Latest post on Left Futures

Clause V Socialists: What’s in Labour’s draft manifesto?

The Leak

Yesterday, from noon until around 4pm, Labour held its ‘Clause V’ meeting, where the NEC and Shadow Cabinet come together with other stakeholders to determine the final manifesto for the General Election. While the meeting was overshadowed by the leaking of a 43-page draft manifesto at around 9pm the night before, we learnt yesterday afternoon that a final manifesto was unanimously agreed by the Clause V meeting, with only minor amendments made to it.

But firstly, what was leaked, and by who?

Last night a copy of an early draft of Labour’s election manifesto was leaked to a range of different media outlets. The Telegraph initially ran the story as an ‘Exclusive’, though within an hour the Daily Mirror‘s Jack Blanchard appeared on Newsnight, with a copy in his hand. Blanchard explained that the draft was, as he understood, written by about three people, but given the document was apparently circulated to quite a wide circle within the Leaders’ Office and Southside (Party HQ), tracking the source would be impossible.

The New Statesman‘s Stephen Bush speculated that either staff at Southside could have leaked the document maliciously, or in fact Corbyn’s allies may have done so to pre-empt the Clause V meeting and also gather greater press coverage, which was certainly guaranteed as the draft manifesto made the cut on Thursday’s 10 o’clock news, and was splashed across the papers yesterday morning – for good and ill. The story still ran as a top item on yesterday’s 6pm news bulletins, meaning whoever leaked it, the manifesto is at least being given airtime.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former press officer in the Leader’s Office who has spoken about the regularity of leaks from Southside designed to undermine Corbyn, claimed to hear it was leaked by Southside in order to undermine Corbyn. It is of course remarkable that, just weeks away from a General Election, some members of the party could be so dedicating to destroying Corbyn and the movement behind him that they would leak the manifesto, an act previously unthinkable. Whatever the result on June 8th, we must remember interventions such as this, alongside Tony Blair’s encouragement of some members not to vote Labour, Peter Mandelson telling us he worked to undermine Corbyn ‘every single day’, and John Woodcock’s attack on Corbyn even as he sough the party’s renomination to stand as a candidate.

The Manifesto

So what’s in the manifesto? Well, we won’t know for certain until it’s published, but the consensus appears to be that the manifesto has been agreed with only minor changes. Politico speculate, based on their sources, that a section on security and counterterrorism has been beefed up to counter the party’s perceived weakness on such matters, while the much-lauded clause on abortion rights in Northern Ireland may have been amended due to its devolved nature. Politico believe that the commitment to review the controversial ‘Prevent’ agenda, which has been condemned from voices across the party from Andy Burnham to Diane Abbott, alongside educationalists and security experts, remains in the document.

The headline policies include:

  • £6 billion a year extra for the NHS
  • £3 billion a year for schools, in addition to other education pledges unveiled on wednesday
  • Abolition of university tuition fees
  • Building 100,000 new council houses a year, alongside 100,000 affordable homes
  • Taking the railways, Royal Mail, and eventually energy companies back into public ownership
  • Energy price caps 
  • Rent controls
  • £250bn of investment into national infrastructure
  • Ban on fracking

A snap poll conducted by ComRes for the Daily Mirror shows the public support Labour on all of its major policies, except for those on Brexit and immigration, but still do not trust Jeremy Corbyn ahead of Theresa May as a candidate for prime minister. The poll showed popular support for banning zero hours contracts, nationalising energy, mail and rail, keeping the ban on fox hunting, raising income tax on higher earners, and scrapping university tuition fees.

Economic Policy 

On taxation, Labour have committed to protect 95% of the population from any rises in income taxation, National Insurance, or VAT. Anyone earning below £80,000 a year will be exempted from tax rises, with Labour creating a new £80,000 a year tax bracket, between the current £45,000 and £150,000 rates. Corporation tax, according to announcements made on education on wednesday, will rise from 19% to 26%, though it will still be the lowest rate of Corporation Tax in the G7.

