Labour’s manifesto: a progressive perspective

Labour today published its manifesto, 'A future fair for all'. The document contains a number of progressive policies including on a living wage and greener future.

Labour today published its manifesto, ‘A future fair for all‘. Left Foot Forward here offers a progressive perspective on their pledges. We’ll do the same for the Conservative party and Liberal Democrats when they publish their manifestos. Ed Jacobs is also covering the nationalist parties.

In March, Left Foot Forward published the results of our readers’ survey on progressive manifesto ideas. Against these priorities, Labour:

• Pledges that all Whitehall departments will “follow the lead of those who already pay the Living Wage”. Meanwhile, the Low Pay Commission’s remit will be tasked with ensuring that the National Minimum Wage rises “at least in line with average earnings over the period to 2015.” The move has been welcomed by the Trades Union Congress and by Compass.

• Does not use the phrase Green New Deal but have prioritised green, low carbon industries with a vow to “create 400,000 new green jobs by 2015.” Greenpeace Executive Director John Sauven said, “This manifesto shows real recognition of the role that low carbon industry can play in Britain’s economic recovery.” Friends of the Earth were more harsh with Executive Director Andy Atkins saying, “This manifesto falls far short of the urgent action required to tackle climate change and help Britain reap the enormous benefits of developing a low-carbon economy.”

• Says it will “continue to work with our international partners to … introduce a global levy on financial services so that banks across the world contribute fairly to the society in which they are based.” The Robin Hood Tax campaign said, “We welcome the inclusion of a bank tax in the Labour Party manifesto but the proposal is lacking in both ambition and detail needed for a Robin Hood Tax that is truly fair for all.”

• Has a meagre mention of tax avoidance saying only, “In all sectors the law must be upheld, properly enforcing safety and employment rights, and tackling tax avoidance.”

• Pledges to turn British Waterways into a mutually owned co-operative. There are a number of mentions of high-speed rail but nothing on ownership of the rail network. They say, “As one option for the disposal of Northern Rock, we will encourage a mutual solution” prompting Michael Stephenson, General Secretary of the Co-operative party to say, “This manifesto is full of exciting new ideas the Co-operative party has been campaigning”.

As we said at the time “our list was never intended to be an exhaustive grouping of manifesto ideas” so it’s also important to look at some other areas. On the recovery, the manifesto pledges “200,000 jobs through the Future Jobs Fund, with a job or training place for young people who are out of work for six months, but benefits cut at ten months if they refuse a place; and anyone unemployed for more than two years guaranteed work, but no option of life on benefits.” As this blog has previously shown, these policies have given hope to the long-term unemployed. On tax, the party reiterates the “tough choices” it has made including “a bonus tax, reduced tax relief on pensions for the best off, a new 50p tax rate on earnings over £150,000 and one penny on National Insurance Contributions.”

On public services, Labour devotes a chapter each to education and health. Spending is being increased for “frontline Sure Start” while on healthcare there is a continued focus on patient guarantees including cancer test results within one week of referral, and a maximum 18 weeks’ wait for treatment or the offer of going private. Progress Acting Director Jessica Asato told us:

“This truly is a manifesto that is best when its boldest. We see the coming together of public services reform that Labour started in 1997 with public service guarantees that provide the floor that a decent society deserves with all children are given the education they need, cancer patients given the referrals they need to save their lives, and the best schools are allowed to take over underperforming schools. This is not a manifesto which is shy of ideas.”

On constitutional reform, there is a hard commitment to referenda on “moving to the Alternative Vote for elections to the House of Commons and to a democratic and accountable Second Chamber”; there’ll be a free vote on reducing the voting age to 16; legislation on fixed term parliaments; and a ban on MPs working for generic lobbying companies. The Executive Director of 38 Degrees told Left Foot Forward:

“38 Degrees members will be pleased to see several things we’ve been campaigning for included, like a right to recall MPs, new rules to ban lobbyists from operating in secret, and a referendum on changes to the voting system.

But our members’ positive reaction to these things is tempered by a frustration that these are still just future promises, nearly a year on from the grand promises of change that followed the expenses scandal.  If a future Labour government really does want to “restore trust in politics”, it would need to get stuck in to delivering these reforms very early in the new parliament – 38 Degrees members will be ready to campaign for them to do just that.”

On defence, Labour is committed to a Strategic Defence Review but has pre-empted that process by declaring that “we will maintain our independent nuclear deterrent.” Greenpeace this time are less positive, “At a time when spending cuts are seemingly inevitable, the billions Labour has committed to Trident remain protected even from public discussion.”

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