i3t – Manifesto Under the Microscope – The Labour Party

I believe that elections should be fought on the issues and not on personal attacks. As such I believe that elections should be won or lost based on the parties Manifestos. A Manifesto is a document where political parties set out their intentions for what they plan to do should they win the next election. Today we’re going to have a look at Labour’s Manifesto.

Key policies

  • Scrap student tuition fees
  • Nationalisation of England’s nine water companies.
  • Re-introduce the 50p rate of tax on the highest earners (above £123,000)
  • Income tax rate 45p on £80,000 and above
  • More free childcare, expanding free provisions for two, three and four year olds
  • Guarantee triple lock for pensioner incomes
  • End to zero hours contracts
  • Hire 10,000 new police officers, 3,000 new firefighters
  • Moves to charge companies a levy on salaries above £330,000
  • Deliver rail electrification “including in Wales and the South West”.

What’s not to love here? Unless you’re earning a lot of money that is. The current rate of tax for those earning over £80,000 is 40p on the pound and for those earning over £123,000 is 45p in the pound. This will be returning to the pre 2010 rates of tax.

Re-nationalisation has become a dirty word thanks to the media but surely this is a good thing to do with the water companies? And all the utilities for that matter? Why run them for shareholder profit of a few rich people when they can be ran by the people for the people? The end to zero hours contracts is also long overdue. It’s been abused since it was brought in under the last Labour Government and is a crime it still exists. The increase in police officers and firefighters is also a good thing. And that guarantee of the triple lock for pensioners means that there won’t be a decrease in the state pension.

As for tutition fees? It’s a great idea. I had to pay when I went to university but making them free opens them up to far more people.

Renationalisation

  • Bring the railways back into public ownership as franchises expire
  • Regain control of energy supply networks through the alteration of operator license conditions, and transition to a publicly owned, decentralised energy system
  • Replace water system with a network of regional publicly-owned water companies
  • Reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail “at the earliest opportunity”
  • Create at least one publicly-owned energy company in every region of the UK, with public control of the transmission and distribution grids.

One criticism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to renationalise the railways is that it’d cost a lot of money. That’s the thing… His plan won’t cost the public a penny. At the moment private companies bid to run certain lines as franchises for a fixed number of years. He will simply not renew the franchises at the end of their contract and take them back effectively for free. It’s an idea as simple as it is brilliant.

Bringing Royal Mail back in to public ownership, however, might prove to be very costly indeed but it is to me the right decision to make. Royal Mail provides a daily mail service to those in even the most remote of communities. Now it’s a privatised firm profits are what’s driving matters and lots of local post offices are closing leaving some communities without this essential service.

The same applies to energy and water companies. Having them ran by the state would see any profits going to the state and not shareholders. This again can only be a good thing for the country.

The Economy

  • Extra tax take in total £48.6bn
  • £6.4bn from income tax from the top 5%
  • Extra £19.4bn from corporation tax
  • £6.5bn from tax avoidance programme
  • Income tax rate 45p on earnings of £80,000 and above – and 50p to be reintroduced on earnings above £123,000
  • Boost wages of 5.7m people earning less than minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020
  • Create a National Transformation Fund that will invest £250bn over 10 years in upgrading the economy
  • Deliver universal superfast broadband availability by 2022
  • A National Investment Bank as part of a plan to provide £250bn of lending power over the next decade for infrastructure
  • Reinstate the lower small-business corporation tax rate
  • Scrap quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000.

The term “Robin Hood Tax” has been banded about a lot recently and in many ways you could argue that’s what Labours Manifesto is advocating. Taxing those earning more at a higher rate to make sure those at the bottom earn a decent living wage. The thing is what Labour are saying here really is just restoring tax back to it’s 2010 and earlier levels. It’s not overly excessive when you think about it. Closing down tax avoidances programmes can only be a good thing. Why should Gary Barlow get to pay less tax than me yet he earns over £30 million a year? It needs addressing as it isn’t currently illegal but it is deeply immoral.

