Andrew Sparrow’s election briefing: big reveal for Labour’s radical manifesto

The Guardian, by Andrew Sparrow
21st November 2019

Jeremy Corbyn launches radical Labour manifesto. The Labour leader has launched the most radical and potentially transformative manifesto published by a mainstream party in decades in what is potentially a make-or-break moment for his party in the election campaign. The plans in the 105-page document (pdf) would fundamentally reset the relationship between the state, citizens and business, adding about £80bn to the amount government spends every year by the end of the next parliament, taking tax levels to their highest sustained numbers since the end of the second world war, unleashing a blizzard of investment and providing citizens with a plethora of attractive services, like free full-fibre broadband, free university tuition, free adult learning, free personal care, free prescriptions and free dental check-ups. In 2017 the Labour manifesto was seen as the star performer of the party’s campaign. At present, according to the polls, Labour continues to languish far behind the Conservatives, but the party will be hoping that this document will make a big enough splash to change minds. ‘A summary of the contents of the manifesto is here: ‘Labour manifesto: what it says and what it means’Advertisement

The Institute for Fiscal Studies, the respected non-partisan thinktank, has said it does not believe Labour’s claim that it can achieve its plans with 95% of taxpayers not having to pay any extra tax. Labour claims it would only need to make businesses and the richest 5% pay more. The IFS has also said the Labour promise not to raise the state pension age beyond 66 could add around £24bn a year to the cost of state pensions by the middle of the century.

Labour has said public sector workers would get a pay rise worth more than £1,600 on average from April. It is proposing to give them a 5% pay rise. According to Labour, this would mean newly qualified nurses getting a rise of more than £1,200 on average; firefighters more than £1,800; teachers in state-funded schools almost £2,000; junior doctors almost £1,400; police constables almost £2,000; army sergeants more than £1,700; civil servants more than £1,300; and council workers more than £1,200.

Snap analysis

One of the peculiarities of a British general election is that a party can win the campaign (in the sense of delivering a more coherent and professional message) but still lose quite badly on polling day. Many analysts would say that is what happened to Labour in 1987 and in 2017. Arguably it also happened to Labour in 1992 and to the Conservatives in 2005. And it is possible that the same thing might happen again.

Up to now Labour has had a good campaign. As Alex Wickham reports in a recent BuzzFeed feature on jitters in the Conservative camp, Labour “won the media narrative almost every day” in the first two weeks of the campaign. It has been announcing detailed policy, and holding press conferences. The Conservative campaign is wholly dependent on Boris Johnson, who is running mostly on negative claims about Labour and on a pledge to get Brexit done and whose credibility is open to question. But the Tories are still leading comfortably in the polls.

Corbyn in full campaign mode is a much more impressive figure than ​he was when elected party leader four years ago and at the manifesto launch on Thursday morning he put on a confident performance. In the election two years ago the publication of the manifestos marked the moment when support for the Tories started to sink, and Labour’s ratings started to go up. We don’t know yet whether the same thing will happen this time around (the Tory manifesto is due out in the next few days), but Corbyn certainly had a distinctive pitch.

Boris Johnson attacks Labour manifesto

The prime minister attacked the Labour manifesto by claiming Corbyn does not have any “economic credibility” because of the uncertainty about his Brexit policy. In a marked contrast with the party’s response to previous Labour manifestos, the Tories have said little about the potential downsides of increasing government spending. This reflects Johnson’s eagerness not to be seen as a defender of austerity.

Meanwhile

  • Boris Johnson and his staff were given compulsory training on the importance of acknowledging personal friendships months before he met the US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri, and just after he was rebuked for failing to declare an interest with another woman, the Guardian can reveal.
  • The government is not responsible for poverty in the UK, Priti Patel, the home secretary, has said.
  • A website purporting to showcase Labour’s manifesto but which instead attacks the party’s policies has been set up by the Conservatives just days after the party faced criticism for misleading the public with a similar stunt.
  • The UK’s GDP growth rate will slip to 1% next year even if a no-deal Brexit is avoided, according to the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation.
  • A new rule banning microtargeting in political adverts will have minimal impact in the UK, the Guardian has learned, because the majority of political advertisers do not use the tools anyway.