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Shaping Labour’s manifesto – have your say

Policy review graphicAlthough it has not been widely commented on, the publication of eight documents from Labour’s policy commissions marks a further step down the road to the manifesto. Amendments are invited, although the deadline for these of June 13 doesn’t give much time, partly because of the EU and local elections on May 22.

The documents should be read alongside the shadow cabinet documents, and it comes as no surprise to note that the key wording in each is identical. This is not to say that there has been no consultation, and the policy commission documents are full of quotes from submissions to them, but while this is certainly an improvement on the past, democracy over this and other matters would appear to have some way to go.

What then should the left propose by way of amendments? Or is it all signed and sealed? While the broad outlines of the manifesto would appear to be taking shape, it is important that the left fights for an expansionary budget and for other commitments, rather than say very little which is what the Blairites would prefer.

What is Labour offering, and what needs changing? To begin with, and most important of all, Labour has signed up to Con-Dem spending plans for 2015-16, which are likely to be more severe than any so far implemented and bring crisis to many hospitals and local authorities. As Polly Toynbee said in the Guardian on Feb 7, it is doubtful whether Osborne himself could implement these.

So the most important change of policy needed is an emergency budget following the election. This should impose a moratorium on cuts for local authorities, education and health for a year and draw up a new budget based on significant tax increases for the better off and a renewed drive against tax avoidance.

At the same time, a huge investment should take place, mainly in green energy and housing, of the order of £50 bn. This is affordable. No-one suggested that HS2, at comparable cost, was not, although this should now be put on ice.

If the Con-Dem cuts in the March 2015 budget are maintained by Labour then all the other positive features of the manifesto will be nullified. Even if there is substantial investment in housing the cuts would loom large and would be highly perplexing – why are we sacking social workers but taking on bricklayers? It is vital that this change in policy is made, as  current Labour policy is far more draconian than the Darling policy which envisaged cuts at about half the level currently being imposed.

Having said that, the policies and commitments in the various reports differ in terms of what the left would see as priorities, but in some areas they are very positive. Below I have tried to summarise the main proposals along with key omissions, from a left viewpoint, which amendments should seek to cover.

  • On banking  to a British Investment Bank and a Green Investment Bank, with big banks to be broken up to promote competition and regional banking, limit overall market share and separate retail and investment banking, unless this has been done. (The commitment here is rather ambiguous, but of supreme importance.) Long termism will be supported, and a 25 year strategy implemented for improving infrastructure.
  • On workplace/employment rights to reinforce the minimum wage and to give incentives to adopt the living wage, including tax rebates and procurement contracts. Action against zero hours contracts, protection for agency workers, but no commitment to restore TU rights lost under the Con-Dems, let alone Thatcher/Major.
  • On housing 200,000 houses a year by 2020, with council houses, new towns and anti – land hoarding powers for LAs, the regulation of letting agents but only the encouragement of long term lets and reduced rents, rather than compulsion. The bedroom tax to be repealed.
  • On tax action on tax havens and tax avoidance, the restoration of the 50p rate at £150k pa,
  • No further cutting of corporation tax, a reduction in pension tax relief, a mansion tax. However, no mention of the ‘Tobin’ tax or a general avoidance principle.
  • On  benefits a compulsory 25 hours pw guarantee, and the end of the ATOS contract, but nothing on safeguarding disability benefits..
  • On education very little, except a new vocational award ( TechBac) with few details. Nothing on scrapping all selection, free schools, academies, reinstating EMAs,  local authorities as main administrators of education and guaranteeing nationwide pay and conditions of service for teachers.
  • On transport, an integrated network with elected transport authorities, bus regulation as in London, retaining the East Coast Main Line in public hands, capping fare increases, safer cycling. No mention of rail renationalisation.
  • On energy a price freeze, dividing energy and supply, opening the companies’ books, cost effective green energy schemes.
  • On health the repeal of the 2012 Act, the linking of physical mental and social care into one service, tackling the A and E crisis, seeking a consensus on residential care, tackling health inequalities and promoting public health. No mention of free personal care, abolition of prescription charges, dental and optical care.
  • On ‘better politics’ lowering the voting age to 16, democratic reform of the House of Lords, defending the Human Rights Act.

There isn’t much time, so get amending right away!


  1. Robert says:

    A good solid Progress written Progress backed band wagons, labour hope that the people will fall for it, sadly heard it all before no thanks.

  2. Sandra Crawford says:

    What did Ed Say four years ago? Politics isn’t working, the Labour Party must change? It looks like he meant to become even more neoliberal than ever.
    Progress have taken over.

  3. David Pavett says:


    I think the documents are awful but if the left wants to be taken seriously it should show that there are alternatives at every opportunity. This is one such opportunity. Yes, if the documents were not produced by Progress then they might just as well have been. But then should we not make the arguments for something different? And, if the documents are so awful that they are unamendable (and there is certainly a case that can be made for that view) then should not the reasons for this be spelled out clearly on websites such as this?

    Silence cannot be an appropriate response.

    @Sandra Crawford

    Ed M said that the Party would conduct a “root and branch” review of its policies. That is something that it has spectacularly failed to do. I am not aware of a single document that carefully reviews previous policies and tries to explain what was good, what was not and why the Party was able to promote for so long policies that are now recognised to be wrong.

    Ed Miliband seems to be without a political vision that goes beyond adopting tame policies to win the next election. The Party is dominated by Progress type thinking. He is committed to the idea that all the changes we want to see in society can be made within the context of “responsible capitalism”. Everything flows from that. He does not want to change the basic mechanism of society.

    But what do we do? One thing we should do is to use websites like this to analyse is happening. Whether or not you agree with Pete Rowlands (and me) that it is worth putting in amendments it is surely worth making critiques of all the eight documents out for “consultation”. I have tried to do that for Education and Children. Peter has made a general overview. What about the other Seven?

  4. Robert says:

    I was asked to leave the labour party in 2000 due to a number of interviews on welfare, I had done an interview on the radio with Mansell Alyward over the WCA and ATOS.

    Then I was asked a number of time by both the labour party and the BBC to do some TV interviews on welfare, one with Peter Hain on Remploy and the next was with an American kick boxer who came over here with a nice £100,000 to try and find me work, it’s still on the BBC site somewhere.

    After this and the failure of the BBC and the American to find me a real job they did find me a job at £1 an hour.

    The labour party asked me to leave, then kicked me smartly out.

  5. peter willsman says:

    CLPD will be circulating draft amendments( to all 8 docs.)to all CLPs asap.Contact Jon Lansperson(our NPF officer) if you want copies.The ideas from Peter Rowlands will be taken into account.

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