Workers’ rights

  • An end to zero-hours contracts to guarantee workers a “number of hours each week”
  • Introduce four extra public holidays each year to mark national patron saints’ days
  • Maximum pay ratios of 20:1 to be rolled out in public sector
  • Raise minimum wage to “at least £10 per hour by 2020”
  • Ban unpaid internships
  • “Clamp down on bogus self-employment” and extend rights of employees to all workers – including shared parental pay
  • Guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces
  • End the public sector pay cap
  • Repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining, whereby industries can negotiate agreement as a whole
  • Enforce all workers’ rights to trade union representation at work
  • Abolish employment tribunal fees – so that people have access to justice
  • Use public spending power to drive up standards, including only awarding public contracts to companies which recognise trade unions
  • Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent
  • Shifting the burden of proof, so the law assumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise.

Again what’s not to like here? It’s proposing a fair system for all workers especially those at the bottom of the workforce, myself included, so it’s all good. The only issue here is the maximum pay ratios of 20:1. The idea being that the highest paid workers will be paid a maximum of 20 times the lowest paid workers across the public sector. It’s a great idea on paper but it does sound pretty hard to enforce.

Ending the public sector pay cap can not come soon enough. Teachers, nurses, doctors, and more have seen their pay rises capped at essentially zero since 2010. The problem with that is thanks to inflation everything now costs more, from rent to cans of coke, so it’s effectively been yearly pay cuts for public sector workers. Funny how MPs pay wasn’t capped wasn’t it?

Education

  • Reintroduce maintenance grants for university students and abolish university tuition fees
  • A National Education Service for England to incorporate all forms of education
  • Overhaul existing childcare system and extend 30 hours of free childcare to all two year olds
  • Promise to reduce class sizes to “less than 30” for five, six, and seven-year-olds
  • Devolve responsibility for skills to city regions or devolved administrations
  • Free school meals for all primary school children, paid for by removing the VAT exemption on private school fees.

The idea of a National Education Service is, on paper at least, genius. The problem with our current system where education is controlled directly by a member of the government, namely the education secretary, is that when governments change (or even the education secretary changes) they change the entire system for what seems like no better reason than they can. Setting up a NES (perhaps a Super NES to take it to the next level?) would take Education away from Governments. A decent education is a right by all and should not be subject to the whims of whichever party is in government. This would ensure that isn’t the case

That reduced class sizes promise though? That’s been on most Manifestos for the past two decades so we’ll see if anything ever changes there.

The free school meals for all primary school kids sounds great and would be paid for by making those who can afford to send their kids to private school having to pay VAT on top of that. It’ll be controversial, for sure, but to me it works. Unlike Theresa May and the Tories who we shall see in a few days believes that giving 6 year olds a free hot dinner is causing most of the countries financial problems. I digress…

Health and social care

  • Deliver safe staffing levels and reduce waiting lists
  • End hospital car parking charges
  • One million people will be taken off NHS waiting lists by “guaranteeing access to treatment within 18 weeks”
  • Scrap NHS pay cap
  • NHS will receive more than £30bn in extra funding over the next parliament
  • Mental health budgets will be ring-fenced, and Labour will ensure all children in secondary schools have access to a counselling service.

Surely the end to hospital car parking charges alone make this great? As someone who has spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals car parking charges are criminal. £5 an hour is an absurd amount to pay. The issue is a lot of hospital car parks are ran by private firms so that money doesn’t even go to the NHS.

The £30billion in extra funding is also the amount that the NHS says it’ll need, extra, over the next five years to keep services at their current level.

Social security and pensions

  • Cuts to bereavement support payment will be scrapped, as will the bedroom tax and the “punitive sanctions regime”
  • Reinstate housing benefit for under-21s
  • Guarantee state pension triple lock, as well as the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes
  • “Rejects” proposal to increase state pension age further
  • A commitment to “protect the pensions of UK citizens living overseas in the EU or further afield”.

Yet more sensible policies here. The scrapping of the bedroom tax is definitely a good thing as that was a policy that was truly evil. They’re looking out for pensioners too which hopefully will prove popular for them with the grey vote especially keeping the winter fuel allowances and the free bus pass scheme.

Energy

  • Ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030
  • A ban on fracking
  • Nuclear power “will continue to be part of the UK energy supply”
  • Introduce an immediate emergency energy price cap to ensure the average dual fuel household energy bill remains below £1,000 per year
  • Maintaining access to the EU’s internal energy market and retaining access to nuclear research programme Euratom will be a priority in Brexit negotiations.

