Labour’s Manifesto Is A Template For The Struggling Left Worldwide

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Above Photo: This document offers an answer not only to Britain’s broken model, but also to the global crisis in social democracy

Wanted: a compelling vision for a left-of-centre party. Must invest in economy, modernise essential services, get the well-off to pay more tax. Free wifi on trains a bonus. Someone answered my personal ad! Labour’s manifesto – unveiled today – is a moderate, commonsense set of antidotes to the big problems holding back one of the wealthiest countries on earth. And – intriguingly – here is an attempt to confront the crisis of identity and vision afflicting social democracy not just in Britain, but across the western world.

The manifesto sketches out an answer to Britain’s broken model. The current model is bankrupt: it’s not just unjust, it’s irrational. It concentrates wealth in very few hands – the richest 1,000 British people enjoyed a 14% jump in their fortunes over the past year – while wages have suffered the longest squeeze in generations. It fails to build the housing the country needs. It robs many communities of secure, properly paid, skilled jobs. It leaves most people in poverty in work, earning their poverty. It allows multinational corporations to pay little or no tax while small businesses struggle.

It reduces the country’s national jewel – its National Health Service – to a state of “humanitarian crisis”, as the British Red Cross put it. It saddles its younger generation with debt. It transforms public utilities into cash cows for profiteers who prioritise making a short-term buck over the needs of consumers. We could go on. Again, this is one of the richest countries on earth. It’s not a lack of wealth or resources holding Britain back from curing its many ills: it’s a lack of political willpower.

There’s a commitment that 95% of Britons won’t pay any more tax: fair, after the Tories’ unprecedented squeeze on wages. Instead, the top 5% of earners will be asked to pay a bit more: also fair, given they’re doing better than ever. If companies choose to pay salaries that are 25 times higher than the living wage, they’ll be expected to pay a bit more tax; if they pay salaries 20 times higher than the average income, then a bit more than that. Corporation tax will be hiked, but it will still be lower than the United States. A Robin Hood tax on financial transactions – which, as Labour’s Rachel Reeves puts it, both raises money and curbs excessive risk-taking which imperils our economy – would raise even more money, as will an all-out war against tax avoidance.

The billions raised can be invested in education to realise the potential of the next generation – to modernise our NHS so it can meet the needs of an ageing population; to upgrade Britain’s feeble infrastructure; and to build the housing the country desperately needs. Free childcare will reduce pressure on families forced to make difficult decisions about raising families and having a career; while a triple-lock on pensions will protect poorer pensioners who built this country with their hard graft.

No, nobody can pretend Labour isn’t in a very difficult position indeed. But putting aside the debate over the party’s leadership, which can wait until after the election, it is often forgotten that almost all European social democratic parties are in crisis – and nearly none are led by the left. From Greece to France, from Spain to the Netherlands, social democratic parties – lacking as they do a clear vision in the age of globalisation and economic turmoil – have dramatically bled support, or even collapsed altogether. Some Labour rightwingers looked to Germany – one of the western countries least damaged by economic turmoil. The country’s Social Democrats enjoyed a surge in support after replacing their leader, but that has now dissipated. Now they look with beating hearts to France. Let’s park the fact its new president, Emmanuel Macron, is a liberal – not a social democrat – who has just appointed a conservative prime minister, Édouard Philippe. To emulate France, they would need to introduce a presidential system with two rounds of elections, get 24% in the first round, then go head-to-head with a fascist to win a decisive victory.

All social democracy is in crisis, but despite Labour’s multiple ailments, this manifesto represents an attempt to deal with them. Yes, despite Labour’s uptick in polling, the Tories still have a frighteningly big lead. While Labour has apparently increased support among the under-50s compared to the general election two years ago, if the Tories win their predicted landslide, it will be down to Theresa May’s overwhelming advantage among older Britons. Unless Labour both increases turnout among younger voters, and increases support among greying Britons, a big defeat beckons. But whatever happens, a clear outline for how a modern left-of-centre party confronts the challenges of a crisis-ridden wealthy nation has finally been offered. And that is long overdue.

  • homer crad

    We need welfare recipients to pay more taxes, they are sucking on the rest!

  • kevinzeese

    That is not what this manifesto if about.

