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Who is advising Jeremy Corbyn on economics?

John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn have selected an economic advisery committee to help create a “coherent alternative” to austerity.

The details of Labour’s new economic advisory committee are out, with “rockstar” economist Thomas Piketty top of the list. Known for his best-selling 2013 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Piketty joins figures such as anti-austerity heavyweight Joseph Stiglitz in advising Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell as they set out their “economic vision”.

Speaking before the announcement, Corbyn spoke of his “mandate to oppose austerity and to set out on economic strategy based on investment in skills, jobs and infrastructure”. His team reflects this: aside from Piketty and Stiglitz, McDonnell has recruited experts on globalisation, inequality and innovation to present what he calls “the coherent alternative our country so desperately needs”.

But who are the rest of Corbyn’s team?

Mariana Mazzucato

Professor Mariana Mazzacuto is an economist at the University of Sussex whose work explores the relationship between “financial markets, innovation, and economic growth”. She sits on the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisers, a group dedicated to growing the Scottish economy and combating inequality in Scotland. Last year, Mazzacuto won the New Statesman SPERI prize in political economy for her research which demonstrates how the state, like the private sector, can encourage innovation.

Anastasia Nesvetailova

Professor Anastasia Nesvetailova is the director of City’s Political Economy Research Centre. Her work focuses on global economics and liquidity – roughly speaking, the ease with which assets can be bought or sold without drastically affecting their price.

Her most recent monograph, Financial Alchemy in Crisis: The Great Liquidity Illusion, explored the 2007 global financial crisis, suggesting that an illusion of liquidity and the banking sector’s “bullish” lending led to an inevitable meltdown.

Ann Pettifor

Ann Pettifor is an analyst of the global financial system who predicted the global crash as early as 2003 and published a 2006 monograph entitled The Coming First World Debt Crisis.

In 2011, she co-authored The Economic Consequences of Mr Osborne, a “radical analysis” of the UK’s recent macroeconomic history which concluded that fiscal consolidation – a policy George Osborne sought to implement to lower deficit and debt – had “not improved the public finances” in previous scenarios

Joseph Stiglitz

Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel prize-winning economist based at Columbia University. Having previously made major contributions to the understanding of welfare economics and wealth distribution, he is a frequent commenter on inequality in the New York Times and other publications. He has long criticized austerity policies.

Thomas Piketty

Thomas Piketty is best known as the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which proposed a radical system of progressive wealth taxes to combat inequality and prevent wealth being concentrated in an elite few.

The 2014 Financial Times book of the year, Capital has faced criticism since its publication both in terms of its empirical findings, and in terms of its central thesis. (Charles Goodheart, for instance, a former Bank of England official now based at the LSE, has argued that changes in population are sufficient to debunk Piketty’s argument.)

Simon Wren-Lewis

A professor of economic policy at the University of Oxford, Simon Wren-Lewis recently argued in the New Statesman that Osborne’s budget was an excuse to reduce the size of the state.

Writing in the Independent today, Wren-Lewis described his intention to help set out a left-wing “pro-investment, anti-inequality” agenda which can achieve consensus in the Labour party.

David Blanchflower

David Blanchflower is a professor in economics at Dartmouth, where he works on labour economics including unemployment. He has recently called austerity “bad economics” and dismissed Osborne’s budget as a “lunatic plan”.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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