Pretty much everything you’d expect to see here. Now when it comes to fracking I’ve actually mixed feelings. I believe that small scale fracking doesn’t pose much of an issue. Why do I say this? I spent the first 20 years of my life living half a mile from a very small scale fracking plant with zero issues. It’s a good way to use up the gas left in coal mines. The kind of industrial scale fracking we’ve seen near Blackpool however, that left many broken windows and caused a 3.o earthquake, should obviously be banned.

Housing

  • Build over one million more homes, with at least half for social rent
  • Homeowners will be offered interest free loans to improve their properties
  • Guarantee help to buy funding until 2027 and give locals buying their first home “first dibs on new homes built in their area”
  • Legislate to ban letting agency fees for tenants, and look at giving the Mayor of London power to give London renters “additional security”
  • Make 4,000 additional homes available for rough sleepers to end homelessness.

Finally! A party who want to build homes on the scale that’s needed. There is a chronic shortage of council houses, aka homes for social rent, as they’re at their lowest ever levels despite demand being higher than ever.

Transport

  • Extend high speed rail link HS2 to Scotland
  • Build a new Brighton main line for the SouthEast
  • Build Crossrail 2 – to run north-south through London between Hertfordshire and Surrey – “to ensure our capital continues to prosper”
  • Recognise the need for additional airport capacity in the South East (but there’s no mention of Heathrow).

So we’ve support from Labour for the controversial HS2. And lots of support for investment in rail infrastructure in the south. However us in the North are rather left out aren’t we? We’ve still got 40 year old trains and still are feeling forgotten.

Families and communities

  • 30 hours free childcare to be extended to two-year-olds and “some” to one-year-olds
  • An end to the so-called “rape clause” – part of the policy of restricting child tax credits to the first two children in a family. It means mothers who have a third child as a result of rape can be exempted, but would have to provide evidence in order to do so
  • A review into reforming council tax and business rates, in favour of options such as a land value tax
  • A national review of local pubs to examine the causes for their large-scale demise, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider future sustainability.

Again yet more sensible ideas that will help protect families. And the pub review is long overdue. There are so many pubs around here that are now supermarkets. The humble pub is dying out.

Foreign policy/Defence

  • Support the renewal of the Trident submarine system
  • Work with international partners and the UN on multilateral disarmament “to create a nuclear-free world”
  • Commit to the Nato benchmark of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence
  • Will have a complete strategic defence and security review
  • Insulate the homes of disabled veterans for free.

Perhaps the only surprise here is that they plan to support the renewal of Trident, our nuclear deterrent missile system, as Jeremy Corbyn is personally against it.

Migration

  • Labour will not “scapegoat migrants” and will not set a cap on immigration, describing targets as “bogus”
  • International students will not be included in immigration numbers, but the party will crack down on “fake colleges”.
  • Labour believes in the “reasonable management of migration” but “will not make false promises on immigration numbers”.

Sensible. That seams to be my buzz word for this manifesto. Sensible. Why give numbers that might be meaningless when they’re not met as targets?

Brexit

  • Accept the EU referendum result and “build a close new relationship with the EU” prioritising jobs and and workers’ rights
  • Guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and work to “secure reciprocal rights” for UK citizens elsewhere in the EU
  • A “meaningful” role for Parliament throughout Brexit negotiations
  • Scrap Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace with “fresh negotiating priorities” with strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the single market and customs union
  • Reject no deal as a viable option and if needs be negotiate transitional arrangements “to avoid a cliff-edge for the UK economy”
  • Keep EU-derived laws on workers’ rights, equality, consumer rights and environmental protections
  • Maintain UK’s leading research role by seeking to stay part of Horizon 2020 and its successor programmes
  • Seek to maintain membership of European organisations which offer benefits to the UK such as Euratom and the European Medicines Agency
  • Will not allow Brexit to be used as an excuse to undercut UK farmers and flood Britain’s food chain with cheap and inferior produce

For those who argue that Labour would make a hash of Brexit I just say, simply, read the manifesto. It’s a sensible, there’s that word again, plan going forward that looks to seek the best of both worlds. Brexit will happen here but we’ll fight to keep some of the benefits of being members of the EU.

 

All told then this, to me, is a sensible manifesto that anyone earning less than £80,000 a year would be insane to vote against.