    Of course, the biggest welfare recipients are the big business interest that fund the Democrats and Republicans.

  • Aquifer

    The GP platform would be the manifesto in the US …

  • kevinzeese

    Yes, the GP has an excellent platform and it keeps getting better as more people have input.

  • Aquifer

    So now the task is to a) educate as many folks as possible as to why that platform is the answer to what the majority of folks say they want in opinion poll after opinion poll b) get folks to run for office at all levels on that platform c) dispel the widely ingrained subversive myth that they “can’t win” or are “spoilers” …..

  • As well as buying the privilege of writing the laws, picking the judges and determine every policy of government through their bribes (err lobbying) of the elected officials whom they also elected through massive anonymous donations. Nothing to see here, just business as usual. Government of, for and by the People….not. So very sad that so very many Americans are still fooled by this, at least the 50% of the people who “voted” for either of the the establishment parties and probably a sizable portion of those who didn’t bother to vote. Money is the core problem, not just money in politics but the universal acceptance of monetary relationships across the board. So few of us still recognize that every human ever born has as much right to life and access to the resources of the planet of their birth to insure their health and well being as any other human. No abstract story of something we call money should ever prevent their needs from being fully met. Only somehow, those who have accumulated money feel they have the right to deny other human beings access to healthy food and clean water on the planet of their birth if they haven’t manage to accumulate the necessary survival tickets to compete in the money game. We are like children playing a game of make believe. Let’s pretend that I own everything and you own nothing and you have to do everything I say. When enough people understand this game, it will be game over. The anger, resentment and repressed violence that erupts is never pretty. We all need to stop playing Money. An awful lot of people are already getting hurt. With the economic forecast being for ever greater inequality, we can expect to see more widespread and rising violence across a global culture in decline. Expect increasing ecosystem disruption, environmental pollution and social collapse as the severe economic inequality system continues to pursue ever greater “monetary wealth” around the planet. Would greater social democracy in our work places help? Sure, to a limited extent. The less inequality, the less severe the consequences. We are all born naked and equal. Then the Money game starts. We made the Money game up and we can end it. Kill Money before it kills us.

  • DHFabian

    Years of work (here, and in several other nations) went into dividing and conquering the “masses” to ensure that this time, there can be no people’s push back, no populist uprising. Since Reagan/Thatcher, we’ve seen the rise of international corporate powers, dominating traditional political powers. In the US, years of work went into splitting us apart by class and race, ensuring that there won’t be a “populist uprising” this time. The middle class targeted the poor, workers turn their backs on those who were phased out of the job market. I don’t know if the same has happened outside the US.

    Here, we began shutting down/shipping out jobs in the 1980s. Unionized factory jobs were moved from the northern states, to the south, with a significant reduction in wages. (Today, only some 11% of the US workforce has union representation.) Actual welfare aid was ended in the 1990s, and we saw the growth of replacement labor (workfare, prison labor, etc.) that can be paid even less than minimum wage. Between creating a scarcity of jobs and an abundant surplus of job-ready people who are desperate for any job at any wage, we put the US on a downhill slide.

    The power of labor in the US has been crushed. Workers can’t risk losing their jobs by “rising up,” knowing there’s nothing to fall back on. The masses won’t unite to push back. Since Reagan, the US has experienced a dramatic decline in overall quality of life. The US itself has slowly been transitioning into just another third world labor state that discards those who aren’t of current use.

  • DHFabian

    Are you serious? That’s, frankly, an insane comment. Catch up on the news. Actual welfare aid ended some 20 years ago. (TANF is a short term, marginally subsidized job program, only for those with children.) Your comment about taxes shows why the US must restore funding to education. Learn what taxes are. People are taxed on income and property that they own. You can’t be taxed on income and property that you don’t have. Now, if you want to reduce your taxes, you have the freedom to do so. Just reduce your income/property.

    At its highest, way back in the 1970s, our former welfare aid used a mere 6% of the federal budget, and enabled many families to work their way up out of poverty, into the mainstream, building the huge middle class we once had. They became tax payers, ultimately repaying the aid they had received via their own taxes. This “failed program” actually had a success rate of over 80%.

  • chetdude

    Indeed, the top point 1 of 1% who have been leeching off the rest of us must be forced to pay their fair share…