Yesterday's budget would have been difficult for any government. The Chancellor had to nod to the promised end of austerity which the Prime Minister has promised will happen next year. 

But Philip Hammond had no idea of his resources because the country is in limbo before the forthcoming result of negotiations with the EU on the terms of departure and then negotiations on a trading partnership with the EU after the transition period ends in two years time. 

Brexit is going to profoundly affect our economy, maybe catastrophically and particularly in the North East. 

Strategic decisions cannot be made until the fog has lifted and yet there is a growing consensus that our particular form of capitalism, now talked about openly in all parties, needs radical reform. 

The last decade of aggressive austerity further distorted and exacerbated its long-run defects. 

We urgently need some fresh and decisive thinking about how our economy works and how it must be made to work better for all and to meet the challenges posed by high tech companies who hoover up our data, and artificial intelligence and automation that will slash many jobs. 

The problem for many workers is not so much that they will be exploited as they will become irrelevant. Some talk of a new divide between the data rich and those who are left swinging.

The Institute for Public Policy Research, a non-party body, has put together a massive report over the last couple of years. Its Commission on Economic Justice was run by business people, economists, trade unionists and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Its analysis is forensic and hard-headed as well as visionary. Its basic point is that the UK economy is not working. Living standards are not rising for most as average wages have stagnated with many in insecure jobs, youth being poorer than their parents, growing divisions between the different parts of the country, and what it calls economic disenfranchisement. 

It advocates fundamental reform rather than muddling through and on the sort of scale undertaken by the Labour Government in 1945 and by Mrs Thatcher from 1979. 

A major insight is that a fair economy is a strong economy, that prosperity and economic justice don't conflict but instead could generate stronger and more stable growth, lower social costs and greater wellbeing. 

Economic justice, it says, needs to be ‘hard-wired’ not merely by redistribution through the tax and benefit system but at source, in how workers bargain and how capitalism is governed and financed. 

As a Labour MP, I was naturally struck by its strictures on inequality. The report says that in the last four decades, only 10 per cent of national income growth went to the bottom half of the income distribution, while almost two-fifths went to the richest 10 per cent. 

It says that the UK is the fifth most unequal country in Europe in terms of income, while inequality of wealth is even greater: 44 per cent of wealth is owned by just 10 per cent of the population. 

It specifically recommends that workers should be on company boards and that this will tackle poor productivity and encourage innovation.

Those who work in companies often have a good idea of how things can improve and have a vested interest in the success of the enterprises.

The Prime Minister briefly promoted this idea but it was dropped. 

The report should be a guide to any government that seeks to put an end to our short-term, quick buck mentality in favour of a smart, enabling government that builds on our successes but puts workers at the heart of our economics. 

Our country and weak governments cannot keep flunking these profound challenges or we will face even more political division and anger.

It's time to change and the IPPR deserves credit for its new thinking, which should not gather dust but be embraced for all our sakes.


Ever wondered about the History of how Parliament was formed? Who was responsible? Why was it formed? and so much much more.... view this fantastic site