The Labour Manifesto Launch

By Patrick Brogan

The UK Labour Party launched its manifesto today in Bradford.  The manifesto itself had already been leaked, so there were no major surprises. Corbyn has been heavily criticised since taking over the Labour Party, so rather than looking at the leader, let’s view the policies and the tone of the launch.

Before Jeremy Corbyn took to the stage at the University of Bradford, there were three people who gave speeches about how austerity measures in modern Britain have impacted on their lives. Brian spoke first. He told those gathered how a father dealing with autism has barely any support and how he turned to drink and was considering suicide some time back.

This was followed by Muhammed, a bus driver and former Labour councillor. He said he was concerned with the difficulty his children will have with finding work and being massively in debt. Then there was Christine. She has to double job to support her young family and can barely make ends meet. If Labour is going to target those affected by austerity measures, this wasn’t a bad tactic. All of these people have been struggling under brutal Tory cuts. It was a good idea to have them tell their stories to appeal to those in a likewise situation.

Jeremy Corbyn Speaks

Corbyn himself was at pains to point out this is a “radical, responsible” manifesto and that Labour will be the party of the many, not the few, hence the manifesto’s name. Labour are the party of the left under Corbyn. Not a surprise given the party’s name. However, I felt this was more of an appeal to those who suffered under a Right-wing government rather than those with already Left-leaning ideals.

Indeed, anybody struggling in modern Britain, the many millions, might see some hope with Corbyn at the tiller. Things like ruling out a rise in VAT rates, boosting wages to £10-an-hour — he said this will benefit 5.7 million workers –, scrapping tuition fees, universal childcare and protecting the triple lock payment scheme to pensioners would see an increase in the spending power of many Britons. This, in turn, would boost the economy.

There are more policies that will benefit those after falling on hard times. More money is promised to probably Britain’s most beloved institution, the NHS. A million new homes to be built, half of these will be earmarked for social rent. The abolishment of zero-hour contracts for nurses will presumably extend to other areas of the economy. The number of firefighters will also increase.

The Dreaded Tories

His attack on the Tories was quite clear, they have failed the British public. He said their campaign was built on one word; fear. He said were his party in charge of negotiations to leave the European Union, jobs would be put first. If May leads the charge, it would be geared towards The City and the UK would become a low-wage, tax haven. He also pointed out what years of spending cuts have done to British society. Then, he asked her what she was hiding for and to have a debate.

The Difficulties

While he is strong on social issues and comes across as a likeable normal bloke, there are some problems he needs to resolve if he truly wants to be Prime Minister. They are serious and persistent so let’s dive right in.

The Numbers

In terms of funding for the NHS and social housing, that isn’t too much of an issue because he is planning on raising tax rates on the rich, this will fund most of it. It’s the other policies that need precise calculation. Nobody is against cheap green energy, it’s vital actually, but how will he pay for this? Indeed nationalising energy, water, the rail service and the Royal Mail, are commendable to some extent, but where will this money come from? This would ordinarily be a massive headache, but with Britain leaving the EU in a few years this is an almost insurmountable problem. Nobody really knows what this will do to the UK economy. So these massive projects will have to be put on the long finger.

Small Businesses

The problem with Socialist governments is when they treat everyone the same and suppress small businesses and entrepreneurship. The further Left you go, the worst this problem is. Small businesses employing people are the best way of stopping rampant multinational corporations.  They should be promoted. I could be missing something, but I’ve never heard Jeremy Corbyn do this. I worry he sees the ideal economy as made up solely of civil servants. I don’t think I need to spell out the problems this would cause.

Laura Kuenssberg has become Corbyn’s nemesis, but she did raise an interesting point during the questions section of the launch. She asked should people be taxed on their ideas and hard work. Does his tax policy curb economic growth? I’m sure Kuenssberg is referring to the mega rich and who really cares if they have to pay more tax? What concerns me is the impact it will have, if any at all, on small and medium businesses. Corbyn should be much clearer on this.

The Options

This is pretty clear. If we concentrate on both the Tories and Labour, because one of them will form the major party in the next Government, the options are clear. The Tories, not for the first time in their history, have ripped the soul out of Britain. They did have help from the previous Labour Government, but they have made it much worse. Britain has become a society where nurses are struggling to make ends meet and teachers have to take collections at school gates to survive. Are they both not hugely important to the well-being of a nation? The Tories have failed education, health, housing and so much more.  Millions of Britons are the working poor. How is this fair?

Contrast that with Corbyn. He certainly is geared more to a fairer society and fairer distribution of wealth. All economists will tell you this is better for an economy. The more people there is with purchasing power, the more goods and services are bought. But does Corbyn know how to get to this point? This is the major standout issue. It has been pointed out by the British media that he has not put a cap on immigration. Although I would be in favour of some reform in this regard, Corbyn clearly doesn’t feel this a major issue and for him to pretend it is so would just be pandering to get votes.

Theresa May might look like a safe set of hands, particularly when it comes to the economy, but she was part of a government that borrowed more and put Britain in more debt than it had been in half a century and all that happened was the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Corbyn’s detractors say he will tank the economy, that might be about to happen anyway. The question is who can offer a higher quality of living up to that point. I know who I would vote more.

 

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