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If the 1983 Labour manifesto was “the longest suicide note in history”, then what to make of the 2017 one? Aside from the fact that the draft is 43 pages (compared to 1983’s 39), the Labour party has already committed suicide by electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The 2017 Labour manifesto simply represents the far left dancing on the grave of Blairism. The Corbynites are disinfecting Labour of “third way” politics and making it abundantly clear that it is no longer a place for moderates or pragmatists. It’s their party and they’ll guide it hurtling into electoral oblivion if they want to.
After reading the policy agenda, you half expect Gene Hunt to turn up in his Ford Cortina and start cracking heads. I spent an hour trying to figure out how I ended up in the 1970’s and how I could get back home.
The manifesto promises the wholesale re-nationalisation of Britain’s economy, with much of the energy and rail industry coming under state control and Royal Mail being re-nationalised. A wage cap will be forced on businesses and vast powers will be handed back to the unions with a “Labour Act”. Let’s do the time warp again!
Actually, let’s not. The manifesto is an economically inept wish list from unrepentant dreamers who repudiate economic liberalism despite all the evidence and aren’t prepared to meet anyone halfway. It’s chock full of “soak the rich” tax bombs, a major clamp-down on business and crazy spending commitments galore. Corbyn supporters will inevitably point to individual policies which garner public support, and when presented in isolation one might find a few good ideas; but where is the Labour Party hiding its magic money tree?
Trust me, they are going to need one to pay for a £250 billion splurge on infrastructure, £6 billion a year for the NHS, £8 billion for social care by 2022, the abolition of tuition fees, free further education, free school meals, double paid paternity leave, 10,000 more police officers, a freeze on energy bills and rail fares, a reversal of Tory welfare cuts, 100,000 council houses a year, the pension “triple lock” conserved and a retirement age of 66 – not forgetting the money it will cost to bring energy, rail and the Royal Mail back under state ownership. Phew!
How will this be paid for? By taking wealth back from the fat cats and giving it back to “the people” of course! It’s all so simple. For a start, a 19% rise in corporation tax and extra taxes for everyone earning more than £80,000 a year… Hmmm, I’m not quite the sums add up. As for the infrastructure investment, that will be paid for via the National Investment Bank with a proportion of the £250 billion coming from the taxpayer and the rest “leveraged” from private investors. Although I doubt there would be much private investment in Corbyn’s Britain.
Jeremy Corybn and John McDonnell were vocal and open about their admiration for Hugo Chavez and championed Venezuela as proof that there was an alternative to “neo-liberalism”. They have been silent as socialist Venezuela has rapidly deteriorated into a dystopia of economic and social misery. Undeterred by the latest evidence that socialism fails everywhere it’s tried; they have unashamedly set out their blueprint to turn Britain into Venezuela. It’s a one-way ticket to a financial crisis and economic catastrophe.
It’s a utopian manifesto composed by dogmatists; there is no more unhealthy and dangerous combination in politics. Apparently good intentioned socialist notions that will lead directly to bad outcomes.
Banning zero-hours contracts will price young people out of jobs and end the flexibility from which many benefit. Increasing the living wage will price many out of work and hurt small businesses. Banning companies whose highest rate of pay is twenty times or more than the lowest from government contracts is a recipe for procurement disaster. The pledge for cheaper energy bills is contradicted by pledge to further incentivise renewables and ban fracking. As for rent controls, this is yet another policy that ignores the evidence; a price cap will merely reduce the supply of property to the market, among other lamentable outcomes.
The empowerment of the unions will lead to British industry once again being at the mercy of power mad barons. Collective bargaining will force employees into union membership in order to have a say on their own pay. Much of the fees paid would, of course, go to fund the Labour party that unins would then control. Before you know it, British industry is the grip of the unions and the threat of strikes looms large.
The profligacy required to implement Labour’s policies require vast fiscal confiscation from higher income earners and business but the “reckoning” that Corbyn has promised would soon shrink the tax base he intends to bleed dry. As the wealth creators flee, businesses relocate, and we hit a drought of start-ups and investment; what then? Eventually there will be one left to tax and no money left to spend.
If Labour had promised fluffy bunnies and dreams come true for every citizen in Britain it would have been only marginally more beyond the realms of reality than the Labour manifesto is set to be. It isn’t based on evidence, rationality or economic common sense but unadulterated ideology.
Britain faces many problems over the next five years, but the tried and tested, and repeatedly failed, dogma of centralisation, public ownership, state planning and bashing the rich is not the answer. Socialism is about to be put to the electoral test again. That’s why it’s so crucial that Labour not only loses, but loses very badly. It has to be a total trouncing.
Ben Kelly is an Executive Director of Conservatives for Liberty.