Britain only succeeds when working people succeed.
Well, we already know history isn’t Ed’s strongpoint. Nineteenth century frame-work weavers come to mind. But this is just to get us in the mood. It’s the aspiration that matters.
Next page: they are going to cut the deficit every year and get their budgets verified by the Office of Budget Responsibility.
Hang on, they are going to legislate to require all major parties to get their manifesto commitments independently audited by the OBR. Not sure how I feel about that. Is it necessary? We can already rely on the Institute for Fiscal Studies to go over manifestos with a fine tooth comb. One thing that puts me off voting Labour is their addiction to unnecessary legislation.
Foreward by Ed. OK, actually. He doesn’t use the words ‘hard working families’ once. I’m grateful because the phrase makes me cringe.
We will Build a Better Future for Britain.
I like the introduction as a statement of values and aspirations and mildly Keynesian economics, but I’m skimming for meat.
Big emphasis throughout on fiscal responsibility. OK I get it.
50 p tax rate over £150,000. Good.
Increase in national minimum wage to over £8. Good.
Measures to help parents with childcare, paternity leave etc. Good.
The freeze on energy prices. Not sure this is a good idea or necessary, even though, unlike the above, I’ll potentially benefit from this one. I suspect I’m already paying more because of the threat of a freeze.
200,000 homes a year to be built by 2020. So not actually solving the housing crisis. That would require an extra half a million homes annually. I’m disappointed. If government can get 200,000 built what is the obstacle to going the extra mile and actually solving the problem?
A ‘fairer deal’ for renters. I’d have preferred ‘rent controls’.
They will abolish the Bedroom Tax. YAY! But no mention of reversing the other ‘reforms’ of the benefit system which are causing hardship, such as benefit sanctions. BOO!
The mansion tax, tobacco levy and moves against tax avoidance to pay for more NHS staff. OK.
Restriction on EU benefit claimants and measures to strengthen integration. Not very happy about this. Could leave migrants trapped in jobs they dislike, vulnerable to exploitation. Could also impact on British citizens with EU spouse or step-children.
The next section is on the economy: ‘We will build an economy that works for working people’.
An end to winter fuel payments to richest 5% of pensioners. This seems mild. As a pensioner who’ll be claiming it for the first time this year, if it had been abolished altogether, I would have just shrugged my shoulders. There is no mention of keeping, or not keeping the triple lock, or other pensioner benefits. I think that is significant.
‘Outside of the protected areas of health, education and international development, there will be cuts in spending.’ So local government gets it in the neck again. That concerns me personally mostly in relation to my 89 year old mother. We may need quite a lot of help with her care in the next few years. In the last two decades since my parent’s started becoming frail, overall we’ve found social services more reliable than the NHS. Is that going to be reversed? Devon County Council is saying that it cannot continue to maintain all the roads. I’m wondering whether buying a Fiat 500 was a mistake and we’ll have to change it for an SUV to negotiate the dirt tracks which will be all that’s left of the road network.
“We will use digital technology to create a more responsive, devolved, and less costly system of government.” OMG, more mega-expensive computer schemes doomed to fail.
10p rate paid for by abolishing the Married Tax Allowance. I like the Married Tax Allowance and I’ll personally benefit from it, although only for a couple of years while I am deferring claiming my state pension. Whether or not I would benefit from the 10 p rate depends on what Labour do with the personal allowance. If they freeze it or lower it, I’ll be worse off. I much prefer the Liberal Democrat policy of increasing the personal allowance.
Cracking down on tax avoidance and ending non-dom status. Excellent. Why didn’t they do the latter during their previous 13 years in power?
They will end charitable status for private schools. No, sorry, I made that bit up.
They will carry out a review into the culture and practices of the HMRC. While they are at it, could they find out why the HMRC hasn’t got my tax code right, on the first attempt, once in the last 20 years? I’m fed up with the amount of time I have to spend in correspondence with them. They may privilege high-earners, but they also treat low earners abominably.
INDUSTRY and PRODUCTIVITY:
A National Infrastructure Commission sounds good. I’m glad they’ll continue with HS2 and improve rail in the North, but as a new resident of the West Country, I’ve become aware of how inadequate the rail system is here, and would have liked something specific about improving it, looking into moving the mainline away from the vulnerable Dawlish route and re-opening branch lines. But, with only 2 Labour MPs in four counties, I might wait a long time before the Labour Party takes a serious interest in the infrastructure of the West Country.
I also like the aim of removing carbon from our electricity supply by 2030, but they will only regulate the onshore oil and gas. I’m unsure about fracked gas, but tending to feel it should be left in the ground. I’m quite certain the oil should remain in the ground. There is a fundamental contradiction between ‘ambitious domestic carbon reduction strategies’ and the aim to ‘safeguard the future of the offshore oil and gas industry’.
This section of the manifesto does not reassure me that Labour will safeguard the environment, but where it is not promising to defend and shore up our dinosaur fossil fuel industries, I like it.
I also like the next section – Better Work and Better Pay – about better protection for workers.
The next section on education and training is titled Supporting the Next Generation. It is inevitable that Labour would use this dog whistle, but I’m not convinced that reducing the university tuition fees will achieve much, since only the richest graduates will benefit. And, since it will be funded by reducing tax relief on their pension contributions, they’ll just be paying another way.
I’m taken aback by the ‘Compulsory Jobs Guarantee’, a paid starter job for every unemployed youngster, which they have to take or lose benefits. I don’t like benefit sanctions or forced labour. It sounds like something dreamed up by IDS.
The next section is called Mending the Markets that People Rely on, by which they mean the utilities and public transport, i.e. the stuff that used to be nationalised, should never have been privatised, and is mostly now owned by China, for which achievement we gave Margaret Thatcher a state funeral. No, they aren’t going to re-nationalise any of it or take it out of foreign control. Dream on Mira.
But they are going to better regulate the energy market. I’m more than a bit puzzled by the proposal to simplify energy tariffs and make it easier for people to compare tariffs and get the best deal. Who doesn’t use USwitch.com or ComparetheMarket.com? What is complicated about spending a couple of minutes on a website clicking boxes? It’s already easier than comparing the price of apples at the supermarket. I’m for better regulation, but do wonder whether public money is going to be spent on unnecessary measures.
They also have plans for making homes more energy efficient. I hope they are more successful than the Coalition’s ill-conceived Green Deal.
They will act to bring down water bills. But, there is no mention of improving water efficiency and reducing water use. Another sign that Labour is not that interested in environmental issues.
On the other hand, I welcome their proposals for rail and buses, particularly more local authority control over buses, although this is just a repeat of what they said in their 2010 manifesto.
Whether local government will have the resources to use the powers they are going to be given over local transport, given that they are going to be bearing the brunt of the cuts, is another matter.