Joseph Stiglitz: unsurprising Jeremy Corbyn is a Labour leadership contender

by Terry Macalister – July 26, 2015

The Guardian

A Nobel prize-winning economist has said it is unsurprising that an anti-austerity figure such as Jeremy Corbyn has emerged as a contender for the Labour leadership.

Speaking in London on Sunday, Joseph Stiglitz warned that policies from centre-left governments such as Tony Blair’s had undermined the middle-ground message, partly by entrenching wealth for the very few.

Asked about the emergence of Corbyn against more moderate candidates, Stiglitz said young people were the most likely supporters as they felt badly let down by more mainstream politics.

“I am not surprised at all that there is a demand for a strong anti-austerity movement around increased concern about inequality. The promises of New Labour in the UK and of the Clintonites in the US have been a disappointment,” said the former World Bank economist who is a professor at Columbia University in the US.

“Unfortunately the centre-left parties have wimped out. They have joined in saying: ‘Oh yes, we have to have a kinder version of austerity, a milder version of austerity.’ But one of the disappointments of the eurozone, and Europe more broadly, is that you have these elections, these centre-left parties get elected and they have to cave into Germany and so they then do a rhetoric that is gentler but the outcome is not much gentler.”

Stiglitz said in the US research showed that all the economic gains since the early 1980s had gone to the top 10%. “The bottom 90% of the economy has seen stagnation for a third of a century and similar trends – not as bad – are at play elsewhere.

“It’s just very hard to say these centre-left parties – with emphasis on ‘centre’ – have been able to deliver for most people. Their economic models have not delivered and their message is not working. So to me it’s not a surprise that you have seen, say in the United States, which obviously I know better, that [anti-austerity] progressives are getting a much stronger voice in the Democratic party.”

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