On investment and borrowing, the manifesto pledges that, “Labour will take advantage of near-record low interest rates to invest £250 billion over ten years in upgrading our economy to ensure that our transport, energy and digital infrastructure is fit for the 21st Century.” That borrowing commitment is counterbalanced with a commitment to a ‘Fiscal Credibility Rule’, overseen by the Office for Budget Responsibility, to eliminate the deficit within five years.

There is a commitment to an industrial strategy, exempting certain aspects of capital investment from business rates and introducing universal super fast wifi by 2022, and creating a National Investment Bank, alongside regional banks, to direct the £250bn of infrastructure investment.

The line of attack that Corbyn is seeking to cap high corporate at a ratio of 20:1, to the lowest wage in the firm, is actually a distortion of the manifesto’s commitment to use government tendering process to only grant contracts to firms which meet such targets.

Energy Policy 

Labour would introduce an immediate £1,000 a year price cap on dual household energy bills, and in the long-term creating, “At least one publicly owned energy company in every region of the UK, that is a locally run, democratically accountable energy supplier, working to tackle fuel poverty, return profits to customers via reduced tariffs, support community energy projects and have drive larger energy companies to lower their prices in the area.” Labour would seek to insulate four million homes, and in one headline policy, would ban fracking.

Brexit 

On Brexit, Labour pledges to, “prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.”

Labour would scrap the government’s Brexit White Paper, and instead seek single market access, while also avoiding a ‘no deal’ Brexit by negotiating a transitional arrangement if talks had not concluded by the 2019 deadline. Labour would seek to maintain Britain’s membership of organisations such as Horizon 2020 (which provides research funding), and also Euratom, the nuclear regulator. The latter body was specifically mentioned in Theresa May’s article 50 notification letter, with the government seeking to withdraw Britain form Euratom, leaving our nuclear facilities without adequate safety regulators.

Importantly, Labour would incorporate into law all workers’ rights, environmental protections and consumer rights derived from EU law.

Immigration

On immigration, the document promises not to make “false promises” on numbers, and stresses “reasonable management of migration.” It also pledges Labour to work with trade unions to crack down on exploitative practices many migrant workers are exposed to, particularly in agriculture. The section also pledges to create a Migrant Impact Fund, and to welcome refugees, though no numbers are mentioned.

Trade 

The document promises to promote international trade by minimising tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, while promoting exports through its industrial strategy. The section also affirms Labour would not allow trade arrangements to trump human rights considerations.

Education

On education, most of the policies were covered earlier this week, and features Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘National Education Service’, a pledge from the 2015 leadership election to provide free and quality education from cradle to grave. Labour would do this by expanding free and subsidised childcare, reduce class sizes, introduce universal free school meals, and pump an extra £6bn into schools. They would also introduce free adult education, for life.

On universities, the headline policy is of course the abolition of tuition fees, but the party has also pledged to restore maintenance grants, which were abolished by the Conservatives in 2015.

Workers’ Rights 

The section on workers’ rights includes a very strong 20-point plan, previously unveiled by Shadow Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Salford MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, which drastically scales up protections for workers in all sorts of scenarios.

Significantly, there is a pledge to modernise the way unions work by consulting unions on introducing online balloting – something currently prohibited in order to hamper turnout in union elections and strike ballots.

For self-employed workers, or those in ‘precarious’ jobs where employers seek to claim their workers are in fact self-employed, Labour will shift the burden of proof, so that the law assumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise. Meanwhile a Ministry of Labour would enforce these rights with heavy fines for bosses that flout them.

Social Security 

The latest draft on social security was very short, with a welcome absence of any mention of further cuts, distinct from Labour’s rhetoric and policy in the Blair and Miliband eras, while including a pledge to “rebuild and transform our social security system”. A later section promises to scrap the punitive sanctions regime, scrap the bedroom tax, reinstate housing benefit for under-21s and scrap bereavement support payment cuts.

The draft also promises that, “Labour will repeal the following cuts in social security support to disabled people through a new Social Security Bill published in our first year of office.” This includes important reversals on the Tories’ attempt to circumvent recent court wins for disabled people on PIP, a reversal of the £30 a week ESA cut, among other areas.

