Labour takes the populist route as Corbyn offers himself to the voters

Big Ben and Westminster Bridge at dusk, London, UK; Shutterstock ID 323366084

The headline announcements from Labour’s manifesto launch have come as little surprise given last week’s leak.

The renationalisation of swathes of British industry – including parts of the energy network, the railways and the Royal Mail – sit alongside significant cash injections for the NHS and social care, a “National Education Service” and a somewhat tenuous commitment to the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. Labour plans to fund its spending spree by raising £48.6bn in additional taxation, aided by reconfiguring the 45p tax band to be imposed on those earning £80,000 or above per year.

An undeniably populist manifesto, Labour’s task will be to prove its affordability. On economic competence, the Party continues to lag far behind the Conservatives, a gap that must be closed if Corbyn has any prospect of winning the keys to No.10. Opinion polling has been consistently bleak for Mr. Corbyn and many critics have zoned in on Labour’s seeming inability to properly cost its nationalisation programme. Another argument follows that Labour’s sums do not add up on corporation tax and that an increase in the rate will lead to diminishing returns for the Exchequer.

 

On economic competence, the Party continues to lag far behind the Conservatives, a gap that must be closed if Corbyn has any prospect of winning the keys to No.10.

 

The manifesto has been met with a surprising degree of ambivalence from Labour moderates. Many are eager to ensure that this is Jeremy Corbyn’s platform, so that any eventual defeat can be blamed on his very own policy prescriptions. External critics of the manifesto argue that it harks back to a bygone era of Labour leftism, when Labour was consumed by a disastrous dalliance with hard-left socialism in the 1970s and early 1980s. Yet proponents of today’s manifesto claim that many of the so-called “hard-left” policies are standard fare within mainstream European social democratic thinking (rail nationalisation being a case in point).

With Labour continuing to struggle in the polls (the Conservatives lead ranges from anywhere between 14 and 20 points), today may just be a footnote in the Conservatives’ rush towards a three-figure majority. In any case, Corbyn has definitively laid his cards on the table by offering a genuine alternative to Theresa May and the current Government. 23 days from now, whether this is enough for disgruntled former Labour voters to return to the fold remains to be seen.

 

Economy

  • £48.6bn to be raised in extra taxes, the same figure in extra spending commitments
  • Deficit on day-to-day spending to be eliminated within five years
  • National Transformation Fund – £250bn to be invested in infrastructure over ten years


Tax & Welfare

  • Corporation tax to rise to 26% by 2022
  • Income tax rate of 45p on £80,000 and above
  • £6.5bn to be raised from tax avoidance programmes


Public Services

  • Creation of a “National Education Service” to incorporate all forms of education, from early years through to adult education
  • Over £30bn in extra funding (over the next Parliament) for the NHS – funded by the new 45p tax band
  • A “National Care Service” to be built alongside the NHS, which will require an additional £3bn of funding every year


Brexit and Migration

  • Brexit White Paper to be scrapped – replaced with an EU Rights and Protections Bill
  • Immediate guarantee of existing rights for all EU nationals living in Britain and reciprocal  rights for UK citizens living in EU countries
  • Rejection of a ‘no deal’ scenario – meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal
  • Freedom of movement to end when we leave the EU
  • A new migration system “based on our  economic needs, balancing controls and existing entitlements”