Monday, 15 May 2017

Hurrah for the Labour Manifesto

The Labour Party manifesto for the election has not actually been published but, but predictable scorn has already been poured on the leaked versions by predictable sections of the media (ie most of it).  But to the less partial eye there's a lot to like.  If the leaks are correct a Labour government will:
  1. Resume council-house building and make private sector house building an infrastructure priority
  2. Take the railway companies back into public ownership as their franchises expire;
  3. Ensure there is at least one publicly owned energy provider in each region;
  4. Guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK;
  5. Make no false promises about immigration;
  6. Establish a national and regional investment banks;
  7. Scrap the bedroom tax and punitive sanctions regime;
  8. Discourage short-termism and rocketing executive pay;
  9. Scrap university tuition fees;
  10. Adequately fund eduction, health and social care services.
This list is a breath of fresh air, and highly relevant to a country which has suffered too long from mistaken policies.  It is a list Liberals Democrats can work with.

Of course, we should like to see a less supine acceptance of Brexit, and in particular take with a pinch of salt the promise to "make retaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union negotiating priorities." If that's the case why did they whip their peers to vote against such a proposal in the House of Lords on 28th February?

Personally I'd like to see a full throated promise to halt Brexit altogether, and to ditch Trident rather than retain it but be equivocal about using it.  However I doubt if even the Liberal Democrat manifesto will have the guts to propose either of these.

But what we have to be clear about is that this is a perfectly sensible list of aims.   It is a far cry from the much quoted "longest suicide note in history" of the 1983 manifesto.  That one promised to take us out of the EU (oops, the Tories are now doing that anyway), nationalise the banks (oops 2, the Tories have done that as well with two of them), cancel the Trident programme (see above) and abolish the House of Lords (ah well, that's been tried and must go on the back burner for a while)

If the present manifesto is to be criticised I regret that it gives the impression that everything on the list will be done at once.  True that the Attlee  governments of 1945-51 took and largely achieved such an approach, but times, though economically much more strained, were different then.  People were less cynical and much more confident of what the state can achieve.  I'd prefer to see a much more " softly softly " approach and more use of "we shall try to" rather than " we will."  That last point is even more relevant for the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

The alternative from the Conservatives of:

  1. Hard Brexit;
  2. Continued austerity ;
  3. Increasing inequality;
  4. Further privatisations;
  5. Bullying of the poor and disadvantaged;
  6. Reductions in the size of the state;
  7. Grammar schools;
  8. Toadying to the US;
  9. Endangered human,civil and employment rights;
  10. Unachievable immigration targets, along with an inhuman and  even illegal attitude to migrants and asylum seekers;
just doesn't bear thinking about.

And if the issue is competence, remember that it's the Tory policy  of deregulation which brought about the financial crisis, their  policy of "right to buy" which is  is at the heart of the housing crisis,  their  policy of austerity which has delayed the recovery and starved and continues to starve the health, education and social services.

Only skilful PR and a sycophantic press keep them in the frame at all.


  1. Sadly Peter, the list of wants is wholly unachievable because of the Labour Party's support of Brexit. This will deny them the tax revenue to pursue their objectives, because the bill for Brexit will swallow any revenues that might have gone towards their aims. This is why radicals like me pour scorn on the Corbyn led Labour Party because of their unbelievable naivety about Brexit and what it will cost. Anyway we all know why Corbyn wants out of the EU. It is because the creation of monopoly through the public ownership proposals is contrary to EU rules as is state subsidy not agreed by the EU.
    Such a pity you let your enthusiasm for their proposals blind you to the reality of the position.

  2. I'm sure you're right, that post Brexit, if it happens, the UK's GDP will be several percentage points below what it otherwise would be if we remained in the EU (and probably the median GDP/head several more points lower). So the potential tax take will be lower if current rates continue. But we shall still be a very rich country (see Owen Jones in today's Guardian; 17 May) and the Attlee governments achieved much more than the present Labour proposals in a much poorer country with much bigger debts proportionate to income. So we could do it if we had the will.
    I see no reason why taxation for the comfortable should not increase. For most of my working life the standard rate of income tax was around 33%. There's no reason, other than greed engendered by the current selfish atmosphere why it shouldn't go up a point or two. That's why I think the Liberal Democrat proposal of an extra !% hypothecated to the NHS is perfectly feasible.
    For sensible elections and a healthy society all parties need to be honest with us and drop the fiction that we can have good public services and facilities without paying for them. (In my experience this fiction started with Harold Wilson in 1964 - his government would finance the New Jerusalem through growth rather than increased tax rates.)
    On the obstacles the EU places against taking things (back) into public ownership (eg the Fourth Railway Package) interpretations seem to vary.
    However, this is not a founding principle but a passing fad promoted by the now discredited penchant for “market rules OK”, and I'm sure if we manage to remain in the EU we’ll be able to argue our way out of it.
    Bizarrely, a considerable chunk of our railway network is already owned and run by Deutsche Bahn, which calls itself as a private company, but the Federal Republic is the only shareholder, and the publicly owned French company, EDF , supplies electricity and, I think, gas to London and the South East. So some of our railways and energy companies are already nationalised, but by other people's governments.