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:
- Resume council-house building and make private sector house building an infrastructure priority
- Take the railway companies back into public ownership as their franchises expire;
- Ensure there is at least one publicly owned energy provider in each region;
- Guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK;
- Make no false promises about immigration;
- Establish a national and regional investment banks;
- Scrap the bedroom tax and punitive sanctions regime;
- Discourage short-termism and rocketing executive pay;
- Scrap university tuition fees;
- Adequately fund eduction, health and social care services.
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:
- Hard Brexit;
- Continued austerity ;
- Increasing inequality;
- Further privatisations;
- Bullying of the poor and disadvantaged;
- Reductions in the size of the state;
- Grammar schools;
- Toadying to the US;
- Endangered human,civil and employment rights;
- Unachievable immigration targets, along with an inhuman and even illegal attitude to migrants and asylum seekers;
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.