet) come to pass. This new right, however, has no plan to address the profound issues of inequality, poverty and social marginalisation that gave rise to the Brexit vote and have now brought Trump to power. Effective as a force of opposition, it will become increasingly vulnerable when things don't get better as a result of its policies.

To prepare for that moment, it is no good rehashing a sort of Blairite/Cameronian globalist centrism in the hope that a chastened electorate will in due course "come back to mummy".  The voters are correct in their instincts, that a system so massively stacked against them requires fundamental change. If the new right can't provide that, then history may view the votes for Brexit and Trump not as definitive in themselves but as the triggers that put the entire neo-liberal consensus in play. It's time to get ready.

Picture credit: Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Plucky Wallonia exposes the lie at the heart of EU trade policy

Welcome to Wallonia....
Policy strives to achieve the things that it measures, and nothing is more fervently measured in modern economies than GDP. If increasing GDP is the policy objective, then encouraging trade - any sort of trade - will generally help. GDP measures money transactions, so the more times a product and its components are traded on their journey from producer to consumer, the more GDP is recorded.

That, in summary, is the basis for TTIP, TPP, TISA and, currently, CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiated between the EU and Canada, which the regional parliament of Wallonia, in Belgium, is refusing to pass. Trade agreements increase activity in global markets, which increases GDP. The size of that increase is much debated, but even a tiny percentage of GDP is a big number in pounds or Euros, and makes for good headlines.

The extent to which trade agreements actually increase GDP is not, however, the real issue. The lie at the heart of trade policy is much bigger than that. The lie is that increasing GDP makes people wealthier, when it can easily have the opposite effect. As economies grow, what matters most is how that additional wealth is distributed. If most of it goes to the already-wealthy, then the rest of society becomes relatively poorer. Relative poverty is real poverty: when the rich people who hold assets such as shares and property get even richer, then housing, energy and basic services become more expensive and poorer people can buy fewer of them.

Both statistics and human experience bear out this point. Statistics show that median US incomes have not risen since the 1960s, although GDP has more than doubled. Experience in the UK is that while the UK economy is generating plenty of jobs, more and more of these do not pay enough to live on. Poorly paid, insecure jobs generate GDP and make employers richer, but they leave employees with insufficient wealth to live.

The connection between these outcomes and global free trade has to do with the way in which the nature of trade has changed over the years. Originally its purpose was to exchange things that one could produce for things that one couldn't. This could be driven by variable factors such as climate, environment, natural resources or the availability of expertise and technology. Thousands of years ago the people of Cornwall were exporting tin on this basis, and importing fine quality manufactured goods such as pottery and silverware.

These days, however, trade is increasingly driven not by need or availability, but by price. The technological capacity of Europe and Canada are similar, and their climates are comparable, too. There is not a great deal that either can produce that the other cannot. There is no reason to suppose, for example, that Europe cannot produce as much pork as it can eat; and yet the people of Wallonia are worried about their pig farmers, because CETA will allow unrestricted E.U. access for 80,000 tonnes of Canadian pork.

The only rationale for shipping 80,000 tonnes of pork thousands of miles across the Atlantic is that, even after the cost of that shipping is taken into account, it will still be cheaper. Which means that its cost of production in Canada is significantly lower, presumably because it is produced on an industrial scale. And cheaper pork is, apparently, good for European consumers, who are feeling the pinch because their own incomes are being squeezed.

And this is where the real problem with GDP-driven trade policy becomes apparent. Not only does GDP fail to take account of the distribution of wealth, but it also takes no account of the qualitative aspects of people's lives that cannot be measured in money terms. In 2013 the UK government released research findings showing that, although GDP had more than doubled in the previous forty years, people's life satisfaction had scarcely changed at all. Living in a country that was twice as rich did not make people happier, because the way in which that "twice as rich" was measured did not capture the things that really mattered to them.

Raising pigs on smaller farms in Wallonia may be more expensive in crude money terms, but it may also be conducive to a higher quality of life by preserving social and cultural networks in local communities and protecting the environment. These things have value. They can make or break the quality of people's lives, and its sustainability, and yet they have no place in the calculation of the benefits and losses that arise from unrestricted global trade.

