After a fairly substantial ‘sneak preview’ last week, we finally got to see the first full manifesto of the General Election campaign today with Labour’s For the Many Not the Few published in the heartland seat of Bradford.
By accident or design – conspiracy theorists suspect the latter – Labour have succeeded in getting two big days coverage from their manifesto, and today’s full publication reveals new policies that mysteriously weren’t in last week’s draft. We already knew they planned to nationalise the railways, and to introduce a public sector energy retailer, but today we also learn that water companies are up for nationalisation too.
For the first time, we also know about Labour’s tax plans. There are higher taxes for companies paying staff over £250,000 per year, and increases in income tax for individuals earning over £80,000. The party is making much of the fact that 95% of voters aren’t affected by the increases, but that runs into two problems. A large number of people reasonably aspire to earn more than that in the future – and don’t want to be taxed to the nines when they get there. And whilst only 5% of voters earn that sum, 100% of newspaper editors, columnists, commentators and business leaders do. The coverage of the tax plans in the press will certainly reflect that small truth.
Whilst there is no doubt that this is the most left-wing major party manifesto since the “longest suicide note in history” in 1983, mainstream Labour will be reassured that it doesn’t quite reach the extremes of Michael Foot’s effort. There is no promise to quit NATO or to give up our nuclear weapons, despite the widespread suspicion that Jeremy Corbyn would like to do both those things. As has been widely discussed (see The Only Polls that Matter), many of the domestic policies are individually popular. But parties arguing for them rarely gain power. Each menu item is popular but together it seems to make the voters a bit ill.
Tomorrow comes the Lib Dems chance to show us their menu, with the Conservatives following on Thursday. After then, what has been a largely sterile election campaign will – we hope – really kick into gear. It needs to if the public are to reach 8 June with any degree of enthusiasm.