Pensioners 

On pensioners, there are a raft of pledges such as commitments to the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, and an important commitment to women born in the 1950s who’s state pension age has been pushed back by the Conservatives. The document states that “women born in the 1950s have had their state pension age changed without fair notification”, and that Labour will legislate so that accrued rights to the basic state pension cannot be changed, but future benefits can.

Housing 

Labour have made an incredible pledge to build 1,000,000 homes by the end of the Parliament, including many council or housing association homes. The manifesto draft also pledges rent controls that cap rent rises at inflation, consumer rights for tenants, and reintroduce housing benefit for 18-21 year olds. Labour would also suspend ‘Right to Buy’, one of Margaret Thatcher’s most popular policies, that allowed tenants to buy their own council house, but led to many affordable council houses to simply end up in the hands of exploitative landlords.

Healthcare 

Labour’s health policies are headlined by a massive increase in spending, an 18-week treatment guarantee, a guarantee of waiting no more than four hours in A&E, and halting pharmacy closures.

The document aims, “for Britain’s children to be the healthiest in the world”, achieved by a new £250m Children’s Health Fund, alongside £6bn of extra funding, through increasing income tax on the top 5% of earners (those on £80,000 or above).

The manifesto also pledges to halt ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’, and reverse privatisation.

Justice 

Labour would review many of the policies of the Conservative government in relation to legal aid, for example by re-establishing entitlements to legal aid in the private law arena of the family courts. Labour also pledge to recruit 10,000 new police officers and 3,000 new prison officers, who would have their public sector pay cap lifted.

Transport 

Labour’s headline transport policy is to renationalise Britain’s railways, by repealing the 1993 Act that privatised them under John Major, followed up by freezing fares, introducing free wi- fi across the network, ensuring safe staffing levels and ending driver only operation, and by improving accessibility for disabled people.

Labour would also complete and extend HS2 to Scotland, build a ‘Crossrail of the North’, alongside the creation of municipal bus companies, publicly run for passengers not profit.

Other majors sections include culture, media, sports, defence, environment and the constitution.

It is important to reiterate that this is an initial draft, that was leaked, quite probably maliciously, that is now in the public domain after being shared by numerous journalists and media outlets. Much of this may have been changed either prior to the Clause V meeting, or during it.

 

The final manifesto is expected to be published next week.

5 Comments

  1. C MacMackin says:

    I’ve some thoughts on energy policy. I will likely comment on other areas later.

    First of all, I wish people would stop saying that the manifesto pledges to renationalise energy; it never uses the word. It seems like there is a pledge to return the transmission and distribution grids to public ownership (which is good), although this is not explicitly said. The pledge to have “at least one publicly owned energy company in every region of the UK” would likely involve no nationalisation at all. It sounds like a new supply company will simply be created and would, presumably, compete against the Big 6. This would not address the wastefulness of competition in the supply sector. The idea that these supply companies should be regional is also rather strange, given that in a liberalised electricity market, such as exists in the UK, there is reason why a company can’t sell to anywhere in the country, even if it is only based in one town. This is because supply companies don’t need to own any infrastructure, simply purchasing electricity on the (national) wholesale market and then passing on the costs to customers. As is often the case, I feel as though whoever wrote this has only a vague understanding of how the electricity industry is structured and regulated.

    Almost nothing has been said about ownership of electricity generation which is, you know, kind of the most important part of the sector. Presumably that will be left in private ownership? There only is a vague commitment to building new generation infrastructure in the public sector. There is also a commitment to encouraging local energy co-ops. It can not be stressed enough what a terrible idea this is. These co-ops are little more than private businesses which self-satisfied middle class people can invest in with secure and generous returns. They are more akin to a Thatcherite share-owning democracy than to socialism and they will not address high energy bills.

    I’m not convinced that the new public suppliers will be able to deliver energy much more cheaply than the private ones. Profit margins in supply are not all that large (at least, according the the pie-chart on my energy bill). Publicly owned transmission and distribution grids can probably lower the cost of their use, but this will apply to all supply companies. Keeping generation in the private sector means the profit margins of these companies will remain intact. It must be said that keeping a liberalised energy market will make it far more difficult to limit gouging of customers, given there are 4 different opportunities to do it (generation, transmission, distribution, and supply) and that wholesale energy prices are set by the market. It will also maintain the wastefulness of running the market and of keeping the sector split up into all of these different pieces.