People across Europe are waking up to the fact that economic "growth" as measured by GDP does not make them wealthier in terms that they recognise. Instead, it is disrupting their communities, causing people to trek thousands of miles in search of low-paid, insecure work; it is raising the cost of housing and energy; it is pouring money into the coffers of already-wealthy investors; it is giving multi-national companies more and more power over people's lives; it is depleting public services, as taxes on the wealthy are lowered to encourage investment; it is degrading the environment - not least with the CO2 emissions that will arise from shipping all that pork across the Atlantic.

Plucky Wallonians have finally said "non" to this madness. Instead of trying to strong-arm them into changing their minds, the Eurocracy would do well to learn from their good sense.

Picture by Stephane.dohet (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Basic Income can fix Corbyn's nuclear problems

A Trident nuclear sub: replacement will create 13,000 jobs
Much of my childhood was spent in rural east Somerset, at the foot of the Mendips. For us children, Frome was "the smoke" - an industrial town that we only visited for its railway station, or for rare purchases that the local shops in Evercreech and Shepton Mallet could not provide.

Fast forward 40 years and Frome has morphed into a locus for alternative living. The Transition Movement may have been born in Totnes, but its Westcountry cousin has swiftly overtaken it in terms of political and economic innovation. Frome's "Flatpack Democracy" has produced a town council of independents focused on collaboration, devoid of members from any known political brand.

It was this reputation that brought Upstream, a radio documentary project from Economics for Transition, to the town this summer, to explore how new, wellbeing economics might work when applied in a live situation. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the project). The result is fascinating and unexpected. Over three one-hour programmes, Upstream's Della Duncan digs deep below the surface of Frome's burgeoning "sharing economy" to reveal the still livid scars of thirty years of de-industrialisation and social deprivation.

Frome's pioneering political and economic model may indeed bring hope and inspiration to a wide, even global audience. But at a local level the tensions are palpable. With the factories that I remember from my childhood long gone, and little of real productive substance to replace them, Frome now typifies the divergence of interests between a dispossessed working class that struggles to be heard and an increasingly vocal, socially liberal, aspirational, alternative movement. Nowhere is that divergence more clearly seen than in house prices, which incoming gentrifiers have sent rocketing far beyond the reach of most locals.

This tension - between liberal alternative values and those of the traditional labour movement - runs right through the anti-establishment forces ranged against the current Conservative government. In the middle stands the figure of Jeremy Corbyn - a stalwart of the Labour movement rapidly becoming an icon for many old-school liberals drawn to his principled positions.

Fifty miles to the west of Frome lies Hinkley Point, where a huge new nuclear power station is planned to be built on what are widely regarded as ruinous terms. Corbyn is opposed to this folly, along with everyone of an even slightly green, alternative disposition, but the labour movement, as represented by the trades unions and many in the Labour Party, is broadly in favour. They welcome the jobs the investment will bring, and see it as a boost to British industry rather than a rash mis-allocation of precious resources.

The recent row over Hinkley Point mirrors a far deeper one within the Labour Party over nuclear weapons, where the renewal of Trident also has strong trades union support. Corbyn, a long standing CND supporter, is opposed on principle, but the unions want the investment in jobs that the project will bring. Meanwhile the Conservative government has a free hand. Even Corbyn now accepts the futility of merely deepening Labour disunity over the issue.

It is clearly within the remit of trades unions to fight for good jobs at decent rates of pay, but from a new economy perspective their approach to these nuclear projects looks like outdated thinking. The combined cost of Hinkley C and Trident renewal is at least £50 billion just for construction, while the long-term cost of the power station is estimated at up to £37 billion and of Trident at £167 billion. To target such colossal resources at protecting a relatively small number of skilled jobs - 13,000 in the case of Trident, according to one union estimate; up to 25,000 construction jobs at Hinkley - will do nothing to improve the quality of life of the millions of insecure and poorly paid workers that the labour movement should also be representing.

