Assembly Speaker, 3 February 2020 – Grace Blakeley, Economics
Grace is a PPE graduate and has a Masters in African Studies. She was originally thinking of working for the UN and was very interested in African economic policy. However, she soon became interested in politics, in particular with the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
Grace has also been involved in both UK and global economics and she joined an economics think tank looking at macroeconomics and problems in the UK economy.
Grace’s view is that the British economy has not been working for the vast majority of people since the 2008 financial crisis. She found her real life experience did not match up to what she was taught at university.
She outlined how a non neo classical perspective shows a different picture than the traditional view of efficient markets and the power of competition. It suggests that what is key is those who hold power, and, because of power shifts, we have seen economics changing over time.
In this model, the rise of finance led growth prioritises the welfare of a few core elite. In the 1970s our capitalist economic system began to change due to the removal of regulation. She believes many of the problems we saw in the 2008 financial crisis can be traced back to the 80s when deregulation and an increase in debt began.
What then happened is that businesses also changed, when the core incentive became only to maximise profit which led to privatisation increases. Grace outlined that she did not think that this was necessarily inevitable, but rather the result of many unwise political decisions.
She underlined that, as a consequence, we’ve had a stagnation in working conditions and in productivity which is unprecedented. Private and corporate debt is currently massively constraining economic productivity and the rise in far right politics is a worrying bi-product of this economic decline.
Grace pointed out that we have a choice as to how to reform our economic system. The book she has written (Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation) is about how we could envision a different kind of economy and how who holds the power determines our economic system. She is personally sceptical about the European Union due to what she sees as its inability to adapt its own economy and the negative impact this has on the global south. She believes globalisation is not inherently good or bad, it just depends on who is in charge. Brexit is going wrong because the problem with the EU is its elite leaders which is an ongoing obstacle. We have to try to reduce nationalism and xenophobia across the board.
As far as the Labour Party, Grace feels it could have done a better job accepting Brexit and trying to influence rather than standing steadfastly against it. In terms of the future leadership of the party, in her opinion, socialist internationalism is best represented by Rebecca Long Bailey.
Grace Blakeley’s assembly was very interesting, some of her views certainly gave us lots of food for thought and produced a very lively Q&A with the students.