John McDonnell praises Archbishop of Canterbury’s gig economy speech

John McDonnell hails the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech railing against Amazon and the gig economy and calling for the rich to be taxed more

  • Justin Welby slammed tax avoiders and the evils of the gig economy in speech 
  • Tories said Welby was ‘parroting’ Labour policy and speech was ‘inappropriate’ 
  • Labour’s shadow chancellor praised it as highlighting the dangers of austerity

John McDonnell has praised the Archbishop of Canterbury for laying out a ‘bold vision for a different society’.

Justin Welby tore into the the ‘gig economy’ and accused Amazon of ‘leeching off the taxpayer’ in an extraordinarily speech at the TUC conference yesterday.

And he also lashed ministers – demanding an end to the Government’s controversial universal credit welfare programme which has been dogged by delays and blunders.

The Archbishop’s outspoken attack sparked a storm of criticism among Tory MPs who accused him of parroting Labour policy.

But he has been defended by Labour’s shadow chancellor, who said the speech spelled out the failures of austerity.

Mr McDonnell said: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury has set out a bold vision for a different society, one without the evils of the gig economy, the exploitation of workers and tax dodging of the multinationals.

‘I welcome his speech, and the growing movement against the failures of austerity and neoliberalism 

John McDonnell (pictured addressing the TUC conference in Manchester earlier this week) has praised the Archbishop of Canterbury for laying out a ‘bold vision for a different society’

Justin Welby (pictured speaking at the TUC’s 150th anniversary conference in Manchester yesterday) hit out at the ‘gig economy’ and at zero-hours contracts during his speech


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He added: ‘Labour will end zero hours contracts, clamp down on the tax avoiders, and ensure everyone has access to sick pay, parental leave and protections at work.’ 

The Archbishop launched an extraordinary attack on modern working conditions while addressing the 150th TUC Congress in Manchester yesterday.

He described modern insecurity at work as the ‘reincarnation of ancient evil’ in a strident speech to trade unionists.

He also hit out at the ‘gig economy’, under which workers are denied benefits and are paid per job, and at zero-hours contracts which offer employees no guarantees of work.

And he attacked tax-avoiding online giants, accusing Amazon of ‘leeching off the taxpayer’.

Insisting that Jesus himself had been a ‘highly political’ figure, he demanded an end to the Government’s flagship Universal Credit benefit reforms, saying the changes had heightened the risk of people going hungry. 

Welby attacked tax-avoiding online giants, accusing Amazon (pictured is an Amazon warehouse) of ‘leeching off the taxpayer’

But the astonishing intervention last night drew criticism from Tory MPs including former leader Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of Universal Credit.

More than one accused Archbishop Welby of expounding the views of hard left Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell – a man who was named in his speech along with Tony Benn.

Charles Walker, MP for Broxbourne, said the archbishop was backing ‘John McDonnell’s point of view’.

Tory MP Ben Bradley tweeted: ‘Not clear to me when or how it can possibly be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be appearing at TUC conference or parroting Labour policy.’

He added: ‘There are a diversity of views as to what is best for the economy, but [he] only seems interested in presenting John McDonnell’s point of view.’  

In his address the Archbishop took aim at Amazon, which has been accused of not paying its fair share of corporation tax.

‘Not paying taxes speaks of the absence of commitment to our shared humanity, to solidarity and justice,’ he said. ‘If you earn money from a community, you should pay your share of tax. 

Welby said of the gig economy  ‘It is the reincarnation of ancient evil,’ he said. ‘Today there are some who view that kind of oppression of the employed as a virtue.’

The astonishing intervention last night drew criticism from Tory MPs including former leader Iain Duncan Smith (pictured), the architect of Universal Credit

‘They don’t pay a real living wage, so the taxpayer must support their workers with benefits; and having leeched off the taxpayer once they don’t pay for our defence, for security, for stability, for justice, for health, for equality, for education.’ 

A spokesman for Amazon said: ‘We pay all taxes required in the UK and every country where we operate. 

‘Amazon has created more than 25,000 good jobs with good pay and benefits across Britain and we are proud of the work they do on behalf of customers every day.’

Condemning the so-called gig economy and zero-hours contracts the Archbishop said they were ‘nothing new’. 

He also spoke of how he had seen a speech against austerity by Tony Benn, and mentioned John McDonnell’s docker father who, he said, had experienced the gig economy.

‘It is the reincarnation of ancient evil,’ he said. ‘Today there are some who view that kind of oppression of the employed as a virtue.’

In his speech, he said he did not apologise for straying into politics. ‘The Bible is political from one end to the other,’ he said. 

What the Archbishop told the comrades 

ON JESUS

Jesus was highly political. He told the rich that they would face woes… He spoke harsh words to the leaders of nations when they were uncaring of the needy.

ON THE GIG ECONOMY

There are some who view that kind of oppression of the employed as a virtue… It is simply the reincarnation of an ancient evil.

THE LIVING WAGE

We need genuine living wages than enable people to save more than ten pounds a month.

ON PENSIONS

Pensions are just one example of the profit motive leading to the weakest being given the most risk.

ON UNIVERSAL CREDIT

Universal Credit was supposed to reform the benefits system, make it simpler and more efficient. It has not done that. It has left too many people… at heightened risk of hunger.

ON TAX AVOIDANCE

Not paying taxes speaks of the absence of commitment to our shared humanity. 

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