What is more, most of the jobs at Hinkley, and many of those related to Trident, are relatively transient. At Hinkley the peak number is estimated at 5,600. Once the plant is built it will require only a few hundred to keep it going. So the unions' approach seems not only outdated but short termist, too. The more important question is not how a few tens of thousand jobs can be secured now, but how the financial security of ordinary people can be re-established in a world in which the only things preventing many human workers being replaced by machines is that human workers are cheaper and easier to get rid of.

If the economy were functioning as it should, progress would not mean more paid work, but fewer, better-paid working hours and more time for people to do the things that really matter to them. From this perspective the unprecedented number of jobs that the UK economy is generating is not good news. If the nation is to prosper, we need to work less, but smarter, getting rid of poorly paid, insecure and increasingly unproductive work and replacing it with the sort of creative, productive activities that allow people to flourish.

The basic income is central to this. Both John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn say that Labour is "looking at it", and the TUC at its recent conference passed a motion in favour of it, but there is little evidence to suggest that at present the labour movement sees it as much more than a rejigged benefits system. Its potential, however, is far greater than that: for many it will replace paid work altogether, allowing them to create wealth directly for themselves, their families and their communities without the intervention and profit-taking of investors and middlemen.

This new approach to distributing money-wealth is the missing piece of the puzzle that Upstream uncovered when they went to Frome. A sharing economy requires a sharing of the means of participation, which means ready access to the money needed to get anything done. In the same way, if all those highly skilled, motivated workers destined to work on Hinkley or Trident had the opportunity to decide for themselves how to participate in the economy, their combined output would undoubtedly be far more valuable than the two vast nuclear white elephants that are now in prospect.

Picture credit: By bodgerbrooks [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

How Britain's Olympics success makes the case for the Basic Income

Mo success - Mo Farah shows his double gold at the Rio Olympics
One week later, the spectacle of Team GB's Olympics medals triumph seems a distant memory. It was great while it lasted, not least because it was so unexpected, but the British passion for sports has more to do with commitment that results. We like a loser who gives their all just as much as a winner who cruises to victory. So the UK's second position in the medals table is of passing interest rather than national significance. It's the sport itself that matters, and in the past seven days the sport has moved on.

That's my view, but Liz Nicholl, the chief executive of UK Sport, would beg to differ. "We invest in medal success to create a proud, ambitious, active, healthy nation", she said, hailing the UK as "a sporting superpower" and promising to build on the team's Rio success at the next games in Tokyo in 2020. Some £350 million will be invested over the next four years to make that happen.

Everybody knows that money counts in sport. We're told that each medal in Rio 'cost' over £4m, and almost every GB medal winner was on-message to praise the National Lottery funding that makes it all possible. Targeting continuous growth, however, will bring disappointment eventually. Just as the correlation between money and happiness runs out above a certain point, so the British public's love of sporting success soon turns sour once they learn to expect it. Winning predictably is not really the point. Performances that exceed expectation are what sport-lovers crave.

Nonetheless, the money used by UK Sport to support individual athletes, buying them the time and space in their lives to perfect their calling, has effectively demonstrated an important principle. It recognises that financial security allows people to develop the stuff that they're good at, which, in turn, can have all sorts of social and personal benefits that transcend traditional commercial ideas of value. In a sense, therefore, lottery funding has become a sort of Basic Income for the lucky, talented, committed few with serious medal prospects.

This object lesson in the principle of the Basic Income has its limits, however. For, if "a proud, ambitious, active, healthy nation" is really the purpose of sports funding, then focusing on individual medal prospects is probably not the best way to achieve it. Pride in its good sense means self-esteem and self-valuing; ambition means leading a fulfilled life; active means making decisions for oneself; healthy means having the time and opportunity to prioritise ones physical and mental wellbeing. None of these are achieved by passively watching others excel. All require active engagement, which means structuring society in a way that allows people to participate fully on their own terms.

Sport is one component of this. If every Briton had time and opportunity (including access to facilities) to participate in sport, the nation's tally of sporting success would be certain to rise. We don't know how many potential Mo Farahs and Jessica Ennis Hills have been lost through a failure of participation, but there must be more than a few. More importantly, many, many people have been prevented by social and financial circumstances from participating at their own level - not competing for a place on the podium, but for the far more vital objective of fulfilling or exceeding their own potential.

