While John is often portrayed as a wild-eyed Bolshevist burning with the ambition to collectivise the FTSE 100, his speech contained very little that might suggest expropriating the expropriators is on his mind. Still, city slickers might get a bit angsty over his desire to do something with the huge piles of cash big business are sitting on. This graph from Michael Roberts demonstrates the problem:
How to unlock this cash? John said Britain needs to look at "ways to change our corporate tax system and work constructively with companies to give them the incentives to invest wisely ... a higher tax on retained earnings should be investigated." That seems quite reasonable to me and anyone not ideologically committed to stuffing the maws of corporate accounts with even more gold in the hope that someone, somewhere will invest as per Osborne's illiterate and dysfunctional long-term economic plan.
Some might take this as evidence of Labour's anti-business stance, though being super business-friendly has never stopped the Tories enunciating such. Yet, again, what is on offer here isn't socialism as such but rather a kinder, fairer capitalism. As John notes, what he's seeking is a "compact" between government, business, and science to plan for growth. This would mean addressing skills gaps in increasingly crucial sectors, turning attention to the threats and promises of automation, as well as providing a context for more profitable investment. Think of it as capitalism as if rationality mattered. And, as you might expect, John takes a swipe at the idiocy of Osborne's austerity.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Putting aside the PLP froth and different approaches to matters of terrorism and war, economically speaking a great deal unites Labour. Compare John's scheme with the more "mainstream" vision outlined by Liam Byrne. I don't think there are differences of kind here, merely of degree and emphasis. Unfortunately, our opponents are aware of this even if we're not, and will say and do anything to keep the political focus away from the economy - even when there's a spending review imminent.