‘Socialism with an iPad!’ McDonnell unveils Labour’s tech-savvy vision

Britain's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell © Peter Nicholls
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was expected on Friday to unveil Labour’s pledge to build a cutting-edge Britain, focused on generating an army of skilled workers while reviving the party’s modern, progressive image.

In a speech at Imperial College London, McDonnell planned to lay out his objective to spend 3.5 percent of UK gross domestic product (GDP) on infrastructure.

The shadow chancellor argues Labour is the only party that can “re-establish the supply chain between shop floor and government that has broken down in recent years, bringing workers and unions together to advise policy-makers on the future direction of the economy,” according to the speech.

The speech also contains a promise to create “an Innovation Policy Council with a clear, mission-led goal to boost research and development spending and maximize the social and economic benefits from that expenditure.”

He calls the wedding of pro-worker policies with modern innovation “socialism with an iPad.”

The bolstered funding to support infrastructure can be freed up by changing the corporate tax system so companies are incentivized to invest the £400 billion (US$611 billion) which they currently sit on, he argues.

In particular, McDonnell stresses that he wants to provide more support for freelancers working in the “gig economy” – which comprises of tech firms which avoid employment loopholes by acting as a mediator for clients and providers.

According to McDonnell, the gig economy “may be a nice phrase, but can hide a grim reality for those who depend on the new world of work for their livelihood.

“Millions of workers are excluded from the hard-won protections of formal employment contracts. And relentless pressure is placed on those, the majority, still protected.”

Companies like taxi firm Uber have come under fire for failing to provide secure, stable work for their service providers and for avoiding paying tax.

McDonnell’s speech comes as the head of Labour’s general election campaign Spencer Livermore called on leader Jeremy Corbyn to publish an internal inquiry into the party’s May 2015 defeat.

He said that under Corbyn’s leadership the party was even further from victory at the next general election.

“It is important we have as wide a debate as possible about why we lost to make sure we learn the right lessons, and publishing that [internal inquiry] is an important contribution to that debate,” Livermore said.

McDonnell was also criticized this week for reportedly signing a letter in April which advocated abolishing the monarchy and called for armed police units and MI5 to be disbanded.

McDonnell insisted that although he had been photographed with the letter, he did not sign it.