As in sport, so in every aspect of our lives. Whether as entrepreneurs, artists, carers, inventors, makers, designers or anything else, if we are to fulfil our potential and make our contribution to society we need the time and opportunity to develop every aspect of our talents, capacities and personalities. The Universal Basic Income isn't about picking winners, but acknowledging that everybody has the capacity to win - for themselves, for their families and communities, and for wider society. All they need is access to a fair share of the wealth that buys the time and opportunity to make this possible.

Picture credit: by U.S. Army [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Planning a 'New Economy' politics for the post-Brexit age

I've been off the air for a while, partly because I've been away, and partly because there seemed, initially, almost nothing to contribute about British politics in the post-referendum maelstrom. Everything was already being said, with most theories and speculations only lasting about five minutes before events overtook them.

Now, however, with the dust beginning to settle, it seems worth reiterating something I said in my post of 21 June, that "the outcome of the referendum does not hugely matter in economic terms".  The markets dived, and then they rose to the surface again; conventional demand is weakened and fiscal policy may be relaxed to reflect that, but the people who voted for Brexit - because their communities are depressed and marginalised, their jobs badly paid and insecure and their public services cut to the bone - are still exactly where they were, with no change in prospect despite a replacement prime minister's fine words.

Those words are worth noting, nonetheless. Here's a flavour:
"If you’re one of those families, if you’re just managing, I want to address you directly.
I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.
"We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you."
When the new government fails to deliver on these promises, it will not be because it is a Conservative government rather than a Labour one. It will be because the economic system in which we operate - a system that existed in Britain before the referendum, will exist in Britain after Brexit and which pervades the institutions of the European Union - cannot deliver a fairer, more productive, more equal society. It is neither designed nor intended to do so.

The reason is this: neo-liberal economics are predicated on maximising money wealth, by allowing it to flow freely to wherever it can extract the best investment return. The social wealth of affordable, good quality housing, accessible public services, fair trade, well-paid, secure employment, etc., counts for nothing in this system or, worse still, counts as a cost against the money economy.

As money wealth inevitably flows upwards towards the already-wealthy, governments have to take extraordinary measures to get it back. If, however, they subscribe to the prevailing neo-liberal view that wealth has to be made by private businesses before anyone else can get a share of it, they cannot risk disincentivising the already-wealthy from becoming wealthier still.

The debate that is tearing Labour apart offers no escape from this dilemma. The mainstream parliamentary faction, like social democrats across Europe, has bought into a slightly more people-friendly version of the neo-liberal consensus; the Momentum faction is re-fighting the economic and class wars of the 1970s. Neither is offering a modern alternative to a system that is fundamentally broken.

Meanwhile, all talk of new political alliances and alignments seems pointless until a coherent new framework for economic renewal is put in place. Policy must come before parties and personalities. We need to agree, at least in broad terms, the changes that are needed to re-engineer the economy for the benefit of all.

The building blocks are well known - a form of basic income; new ways of providing affordable housing; a new way of measuring production, including social as well as money wealth; new, fairer trade rules and new forms of corporate governance. The question is how to put these together to create that coherent new framework we so urgently need.

The parameters are quite straightforward. They are (i) a New Economy model that (ii) brings significant benefits to the quality of the lives of ordinary people and (iii) is described in terms that ordinary people can make sense of in order to gain their support. By "ordinary people" I mean people living busy lives who have little time or patience for economic and political theorising.

I'm starting to collaborate on such a project, so it would be great to know what you think are the important issues for the New Economy, both in your own life and that of people around you. After all, unless this addresses people's real needs, it's a non-starter!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

If we want a kinder, gentler politics, we must first shape a kinder, gentler, economic system

A member of parliament is murdered while doing her job. Flags fly at half mast, parliament is recalled for tributes, campaigning in the referendum is suspended, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition share a platform and the challenger parties decide not to contest the now vacant seat.

These are far from empty gestures. At the height of the most divisive, dishonest and ill-informed political confrontation that most of us can remember, it has taken a tragic act of violence to set free the instincts of our common humanity. It has reminded us that to empathise with and care for one another, to support each other and to share in our deepest feelings, whether of joy or of loss, is profoundly normal. As such, it throws into stark relief how entirely abnormal is the institutional behaviour that our political and economic frameworks impose.

