Labour’s manifesto – bold and offering a clear choice about how we want to live

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May 17, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith

vote labour

I have to admit to developing a bit of a crush on Labour’s manifesto. It is bold and it offers a real choice for the electorate. It is in fact exactly what I hoped would happen when Jeremy Corbyn was running for Labour Leader. I don’t like all the policies, and will probably tear a few apart over the coming weeks, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what he and his team are trying to do here, which is fundamentally change the country.

Don’t listen to the critics who dismiss it as ‘Back to the 70s’ or the ‘Second longest suicide note in history’. The latter phrase came from the words of a Labour MP on their 1983 manifesto, which led to a crushing defeat by Margaret Thatcher’s Tories and relegation almost to third place behind what was then the Liberal/SDP ‘Alliance.

The 1970s saw every politician, Conservative and Labour, flailing around trying to control external forces beyond their control and internal forces out of control. That is not the case now. The 1983 manifesto included commitments to re-nationalise privatised companies as well as invest in private companies, and even take control of them – as opposed to the vital utilities this 2017 one is targeting, withdrawal from the EU without a referendum, reintroduction of price controls and exchange controls (stopping money leaving the country).

Instead, read through it and you will see a remarkably coherent plan which combines three interlinked arguments: That austerity inhibits growth, that the better-off and companies should pay more to fund public services, and that some industries need more government intervention to ensure they work in the interests of consumers and the wider economy. Again, lazy commentators or ones with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo will tell you this is all far-left dogma, but most mainstream Northern European social democratic parties (what we would call centre-left) believe the same things as in this manifesto.

Fairer judgement might be that the manifesto seems to focus most on banning things, making things compulsory and providing them for free, which some might feel is overbearing government intervention. Others might fear a rather cavalier approach to spending money (which everyone likes) with a far more circumspect approach to raising money (there is a difference between ‘fully costed’ and realistic).

But both those judgement can be met by the overall vision of the manifesto, which is the country has been managed wrongly for too long, that its economic and political model benefits the privileged few, not the many, and that investment leads to growth which leads in the end to whatever is borrowed being paid back.

Perhaps the best comparison will be with the Conservative manifesto. Are the Conservatives making a positive case for the status quo? Are the Conservatives  making a positive case for the benefits of continuing to allow the free market to dominate our economic model? Are the Conservatives making a positive case for the contracting out to the private sector of some of our public services? Are the Conservatives making a positive case for austerity as a whole? I don’t think they are, and I don’t think they can.

Which is why, presented by a different leader, and in a different context (when Brexit doesn’t dominate), the Labour manifesto would have a lot going for it.

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5 thoughts on “Labour’s manifesto – bold and offering a clear choice about how we want to live

  1. neil whiskerd says:

    Your last point is key, it is not necessarily the policies but the leader implementing them, same goes for Brexit. If Labour had a leader who was on the public wavelength it could be a game changer but sadly( for all his many personal and principled qualities) they don’t.

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  2. jenny Manson says:

    I think this is too easy a dismissal of Labour’s chances of selling this star manifesto. Given the virtually 100% media campaign of contempt against Jeremy Corbyn (including most of the journalists in the Guardian) and the choice by too many in the PLP to go for their wishes over the fate of the Labour party, Corbyn is amazing many by his energy and zest. Our local canvassing shows signs of people thinking again both about the Labour and the conservative leader, who clearly fears a personal exchange with Corbyn. That tells the voter a lot.

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    • Jenny I love your enthusiasm and passion for the cause. But I fear your insistence that the problem with Jeremy Corbyn is caused by the media (the same claim that Donald Trump makes by the way) makes you blind to the problem created by our parliamentary democracy system. The media is a conduit to the electorate, and hopefully will always be, unless we are taken over by a totalitarian government that suppresses free speech and free press. Last week there was a situation where senior Labour figures were attacking the media for simply reporting what they said, in speech marks. How about going on radio shows armed with figures to back up their policies and claims? Corbyn IS having a good campaign, but it is all relative. MAYBE the contempt for Corbyn as a leader has some basis? Maybe this manifesto delivered by a different leader would have a different response. All I can tell you is this: If you and your fellow ideological travellers continue to point your fingers everywhere else but at your current leadership for the loss of this election, if you and your fellow ideological travellers continue to wait until the media ‘gets it’, then this country is stuck with Conservative Governments for a generation. Do you really want that?

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  3. jenny Manson says:

    I hate to think Trump and I have even this teeny thing in common. But of course Trump sailed in on local radio adoration of him and his views. The Corbyn phenomenon is extraordinary in recent history because the so- called left leaning press and broadcasters have contributed to the scorn and ridicule. There have been at least two academic studies that confirm this is rare if not unique. .

    One quick find just now

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/jeremy-corbyn-media-bias-labour-mainstream-press-lse-study-misrepresentation-we-cant-ignore-bias-a7144381.html

    Of course excellent policies and in my view a very strong shadow cabinet should be able to rescue the party from scorn-gate but for that there needs to be some questioning of the assumptions, eg the cliché ‘he is not a leader’. If that means a lot of the PLP won’t be led that should be only the start of a thought process!

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    • I know the Professor who led that study. His point was that the press don’t tell you what to think, they tell you what to think about. He pointed out that they had found that whilst the public overwhelmingly backed anti-austerity policies, they had no idea which parties put them forward, but they all knew which party was pro-austerity. This is why I am noting whether the actual policies in Corbyn’s manifesto are discussed, not just stuff like running over people and Len McLusky calling down. I find though your refusal to recognise that left-leaning press pouring scorn and ridicule might be because it is deserved, as his leadership will maintain Conservative power? You only have to watch PMQs and see all the missed opportunities to hold Theresa May to account (imagine how much she would fear Keir Starmer) to see that the biggest frustration of Guardianistas is that the party is led by someone totally incompetent from a leadership point of view (regardless of policies).

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