David Blanchflower has an article in today’s Guardian about his experience on Labour’s Economic Advisory Committee (EAC) which was chaired by John McDonnell. I agree with a lot of what he has to say in the article, but not with the picture painted of how the committee was used. He ignores the formation of Labour’s fiscal credibility rule which is an important and tangible consequence of the committee’s advice, and Mariana Mazzucato’s work featured strongly in John’s speeches. (More details here.) By ignoring these things he allows some critics to conclude that we were being used just for our reputations: that is simply false.
He also fails to mention the groups John McDonnell established to look at particular economic policy areas: groups that were quite independent of the EAC and the Labour party. The one on the Treasury chaired by Bob Kerslake (details here) will probably report at the end of this year, and if our discussions are anything to go by it should be of great interest to anyone concerned about this key part of the UK’s machinery of government. David himself was chair of a similar group on monetary policy (of which I, Adam Posen on John McFall were also members), and again preliminary discussions were very positive, so personally I regret David ended that at the same time as he resigned from the EAC.
I have seen so much nonsense written about how we only met twice (largely our choice), and about who attended (the only person not to attend either meeting was Thomas Piketty, and he resigned before David Blanchflower because of the pressure of other commitments). I and other members did not resign from the EAC: see the joint statement from 5 of us here. That statement was critical of Labour’s inability to prevent Brexit: I give my own reasons for making this criticism here. As David notes in the article, I feel strongly that for Jeremy Corbyn to continue after 172 MPs voted no confidence in him as leader would be disastrous for the Labour party. However I also believe John McDonnell should be praised for openly involving academic economists in policymaking, and in being prepared to use their advice.