In the House of Commons on Monday, the words of Jo Cox were repeatedly invoked, that we "have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. Jeremy Corbyn said that her death should mark the start of a “kinder and gentler politics”, a tacit acknowledgement that, for the most part, politicians of all persuasions want good outcomes for ordinary people, but are trapped in a competitive, adversarial system that they believe cannot be changed.

Our institutions of governance are adversarial by design. They demand conflict for the explicit purpose of squeezing out human feeling. In politics they set government against opposition, party against party, each fighting to deprive the other of power and control. In the economy they set the owners of capital against paid workers, lenders against borrowers, home owners against renters, shareholders and directors against their employees, corporate interests against social justice, middlemen against both their suppliers and their customers. In the law, they set plaintiff against defendant, the wealthy against the disadvantaged, the state against the dispossessed.

I am willing to believe that, when David Cameron invoked the "big society" before the 2010 general election, he genuinely sought to favour collaboration, sharing and fairness over greed and acquisitiveness. Then, in government, he found himself driving a system so completely in hock to the owners of capital that prioritising their interests became essential. If the current government, neo-liberal to the core as it may be, could see a way towards universal prosperity, greater equality, a better-funded health service, etc., without spooking the markets, I don't doubt that it would take it. But they can't see a way because the system has blinded them with false certainties that they dare not challenge.

The bizarre consequence is that the government addresses the housing crisis not by increasing low-cost supply, but by offering cheap loans that force up house prices still further. It addresses poverty not by investing in opportunity, but by making the consequences of unemployment more painful. It addresses economic weakness not by seeking to unleash people's creative energy, but by allowing corporations to profit from low-paid, dead-end, insecure jobs, the growth in which it then describes as a success story.

The arch-marketeer George Soros explains why this is: Britain, he writes, "is more dependent than at any time in history on inflows of foreign capital". Brexit will reverse those flows, he predicts, causing a 20% drop in the value of sterling, offering rich pickings for speculators while making most voters considerably poorer.

Even without Brexit, the government is forced to sell or outsource every revenue stream it can come up with, from crazily expensive nuclear power contracts to national infrastructure to the provision of prisons, and many, many others, in order to keep that foreign capital flowing in. And the more revenue it sells, the more it has to find to sell, because the capital flowing in to buy those streams is more than matched, over time, by the revenue flowing out in the streams themselves. The debacle of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is proof of that.

The British economy is on a treadmill that is running away from it. Some time soon, its feet will not be able to keep up and it will fall over. That time could come on Friday of this week, or it could come in one, two or three year's time. That is why the outcome of the referendum does not hugely matter in economic terms. Soros is right, of course, but for the increasing army of Britons who feel that the economy has abandoned them, a crisis now may be more attractive that one merely postponed.

In this context, Britain's divisive political establishment looks like a pack of jackals fighting over a rotting corpse. There is nothing good left for anyone. Just as Syriza discovered in Greece, any party in power is faced with the same depressing certainties, the same obligation to conform to the expectations and requirements of the international financial markets.

Those markets have no morals. If we run our economy on their say-so we must reap what we sow. But if we want that kinder, gentler politics of which Corbyn spoke, we must first shape a kinder, gentler, economic system in which human effort, rather than market capital, is the guiding principle.

We are already learning what a people-focused economic system looks like. It treats housing as a social need, not a profitable speculation; it invests in people, allowing them to do productive work, whether paid or unpaid; it measures economic activity not as GDP does, in terms of money transactions, but in terms of the social and environmental benefits that it brings; it treats money as a tool to facilitate social interaction, not as a vehicle for creating debt owed to vast banking corporations.

The transition from an economy focused on the capital markets to one focused on people's aspirations, capacities and needs will take time, and careful management. But before all of that, it calls for political determination to work towards a better system. Irrespective of the outcome on Thursday, the lesson of the reaction to Jo Cox's death is that politicians like the idea of working together to build a better society for us all. Maybe on Friday they could get going on that.

Picture credit: Enver Rahmanov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons