Labour to stand on most transformative manifesto in living memory

Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn revealed Labour’s manifesto for the 2017 General Election.

In an event at Bradford University, party activists and the media were treated to the unveiling of the manifesto and a Q&A session with Labour’s leader. The manifesto had been leaked ahead of last Friday’s Clause V meeting, which unanimously agreed the final draft, meaning that many of the policies were already known. Corbyn joked about this in his speech, telling the audience, “You may have seen it before.”

The programme is undoubtedly the most transformative and ambitious in living memory. Comparisons have abounded, including unfavourably with Labour’s ill-fated 1983 manifesto, dubbed by Gerald Kaufman ‘The longest suicide note in history’. Yet what we were presented with yesterday was a fairly moderate, common sense social democratic programme. As the Huffington Post‘s Paul Waugh points out, “This is a 21st century leftism, rolling back some Thatcherite policy while acting on modern problems like the ‘gig’ economy.” Continue reading

Ann Black’s report from Labour’s March executive

NEC Report AB

National Executive Committee, 24 March 2015

The NEC congratulated Rachael Maskell, Conor McGinn and Kate Osamor on their selection as parliamentary candidates for York Central, St Helens North and Edmonton. If all goes well and they are elected as MPs on 7 May, this will have been their last NEC meeting.

Lucy Powell, vice-chair of Labour’s general election campaign, reported that there was no sign of a Tory surge or a budget bounce.  The fifth and final pledge was launched in Birmingham on 14 March, promising a country where the next generation can do better than the last.  With Labour the recovery would put the NHS and working people first, and build a Britain that works for working people. She contrasted the Tories’ failing plan with a better plan for working families, because Britain only succeeds when working families succeed.  Controls on immigration would include more border police and withholding in-work and out-of-work benefits from migrants for two years, until they have paid into the system, as well as ensuring that employers cannot undercut wages and working conditions. NEC members were happy with the last part, but pointed out that it is not migrants’ fault if they are exploited. Continue reading

Ann Black’s report from Labour’s January executive

NEC Report AB

National Executive Committee, 27 January 2015

Ed Miliband was in Manchester launching Labour’s health pledge, so European leader Glenis Willmott MEP gave the opening report.  Labour MEPs opposed an increase in the budget because of continuing waste on the common agricultural policy, and were campaigning on violence against women, assistance for disabled people, allegations of corruption against EU officials in Kosovo, commitment to science and, with Steve Rotheram MP, on tyre safety.  On TTIP (transatlantic trade and investment partnership) Labour were working to protect public services, and for alternatives to the ISDS (investor state dispute settlement) whereby companies can sue governments, in secret, for interfering with their profits.  Continue reading

In response to Michael Meacher: what Labour narrative?

1945_lets_build_quick_bThere my be an element of wishful thinking in Michael Meacher’s recent post on Left Futures, A clear Labour narrative is emerging, but key gaps need filling.  A few good policies, such as the repeal of the bedroom tax or an energy price freeze does not constitute a narrative. In fact, without such an over-arching ideology there is a real danger that a few good policies will lack any credibility.

The Tories have a clear narrative. Labour in office were primarily responsible for the economic crisis thanks to profligate spending. Tory spending cuts are the medicine to put the economy back on track, even if they hit the most vulnerable in society. The accompanying rhetoric that demonises welfare recipients, penalises young people and scapegoats migrants is underpinned by the fact that these sections of the population are either unlikely to vote or unlikely to vote Tory.

But how different is Labour’s narrative? Its focus on “hard-working families” implicitly excludes many on benefits. Its support for the Coalition’s welfare cap explicitly concedes the argument that benefit levels are the problem – rather than poverty pay, which forces people in work to top up their incomes with welfare. Continue reading

A clear Labour narrative is emerging, but key gaps need filling

1945_lets_build_quick_bYou could almost write the Labour manifesto now, except that there’s a great deal more to come later this month as well as in the run-up to the election. It can be grouped under certain headings:

Protecting living standards

A Living Wage (£8.80 in London, £7.65 elsewhere), encouraged by incentives to business and enforced if necessary. An immediate energy price freeze lasting 20 months till January 2017, by which time the energy market will be radically restructured. A private rent cap as a check against rapacious landlords. The hated and deeply unjust Bedroom Tax will be repealed. Continue reading