Socialist Worker

Labour manifesto that breaks from its past helps lift Jeremy Corbyn's support

Manifesto launch shows an alternative but compromises to right will only weaken it, says Nick Clark

Issue No. 2554

Jeremy Corbyn’s message is exciting people and gaining support for Labour

Jeremy Corbyn’s message is exciting people and gaining support for Labour (Pic: Neil Terry)


The Labour Party’s election manifesto has lifted activists and underlined that it’s worth fighting to get the Tories out and Jeremy Corbyn in.

It offers a break from Tory austerity—and the austerity-lite approach of recent Labour leaders.

The manifesto matches the tone of Corbyn’s campaign speeches—with talk of “re-writing the rules of a rigged system”.

It opens with a promise to deliver a “fairer, more prosperous society for the many, not just the few.”

Labour has pledged to plough billions of pounds into education and the NHS and to scrap tuition fees.

It promises to raise the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour by 2020, repeal the Trade Union Act and end attacks on benefit claimants.

And there are plans to ban fracking, and to renationalise Royal Mail, the water system and, over a period of years, the rail industry.

There would be a state-controlled energy supplier in each region to compete with the privatised firms.

The programme would be funded by higher taxation on big business and people on more than £80,000 a year. Labour says it would raise £19.4 billion a year from corporation tax and £6.5 billion through cracking down on tax avoidance.

In addition it would raise £1.3 billion through an “excessive pay tax”.

Launching the manifesto in Bradford, Corbyn said it was “a manifesto to transform the 21st century.

“This manifesto is a draft for a better future. It’s a blueprint of what Britain could be.”

One Labour supporter speaking at the event said they had been “waiting for 30 years for something like this that I can fight for”.

Corbyn’s manifesto is the most radical that the Labour Party has had in years. That’s why the right hated it—and set out to sabotage it from the start.

Corbyn still has the support of hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members. But the right dominate Labour’s top hierarchy—and used their power to force through important changes.

Two Labour MPs, Frank Field and Ben Bradshaw have said they will campaign under their own manifestos.

And within hours of the manifesto being leaked—before the official document had even been published—the leader of the Welsh Labour party disowned it.

The right pressured Corbyn to compromise over nuclear weapons last year.

So the manifesto has no call to get rid of Trident or to leave the Nato alliance—despite Corbyn’s longstanding opposition to them. There are other examples:

Freedom of movement

The right, reportedly led by shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer, forced Labour to promise to end freedom of movement. In other words, they want Labour to promise more immigration controls.

A draft of the manifesto, leaked last week, didn’t mention freedom of movement. It spoke out against and said the “Conservative government has scapegoated migrants”.

The published manifesto does not attack the Tories over migration. It now says “Labour will not scapegoat migrants nor blame them for economic failures.”

But it also promises “fair rules and reasonable management of migration,” and adds that “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.”

War and imperialism

The draft manifesto said Labour would "end support for aggressive wars of intervention". This has been changed to "unilateral aggressive wars of intervention," which means Labour could still support wars if backed by the UN.

References to the damage caused by Labour’s previous wars have been removed or toned down. And the manifesto now pledges that Labour will take, “all lawful action necessary to counter and confront” Isis and extremism.

On top of this, the draft promised a “major review of the Prevent programme.”

It rightly said that “Some feel they have been unfairly targeted and singled out because of some failings in Prevent,” which is the least you can say about a programme used by cops to target and spy on Muslims.

Now the manifesto said it would asses Prevent’s “potential to alienate minority communities”. But it also wants to “address the government’s failure to take any effective new measures against a growing problem of extreme or violent radicalisation.”

Scotland

The draft manifesto had already committed Labour to opposing a second Scottish Independence referendum. But that wasn’t far enough for some in Labour’s meeting to approve the draft, which Scottish Labour's Kezia Dugdale attended.

Now the manifesto says independence is “unwanted and unnecessary, and we will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK."

Abortion rights

The draft said Labour would legislate to extend the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland. Now it says it will 'work with the assembly' to try and change the law,

However, there were also some positive changes. There are now promises to tackle domestic abuse and violence against women.

The manifesto also says Labour will tackle “institutional biases” in the police that mean black and Asian men are more likely to be stopped and searched.

And there’s a clearer commitment not to “waste money on inefficient free schools and the Conservatives’ grammar schools vanity project”.

Labour will “oppose any attempt to force schools to become academies.”

But most changes also show the scale of opposition Corbyn still faces from the right in his own party.

Labour has to go all out on its radical promises to beat the Tories on 8 June. Labour’s right want to hold it back.

Corbyn’s left wing manifesto points to an alternative for Labour that could help it beat the Tories. Concessions to the right can only make it weaker.


A huge crowd greets the Labour battlebus arriving in Leeds on Monday

A huge crowd greets the Labour battlebus arriving in Leeds on Monday (Pic: Neil Terry)


Rallies hear call against society for the Rich List

Jeremy Corbyn has kept up his tour of rallies for supporters, holding several of them mainly in Yorkshire last week.

The Labour leader visited Leeds and Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire on Monday.

In Hebden Bridge he spoke to an outdoor overflow meeting of those who could not get in to a packed town hall. Some could not even get near that.

It followed visits to Sheffield, Morley and York last week.

Anti-fracking activist Kim Hunter was at the York rally last Wednesday.

“The thousand-plus crowd was young and enthusiastic, chanting ‘Corbyn, Corbyn, Corbyn,’ and ‘Tories Out, Corbyn in!’ at every pause in his speech,” she told Socialist Worker.

“Corbyn got the best response when he talked about a fair solution to the housing crisis and creating a society that is not in thrall to the people on the Sunday Times Rich List.”

She added, “Many people contrasted Corbyn’s open air rally with the way May sneaked into town to talk to the Tory faithful the previous day.

“They won’t let her get away with that when she comes back on 2 June for Question Time.”


Right wing MPs hatch plots

Right wing Labour MPs are already plotting their moves against Corbyn and the rest of Labour’s left after the general election.

The right wing Telegraph and Sunday Times newspapers have both reported that as many as 100 saboteur Labour MPs could break away from Labour.

Meanwhile other MPs are preparing to force Corbyn out if he doesn’t resign, or replace him with a right winger if he does.

Right wing Labour MP Jess Phillips is gearing up for fresh infighting inside Labour.

She said, “We’ve got a fight on our hands. He isn’t going to go is he?”

The right’s defeatism, sabotage and plotting are a disgrace.


Laura Jane said, Education should be a lifelong opportunity.

Laura Jane said, "Education should be a lifelong opportunity."


‘If Labour renationalises the attacks have to stop’

Labour supporters and activists have reacted to the manifesto.

Jayne Linney, a disabled person on Pip disability benefit told Socialist Worker, “I was really impressed with Labour’s pledges, especially on disability. The Tories don’t really have a leg to stand on in comparison.”

Laura Jane, a secondary school teacher in Leeds was glad of Labour’s plans for a National Education Service. She said, “The Labour Party are the only ones that are going to put money into education.

“They believe in education from primary school right through life. That’s right—education should be a lifelong opportunity.”

And Fleur Patten, a sixth form college teacher and Labour Party member in Cambridge said, “It’s good Labour will scrap tuition fees too. I helped two students from deprived homes apply for university last week.

“But both of them have told me they want to withdraw and look for work instead because they are worried about the debt.”

Oxford postal worker Paul Garraway welcomed the promise to renationalise Royal Mail.

“In Royal Mail they’re attacking our pensions, our pay and our conditions,” he said. “All this has happened since privatisation. If Labour renationalise, that has to stop.”

 


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