Thursday 11 May 2017 – Labour’s leaked draft manifesto is a radical and transformative way forward?

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With just four weeks to go to the General Election Labour’s draft manifesto has been leaked ahead of its official launch. If the document proves to be the final manifesto then it contains many radical policies and pledges that could, if implemented under a Labour Government, transform the nation and end nearly a decade of cuts, austerity and right-wing ideology. The extremely ambitious manifesto is perhaps the most radical and leftist Labour manifesto in decades – perhaps even as far back as the post-war manifesto of Clement Attlee’s Government that saw the nationalisation of industries, the creation of the Welfare State and the National Health Service.  Of course, the manifesto can only become reality if Labour win the General Election on 8 June. Opinion polls, and the results of the recent local elections in the UK, suggest that Theresa May’s Conservative Party will win a majority at the General Election. Labour are closing the gap in some polls, but may be too little too late. No doubt, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is hoping that his radical manifesto will appeal to people across the country who have gone through austerity since 2010 and have seen public services devastated by Tory cuts.  The Labour Party has always said that people will be attracted by the pledges in their manifesto, but the question the electorate will be asking themselves is if they trust the Labour Party to be able to fund the radical and ambitious manifesto.  Many will also be asking whether they trust the Labour Party to follow through on Brexit. The draft manifesto says that they would “respect the Brexit referendum,” but would give Parliament a vote on any EU deal and would try to maintain the links with the European Union in relation to the customs union and single market. This may not please many who are maybe attracted to Theresa May’s hard-line approach to Brexit, which may result in Britain leaving the EU in 2019 without such assurances or without a trade deal.

 

The Guardian website today published a list of the draft manifesto’s key points:

 

  • Respect the Brexit referendum result and give a meaningful vote on any deal to parliament. EU citizens living in the UK would have their rights guaranteed unilaterally. Theresa May’s Brexit white paper would be replaced with a plan that aims to retain the benefits of the customs union and single market.

 

  • Bring parts of the energy industry into public ownership and introduce a local, socially owned energy firm in every area. Also introduce an “immediate emergency price cap” to make sure dual fuel bills stay below £1,000 a year.

 

  • Nationalise the railways.

 

  • Phase out tuition fees.

 

  • Make more funds available for childcare and social care.

 

  • Retain the Trident nuclear deterrent. A sentence from earlier drafts saying that a prime minister should be “extremely cautious” about using a weapon that would kill “millions of innocent civilians” has been removed.

 

  • Place “peace, universal rights and international law” at the heart of foreign policy, while committing to spend 2% of GDP on defence, as required by Nato.

 

  • Make zero-hours contracts illegal.

 

  • Build 100,000 new council houses per year.

 

  • Complete HS2 from London to Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Scotland.

 

  • Borrow £250bn to invest in infrastructure but stick to the fiscal credibility rule to balance day-to-day spending. Also raise taxes for people earning more than £80,000 and reverse corporation and inheritance-tax cuts.

 

  • Insulate homes of disabled veterans for free.

 

  • Extend the right to abortion to Northern Ireland.

 

  • Oppose a second Scottish referendum.

 

  • Lower the voting age to 16.

 

  • Employ 1,000 more border guards.

 

  • End the badger cull, keep the fox-hunting ban and support a ban on wild animals in circuses, as well as protecting bees by banning neonicotinoids.

 

  • Extend the Freedom of Information Act to private companies running public services.

 

  • Review universal credit cuts with a view to reversing them.

 

  • Recognise the benefit that immigrants have brought but introduce fair rules and reasonable management, working with employers that need to recruit from abroad but deterring exploitation.

 

The Guardian’s columnist, Polly Toynbee, isn’t convinced that the voters will trust Mr Corbyn enough to elect his party 8 June, but she is pleased with the draft manifesto:

 

“What a cornucopia of delights is here. The leaked Labour manifesto is a treasure trove of things that should be done, undoing those things that should never have been done and promising much that could make this country infinitely better for almost everyone.

 

“No, this is not a repeat of the “longest suicide note in history” 1983 manifesto. There is no reprise here of the killer pledges that caused the party to split back then – pulling out of Europe, out of Nato with unilateral disarmament, protectionist exchange and import controls, or nationalising pharmaceutical, building materials and many more industries. Reluctantly, no doubt, here is a pledge to keep Trident and spend Nato’s required 2% on defence, an essential backstop against those who regard Labour as perennially weak on national security.”

 

The National Coordinator of the pro-Labour organisation Momentum told the BBC that the manifesto would prove “very popular,” and said:

 

“We have seen an increase dramatically in the popularity of the Labour party. We are catching up in the polls.

 

“There has been a 10-point increase that was reported last weekend. We’ve now got four weeks. These policies set out in the draft manifesto have wide public support. Things like the £10 minimum wage – 70% are in support of that policy. Those are the sort of policies that people are going to be voting for in this election.”

