Three quick thoughts on the Labour manifesto leak

by Kevin Meagher

1. The butler did it…Or perhaps he didn’t

So who leaked it? Who benefits from Labour’s policy commitments spilling out over the evening news bulletins in one big, tangled heap? No-one, is the answer. It’s unlikely too many of Jeremy Corbyn’s internal opponents (is ‘enemies’ too strong?) would have been privy to the working draft and just as unlikely they would deliberately sabotage the campaign. The mood on the right of the party is ‘let Corbyn fail on his own terms.’

Did someone in his team think it was a useful tactical ruse? Perhaps to strong arm critics who would prefer a more hard-headed manifesto with fewer uncosted commitments? (The idea being that if they’re in the public domain there can be no rowing back in today’s Clause V meeting of party grandees that agrees the final cut). Again, what we see doesn’t bear that out. The contents are, frankly, much less swivel-eyed than many expected.

Was the document leaked to cover-up something more damaging? Again, that doesn’t ring true. There was nothing going do disastrously wrong yesterday that warranted slapping the proverbial ‘dead cat’ on the table. Indeed, Jeremy Corbyn’s cancelled appearance at a poster launch this morning, gives the clear impression the leadership knew nothing of the leak.

As ever, never overlook bog-standard, garden variety incompetence, either because it’s innate to a surprisingly large number of people working in politics, or, quite possibly, through fatigue. In his book on the 1997 election, ‘The Unfinished Revolution’ the late Philip Gould recounts leaving a set of poster designs in Euston station before catching a train. When the horror of what he’d done dawned on him, a party staffer was hurriedly despatched to retrieve them. Luckily, they were still where he’d left them.  Sometimes in politics you’re lucky and your mistakes aren’t realised. And sometimes you’re not.

2. Whisper it, it’s not that mad

The 2017 Labour campaign will go down as Ed Miliband’s pledges wrapped up in Tony Blair’s ‘For the many, not the few’ slogan.

The leaked manifesto has the usual riffs. Abolishing tuition fees (why not reduce the unit cost of a degree by making them two-year courses rather than three?)  Making zero-hours contracts illegal (good). Building 100,000 new council houses a year (good, but it’s not just about councils). Borrowing £250bn to invest in infrastructure (again, good, interest rates are low and this is less radical than it sounds). With a reversal of recent corporation and inheritance-tax cuts to pay for it all (fair enough, but it won’t cover all those commitments).  There’s also Labour’s regular hobby horse: renationalising the railways, which, as I’ve argued before, is completely unnecessary and about as fruitful as nationalising, well, a hobby horse.

The reason the policy platform is not as maverick as many expected is because the Corbynista influence on policy has not really been felt so far, with more radical positions not having yet made it through internal policy-making processes. I wonder what Labour’s manifesto would look like if this was May 2020?

3. They cost money, you know

The fact the manifesto presses the buttons of many Labour activists will help galvanise the party’s grassroots. The quid pro quo is that frontbenchers need to brush-up on how their pledges will be afforded, implemented and what effects they will have.

It’s becoming an excruciating daily ritual listening to shadow ministers corpse it trying to answer staggeringly obvious questions about how their commitments will be financed. All of which, adds to the impression that Labour are the well-meaning nice guys who aren’t, to coin a phrase, ‘strong and stable.’

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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18 Responses to “Three quick thoughts on the Labour manifesto leak”

  1. Tafia says:

    Making zero-hours contracts illegal (good).

    I have a normal job and then I work for three other companies on an as-and-when basis on ZHCs taking extra work if I feel like it with no obligations either way.

    What the problem is is not ZHCs – it’s the employers that use them making the employee sign exclusivity clauses so that they are at the beck and call of just that company, and calling them in for a shift then knocking them off again after an hour or two. A better idea would be to allow ZHCs to continue, but ban exclusivity deals and make it at the employees discretion as to whether they wish to work an offered shift or not, and if the employee is offered X hours, then they get paid for X hours even if there is nothing for them to do and they are released early and if the shift goes over the stated times, they automatically get double time.

    That will still allow companies to use them (the three others I work for wouldn’t be able to function without them) but would allow workers on them to register with multiple companies thus expanding their opportunity, give them no obligation to any particular company at all and prevent individual companies from exploiting them by forcing those companies to compete with each other for the individual workers.

  2. madasafish says:

    “answer staggeringly obvious questions about how their commitments will be financed”

    I am looking forward to someone explaining to me how capping dual fuel bills at £1,000 will work. I will set my thermostat to 25C and happily luxuriate all winter if it happens safe in the knowledge taxpayers will fund it.. And why spend money on insulating your house?
    30 million households times £100 is £3 billion. That’s a 0.5% increase in income tax. I suggest it might be a LOT more in a cold winter..

  3. Guy says:

    The manifesto is much more radical than Milibands – nationalizing energy companies and the grid, nationalizing the Royal Mail, setting pay ratios for companies that do business with the Government, removing flexibility (ZHC), abolishing tuition fees (costing GBP10 billion to help middle and upper class parents), employing many more public sector workers, eliminating the pay cap etc.
    This cannot be financed by hiking corporation tax (leaving business less money to either pay dividends for pensions, or making investments) or hiking tax on 5% of earners.
    Spending GBP250 billion, even at low interest rates, will involve large interest payments per year of at least GBP2.5 billion a year plus it needs paying back at some point. I don`t rust Corbyn or the Government to wisely spend that money – it will largely go to pay inflated union salaries on projects. Including the extension of the un-needed HS2.