    On the bright side, I am pleased to see that the draft manifesto endorsed nuclear power. It wasn’t endorsing a roll-out on the scale I want, but it’s a start. It did not address the question of ownership, though. Hinkley C shows how expensive nuclear can be when built in the private sector. We need a commitment that all new nuclear be built in the public sector to a standard design. I’d like to see old nuclear power plants nationalised as well, but it’s the commitment on the new ones which is most important.

    There is a vague commitment to retain “access” to the European energy market. The ability to buy and sell energy to other European countries should certainly be kept. What is unclear is whether Labour equates “access” to “membership”. Membership would commit Britain to continuing the liberalised energy market and make proper renationalisation impossible (indeed, it would even make the stated goal of government control over the regulator impossible, as EU directives require independent regulators). It is, in principle, possible to sell into a liberalised energy market from a vertically integrated public monopoly (this is done by many Canadian provinces, including my own, which sell to the liberalised markets in the United States), so it is this option which should be pursued.

    To be honest, I thought the targets on clean energy were unambitious. The only commitment was 60% of electricity should be clean by 2030. Keep in mind that electricity is only 20% of the UK’s total energy use. If it had said 60% of energy then that would have been impressive and the scale of action needed to combat climate change. Essentially no attention is paid to non-electric energy. We are going to need to phase out gas, with green gas acting as a short-term way to reduce emissions. Heating will need to be replaced by technologies such as heat pumps, solar-thermal, and district heating. District heating is particularly exciting to me as public infrastructure projects a left-government should invest in, but it receives no mention. On the other hand, there was a commitment to insulate millions of homes, which will definitely help reduce gas use.

    Similarly, no mention was made of the use of petrol. Even in the transport section, no attention is paid to this. We need to see a massive program to electrify transport, including rail, buses, and cars. While a commitment is made to expand public transport, the need for it to be electric is never mentioned. There is an extremely vague mention of public rail freight, which will be helpful to reduce emissions, but more detail is needed. I am extremely concerned by the statement that “Labour supports the expansion of aviation capacity”–if we want to tackle climate change then we urgently need to reduce the amount of flying. The commitment to remain in the European Open Skies agreement is similarly concerning, as it would make the regulation necessary to achieve this much more difficult.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      As an afterthought, to put the goal of 60% clean electricity into perspective. Currently, 45% of electricity comes from clean sources (nuclear and renewables). The imminent retirement of many nuclear power plants does make this goal more difficult, but it is still only a modest improvement in a sector making up a minority of our total energy use.

  2. Bazza says:

    Brilliant that Labour policies dominated the media all day and in news terms Tories wiped off the face of the planet! Loved comment I think one of NEC “Bit naughty that” perhaps the stars are starting to shine!

  3. free tips says:

    I am now not certain the place you’re getting your info, but good topic.
    I must spend some time studying much more or figuring out more.
    Thank you for wonderful information I used to be looking for this info
    for my mission.

  4. James Elliott says:

    From Peter Willsman:

    “I have been on and off Nat.Cmtees since 1981.Disgraceful disloyalty has happened quite a few times before.The staff are always blamed,but it is rarely them.It is invariably factionalism.To link it to JC’s Office is beneath contempt and is simply a trick being employed by JC’s enemies to mislead the naive and innocents.In 41 years I’ve never seen JC as annoyed as he was re the leak.The place to start looking for the culprit is amongst the Hard Right.Not for nothing is their motto-”the ends justify the means”.For almost 2 years they have,by their own admission,sought to do something, every single day,to undermine our Party’s elected Leader.

    These devious schemers are now telling the gormless press and media that the Clause 5 meeting was ”fractious”.In fact nothing could be further from the truth-read my Report in a few hours time.”

© 2017 Left Futures | Powered by WordPress | theme originated from PrimePress by Ravi Varma