Labour: For the fewer
Initial thoughts on Labour’s manifesto.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party launched its manifesto for the General Election under the banner “For the Many, not the Few”. The implication of the title, of course, is that the Tories do not stand for the many: they, as the cliche goes, stand for the richest and the most powerful. For wealthy business people above those who are ill and cannot work. For bankers over nurses. For FTSE 100 executives over teachers. You get the picture. Labour are trying old tricks in the new political game: paint your opponents as corrupt and out of touch and hope your opponents don’t call out your own floors.
Above all, Jeremy Corbyn is trying to make himself the carrier of a continued struggle that, to many, no longer exists. The Tories are no longer seen as the party exclusively for the rich; they lead polls among all age groups and along all social classes, even those in the C2DE social grade. When the Conservative Party is verging on polling 50% according to some polls, the best strategy is probably not to attack it when their leader, Theresa May, is also much more liked, respected and considered more “in touch” than Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. It paints an image of a desperate band of partisan members unable to play the new game of politics and take on the Tories- at least without calling them names and offering an alternative and coherent vision.
But let us, for a moment, consider the contents of this manifesto. The headline that most will attach themselves to is the £48.6bn bill for what The Times of London called a “Spending Spree”. Abolishing tuition fees in England, increased schools funding, £2bn more for Adult Social Care in England, as well as nationalisation of a string of key industries including the rail network and energy production. Payment will be made with a new 50% tax rate on income over £123,000 per year, lowering the 45% tax band to cover income above £80,000 per year, corporation tax increases and an additional £250bn worth of borrowing to fund the new investment bank Labour has planned.
More money on social care is undoubtedly needed and obviously popular at a time of national crisis. Labour say they have answers for that in this manifesto. If that is the case, however, why did the Labour Party not join with the Conservatives in March to increase National Insurance for the wealthiest of the self-employed? That policy would have raised £2bn to put into English Social Care and fallen on the back of richer people and those who are currently under-taxed in comparison to employed people.
Meanwhile, Corbyn’s Labour Party has fallen down the route of flashing so-called progressive policy on education. Scrapping tuition fees for universities in England at the cost of £11bn is the crown jewel in a manifesto that claims to be for the many but falls short of its own boast. In scrapping tuition fees Labour would be subsidising wealthier middle class students the most, and replace a system that is currently the fairest the UK has ever had in place. In doing so Labour will make it clear that they intend to spend £11bn not on the health service, on mental health services, or on social care, but on subsidising middle class kids at the expense of vulnerable people.
For the Many, not the Few, while polling as low as 28% with your Conservative opponents 20% points ahead and verging on 50% of the vote is a strategy for irrelevancy and not for government. It shows your party is devoid of ideas, as does subsidising middle class students and refusing to join with others to see change that is needed in public services as Labour has shied away from before.