  4. John P Reid says:

    What tafia said ,and surely labour knew this when it all came in,same as un paid ivertime,and get out clauses for the minimum wage,

  5. Dadad says:

    It is illegal under EU law to nationalise anything.

  6. david walsh says:

    What with the Tory faffing on energy prices, and now the Party manifesto details, the grey ghost of that Doncaster MP seems to hovering everywhere. If I was to make a comment on the document, i would say 95% support, which for anyone trying to sell a message spells Nirvana. There are weaknesses – the section on adult social care (and I speak as a local authority Social Care cabinet member) is warm wards and flim flam. But so too will be the Tory and Lib Dem manifesto when they emerge. Before I shuffle off to have long chats with Keir Hardie, Arthur Henderson, Cripps and John Smith, i would hope a party finally recognises the scale of the challenge and why we need a domestic Marshall Plan for the elderly.

    There are other minor irritations. Banning fracking, whilst popular in North London, is a nonsense if we want to keep domestic energy reserves on tap, as well as to safeguard feedstocks for a UK Chemical Industry already reeling from the implications of Brexit.

    But, on the other hand, taking on the energy companies is needed and popular – otherwise TM and her advisors would not have done what they did. And ditto for the railways – this isn’t nostalgia creek as with the arguments for nationalizing steel and shipbuilding in the 60’s and 70’s. It is instead based on the daily experiences of millions of people.

  7. Madasafish says:

    “Dadad says:
    May 12, 2017 at 11:50 am
    It is illegal under EU law to nationalise anything”

    Coughs gently..


  8. paul barker says:

    Its the usual Labour mix of banning things or making them compulsory & running up debts.
    Labour “Moderates” will be our campaigning for another manifesto they dont beleive in & campaigning for a PM they dont want. After the Election of course they are going to “Revolt” against Corbyn – they are , honest. This time they really, really mean it!

  9. Vern says:

    I don’t suppose any of it is relevant anymore. Leaks are part and parcel of the game. Leaks help soften the initial blow, allows the electorate to get their head around l it before the politicians refine their offering pending the publics mood and appetite.

    It looks like a foregone conclusion and I think Labour should be looking to Burnham. If he can get 4 great years as Manchester Mayor under his belt he will have the necessary statesmanship that is currently missing.

  10. george says:

    Why vote for a Tory-lite Labour candidate when you can vote for the real deal: a proper Tory?

  11. Tony says:

    It is deeply unfortunate that cancellation of Trident replacement does not feature.

    It is regrettable that Corbyn has been unable to do this. This is in stark contrast to Kinnock who only ever pretended to oppose nuclear weapons and cynically used the 1987 defeat as an excuse to ditch this particular policy.

  12. madasafish says:

    Frankly Trident makes no sense. By cancelling it we will make lots of Scots unemployed and give a leg up to the SNP. A win win situation.


  13. Tafia says:

    “The Tories are backed by 44 per cent of voters in the “DE” social grade, defined as people with semi-skilled and unskilled manual jobs and the unemployed.

    That compares to just 35 per cent support for Labour from the same demographic

    Labour’s core more likely to vote Tory. And the area of the country with strongest Tory support is Wales. Whoops Apocalypse

  14. John P Reid says:

    Why vote Tory lite,? Because that’s the policies people want, instead if real Tories

    why vote for cirbynista Socialist instead of the greens, answer hardly anytime wanted hard left policies so didn’t vote for them

  15. buttley says:

    that ORB poll for the Telegragh, only had a sample size of 85 people from Wales.

    not saying their conclusions will be wrong, but its an insufficient sample size to draw anything meaningful from.

  16. Tafia says:

    buttley, you rarely see sample sizes from Wales larger than 100 people unless its a specfic Wales only poll. But even those are showing the tories on course to take more seats there than Labour and have been for several weeks.

    I was out campaigning in the locals for Plaid last month and the amount of people who were going to vote how they normally vote at that election but switch to Tory for the General Election was staggering. All they were interested in General Election wise was two things – Brexit and defence/security.

    I live in a Labour seat that should go to my Plaid this time round. But after this weekends door-knocking and leafletting, last night I put £50 on the Tories to take this seat.

  17. buttley says:

    madasafish says:

    “I am looking forward to someone explaining to me how capping dual fuel bills at £1,000 will work.”

    Your answer,

    (£999 divided by average usage = unit price £0.XX ) multiply this by your actual usage.

    from the manifesto:

    One in ten households are in fuel poverty, yet the Competition Markets Authority found customers are overcharged an enormous £2 billion every year.

    Labour understands that many people don’t have time to shop around, they just want reliable and affordable energy. So the next Labour Government will:

    Introduce an immediate emergency price cap to ensure that the average dual-fuel household energy bill remains below £1,000 per year, while we transition to a fairer system for bill payers.

    Take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control.

    We will do this in the following stages:

    Regaining control of energy supply networks through the alteration of the National and Regional Network Operator license conditions.

    Supporting the creation of publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers, with at least one in every region.

    Legislating to permit publicly owned local companies to purchase the regional grid infrastructure, and to ensure that national and regional grid infrastructure is brought into public ownership over time.

  18. Tafia says:

    buttley, I don’t know a single person on our estate or at work that pays a grand a year anyway. Most are paying around 600 a year and some even less.

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