Labour manifesto: tax and spend to save UK

Radical: The manifesto, favouring higher borrowing and higher taxes, goes against the consensus.

Jeremy Corbyn called it a “programme of hope”. The Tories say it would take the UK “back to the 1970s”. Labour published its election manifesto yesterday. Here are five key pledges.

1/ Higher income tax for the rich. Labour’s manifesto says that taxation “underpins our shared prosperity”. If they come to power, 95% of people will see no increase in their income tax contributions. But income tax would increase to 45% for people earning over £80,000, and 50% for those on more than £123,000; (currently 40% up to £150,000 and 45% over that figure). The party hopes to raise £48.6 billion from tax rises.

2/ Nationalisation. One of the most eye-catching policies is the nationalisation of England’s ten water companies. Labour would also bring the railways back into public ownership, as well as reversing the privatisation of Royal Mail “at the earliest opportunity”; and wants a “transition to a publicly owned, decentralised energy system”.

3/ More money for the NHS. The party says it is committing “to over £30 billion in extra funding over the next parliament”, to come from income tax rises. The manifesto aims to guarantee access to treatment within 18 weeks and to shorten A&E waiting times. The party wants to reverse health service privatisation, instead favouring “expert public control”.

4/ Scrapping tuition fees. In a pitch at younger voters, Labour’s manifesto includes the proposal to scrap tuition fees, which have risen to over £9,000 in the last seven years. “Labour will reintroduce maintenance grants for students”, they say, while emphasising that university tuition is free in many other northern European countries.

5/ No Brexit without a deal. Labour has been accused of a lack of clarity on Brexit. The manifesto says it aims to “prioritise jobs and living standards and to build a close new relationship with the EU”. Of the negotiations, it says that no deal is the worst possible deal for Britain. If needs be a Labour government would “negotiate transitional arrangements to avoid a cliff-edge for the economy.”

A winning formula?

“Labour’s policies are actually very popular”, say some. Labour has correctly sensed that the public mood has turned away from free markets and low taxes. The manifesto will appeal both to its older working-class vote and its more metropolitan, liberal, younger supporters. Labour may be trailing in the polls, but this manifesto might well be the turning point in the election campaign.

“The public will see straight through this utopian nonsense”, reply others. The policies are insufficiently costed and would deter wealth creation in Britain. And anyway, campaigns do not really matter. The public’s perception of the potential prime ministers, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May, is more important. On popularity, May wins easily. Labour tends to be overrated in the polls, and this election will be no different.

You Decide

  1. Would you vote for the Labour Party?
  2. Can election campaigns significantly influence the result?

Activities

  1. Jeremy Corbyn is a self-described “socialist”. In a sentence or two, write down what you understand this term to mean.
  2. Pick one Labour policy outlined above, and write 500 words on whether you think it is a good idea.

Some People Say...

“If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Labour, in response to its leader’s poor approval ratings and its low poll numbers, has concentrated on churning out as many popular, left-wing policies as possible in this election campaign. Corbyn is on the far-left of the Labour Party, and with the Tories aiming to take votes from UKIP, this is the first election in a while where no-one has accused the two parties of being identical.
What do we not know?
Whether Labour’s policies, many of which have proven to be popular, will really make much difference at this election. Some psephologists (experts on elections) believe that the popularity and credibility ratings of David Cameron and Ed Miliband were a key reason why the polls misjudged the 2015 general election, even though many people preferred Miliband’s policies.

Word Watch

Water companies
The water industry was privatised in 1989 by Margaret Thatcher’s government. Under Labour it would be taken into public ownership either by simply buying the shares of the existing companies or by a compulsory measure.
Railways
Under the existing system, Britain’s railway lines are run by train operating companies as franchises for a fixed length of time. These franchises have contracts that tend to last for around seven years. When the contracts run out, Labour plans to re-nationalise the railways.
Privatisation of Royal Mail
The government formerly owned Royal Mail, but sold it in 2013 keeping a stake of 30%.
Away from free markets
One of the first people to make this point was the former Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Popularity
Corbyn has rarely scored more than 20% when voters are asked who they think would make the best prime minister between him and Theresa May.
Overrated in the polls
With three weeks to go, Labour is currently on 29% in the polls. At this stage in 2015, the party was on 34% but ended up with 30% of the vote.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.