 

Some will no doubt compare the manifesto to that of Michael Foot in the 1983 General Election, which proved so disastrous for the party. The shadow Chancellor, however, today dismissed such comparisons:

 

“This is an extremely modern, progressive set of proposals. And it is looking to the long term future. And most people are extremely excited at what they’ve seen. […]

 

“It’s progressive. For example, if you look at the energy proposals, they are what a lot of modern European states have done over the last five years. So it is quite comprehensively modern. […]

 

“It’s a transformational programme. It will modernise our economy and it will ensure that everyone shares in the prosperity of the country.”

 

While defending the draft manifesto, he said he was disappointed that it was leaked. The draft manifesto does not contain costings for the policies and pledges, which will be included in the final manifesto to be released on Tuesday. Mr McDonnell said more, speaking of the nationalisation of railways proposed in the draft manifesto:

 

“In terms of railways, I just say a lot of foreign countries now actually own our railway system, a lot of of foreign companies who are then ploughing those profits back into their own railway system. It seems a bit odd that we are subsidising German Deutsche Bahn, for example. […]

 

Railways renationalisation has been Labour party policy for a number of years. That means when the franchises run out you bring them back into public ownership. In fact, they are in public ownership at the moment, but they are owned by usually other foreign states.”

 

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, said the manifesto was “really, really exciting” and that he believed its policies were wanted by Labour voters. He said that rail nationalisation would be the most popular policy in the document and continued:

 

“If the British electorate can only look at that rather than the obsession that you people have about the leadership of the Labour party.”

 

Mr McCluskey, of course, has hit the mark by suggesting that many voters are turning away from Labour because they don’t trust Jeremy  Corbyn as a potential Prime Minister.  In Britain we elect parties to run the Government, not directly for the Prime Minister as say Americans directly elect their President. However, in reality, people are deeply influenced by the leader of the party. Voters may support policies in the Labour manifesto and wish they could be implemented, but if they don’t trust Mr Corbyn to implement them then, at best, they are going to abstain – at worse, they will vote Conservative.  The first-past-the-post system used in British General Elections also ensures that only a handful of constituencies around the country make a real difference to the result. The Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn have to win those marginal seats, as well as capturing non-marginal seats, if they are to have a chance of winning the election or even stopping the Conservatives from achieving a majority.  Pessimism tells me is not going to be able to achieve this next month. That is the most frustrating aspect of this election. Labour’s manifesto will offer a radical and transformative way out of austerity and if successful would revitalise and restore many pubic services and institutions that have been devastated by the effects of seven years of Conservative Government.

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Later today Jeremy Corbyn and around 80 Labour figures from the shadow cabinet and National Executive Committee met for a meeting to finalise the draft manifesto. Mr Corbyn said that amendments had been made to the leaked draft – not specifying what changes were made, but perhaps referring to the inclusion of detailed costings of all the manifesto’s  pledges as promised earlier in the day. He said that the final manifesto will prove “very popular,” but that everyone will have to wait until the launch in a few days before he answers further questions. He did say, however:

 

“We have just unanimously agreed the contents of [the manifesto], we have amended a draft document that was put forward in the most informed, interesting, sensible discussion and debate in our party.

 

“Our manifesto will be an offer, and I believe the policies in it are very popular, an offer that will transform the lives of many people in our society.”

 

He also announced that the Labour Party will hold an internal inquiry into the overnight leaking of the draft manifesto. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, took the opportunity to use the leaking of the draft manifesto as an example of how “shambolic” the Labour Party is, and said:

 

“[the draft manifesto] shows the sort of chaos that we would see from a Labour government.

 

“If you take their manifesto overall, actually, what they are suggesting is taking us back to the past.

 

“What I’m interested in is dealing with the challenges that we face today but making a better future for this country.”

 

The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard said: “The very fact that this draft manifesto has been leaked shows how divided and chaotic the Labour Party are – most of their MPs do not even support these policies.” While a Welsh Labour spokesman said: “It is not Welsh Labour’s manifesto and contains many England-only proposals. Welsh Labour will be publishing its own distinct manifesto.” Tim Fallon, leader of the Liberal Democrats focused on the issue of Brexit:

 

“It doesn’t matter whether it was leaked or not leaked, the Labour manifesto ceased to be relevant in any way, shape or form the moment Jeremy Corbyn and his party held hands with UKIP and Theresa May and voted for the triggering of Article 50.”

 

On a side note, a BBC cameraman trying to capture the Labour leader arriving for today’s meeting had his foot run over by Mr Corbyn’s car as it entered a narrow passageway into the building holding the meeting. The cameraman, along with several others, were pushing and jostling against the moving car trying to get their footage when the accident happened. He was treated on the scene and then taken to hospital. Watch the video.


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