The GIMMS organised Labour Fringe Meeting with Bill Mitchell on the Green New Deal successfully happened and there will be a forthcoming video on this from GIMMS shortly.
A second meeting, organised by Greg Hadfield at the Rialto Brighton (no surprises there on either count with respect to Chris Williamson alone), involved both Chris Williamson and Bill Mitchell. I was not able to attend either meeting but, thanks to the MMT Podcast team, there is an audio podcast of the latter.
This is primarily Williamson introducing and mc’ing a talk by Bill on MMT and Labour and. also, MMT in general. It is a good talk with some decent and serious questions with interesting answers in the Q&A. I do recommend it, whether you are a Labour supporter or not. There is much to gain there, especially if you are not familiar with MMT.
Still I think a major opportunity was missed by GIMMS and Bill, on both the topic and fellow participants. Given Bill”s last two books (not the text book) and the situation in the Uk over Brexit I thought a three way talk/debate between a hard Lexiter such as Bill, a soft Lexiter such as Stephen Kinnock and a Remainer such as Kier Starmer could have drawn much interest from across Labour and possibly achieved national media coverage.
Once I had heard there was going to be a GIMMS Labour Fringe meeting, I thought of then suggested this to a couple of Labour activist friends who are well connected in Labour and with whom I have discussed MMT before and had recommended they read Bill’s blog. They thought this was an excellent idea and very doable but there were a number of caveats.
Whether we could have got the MPs I suggested, still possible they said but given the official evolving stance of the Labour Party was moot but, certainly, we could have got speakers significant to Labour, MPs or not, to represent those other positions.
Yes, this would have been more than just an MMT meeting but Bill (or someone else) could have started with an introduction to MMT, noting that, even within the MMT lens, one could be for any of those three positions (as is the case across the different members of GIMMS and the advisory board).
When GIMMS was planning this meeting, surely something like this was thought of as a possibility? Maybe this was preferred but not feasible in the end – unlikely given the feedback I received? Surely someone in the advisory board would have suggested something like this, if not by GIMMS executives? Were the board consulted? I suspect that nothing like this were ever considered and the board were not consulted. which would be a failing of the GIMMS team.
From my chats with these activists we all thought this could have far more potential than just a GND/MMT meeting with one MP. Which brings us to the other caveats.
Of course they said : “it’s a bit late to suggest this now”, “you need a venue”, “who is going to organise/promote/fund it” , “too late to get on the official fringe program”. When they found out that there was a venue, organiser, topic and speakers already, we still all thought my suggestion was better. The killer, go on guess, was when I said it was currently with Chris Williamson. They both said this might make it harder for GIMMS, and Bill, for any future such meetings especially with other MPs such as I suggested. Neither I nor they knew the personal stance of these specific MPs on each other (one signed the letter to re-suspend him, one did not) but they noted it as a general concern.
Now I am sure that GIMMS executives are far better connected with Labour than I am and they will disagree with this, but this is what two people I know, both very long time Labour activists, that I happened come across recently said. In old internet parlance YYMV, your mileage might vary.
Following on this note, I have to add a few comments given the background of my issues over Chris Williamson with regard to the promotion of MMT.
On the one hand, this talk alleviates 99% of my concerns in my previous post. There was nothing contentious or controversial that would have caused me problems to have attended. I was going attend anyway and the training meeting the next day but was unable to attend either in the end. Certainly, even though, as should be clear, I dislike Chris Williamson, and continue to hold the position that our only official MMT organisation should not be promoting him, should there any further such meetings, I would have no qualms about attending. I will continue to criticise GIMMS if it were them doing the promotion, in the future. In this case, and only through force majeur, the second meeting was not organised by GIMMS.
On the other hand, this podcast was weirdly edited. Williamson’s introduction to Bill sounds like it starts mid flow and that likely other prior statements had been omitted, or it could have just been an engineering/sound issue? At around 14 minutes, Bill comments on social media controversies over him talking with Williamson. Apart from me defending Bill against an insinuation of antisemitism by a well know UK economist, there was apparently much I missed out on. I could not find the particular phrase Bill stated was associated with him (or MMT?) “the dark side of fascism” in online searches.
On a side note, I did find something intriguing although not do with Bill directly, but I imagine it is of the same ilk – Statement Against Stephanie Kelton’s Meeting With the Far Right in Japan – since I know Bill has met up with Japanese politicians too. This goes to the point that I have made calling MMT a ‘framework’ and, what Bill calls a “lens”, it is independent of ideology and values. Bill makes this clear in the talk and I fully agree and have stated the equivalent myself. We want all parties to use the MMT framework, this will manifest different policy implementations given differing value sets. For just illustration one could imagine both Labour and the Conservatives agreeing that the Job Guarantee is a better macroeconomic stabilization tool than the alternative of unemployment, but Labour might do this with a Basic Income too and the Tories without. (Bill uses another example).
Still Bill does make some unfortunate and ill judged comments, in the talk and online. He unnecessarily defends Williamson over his antisemitism issues in Labour in the talk. He does the same online and, it seems, he continues to encourage a silly and non-existent division in the MMT community when he says, in conspiratorial tones:
As a result of Chris’s suspension from the Labour Party for spurious claims he made anti-Semitic comments, some characters (unknown – not enough courage to reveal themselves) threatened the venue where our event was to take place.
Well every MMTer I have (UPDATE: I meant privately, most, cowardly in my view, go public on this) corresponded to on Bill’s position with respect to Chris Williamson, given my previous posts and tweets, is of the view, explicitly or implicitly, that Bill is simply blinded to the failings of Williamson, because Williamson is the only UK MP who promotes MMT, thats it. Whilst I can’t speak for anyone else, from my correspondences, I doubt that any MMTer would have tried to sabotage that event. Far more likely, in my view, it would have been either a campaigner against Labour Antisemitism or a local resident, as this was public knowledge given the Independent article: Labour facing fresh Chris Williamson row as suspended MP set to speak at ‘multiple’ events at party conference,
Making such insinuations is pathetic and unbecoming of an economist of your stature Bill. Grow up.