Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Labour manifesto too left wing? Nonsense.

The Blairite nonsense about the election result was being spouted literally before all the votes had been counted. The carefully rehearsed message, delivered with such barely disguised glee, repeated the rhetoric heard so often from Mandelson and the rest over the years. It was no surprise, therefore, when the Blairite candidates for leadership all too quickly offered their services, blaming the defeat on failing to attract the votes of the aspirational middle class, a lack of pro-business policy, and a Labour programme too far to the left. None of them appeared to realise how insulting this was, both to the electorate in general, all with  hopes and ambitions for the future, and to those who had voted for Ukip, and the more radical SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Green parties.  Insulting, but also, inaccurate! The fact is that the Blairite propaganda machine wants to demonise any leftward movement of the party, so, clearly, some analysis of the Labour proposals is required.
      For starters, nothing left-wing at all about the pledge to end the callous “bedroom tax”, just simply a humanitarian policy, which has the support of everyone with a hint of decency. Then there`s the raising of the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020; how can this be too left wing when wages are so low,  many workers cannot afford to live without in-work support from the taxpayer, to the tune of £11bn a year in  housing benefits, and when the current living wage is £7.85, and, in London, £9.15? Many would think £8 an hour a very moderate ambition, certainly not radical, especially as so many politicians have openly admitted they could not live on such meagre pay. With 44% adults not paying any income tax at all, because they earn so little, raising the minimum wage has to be considered sound economic policy.
     The same applies to zero-hours contracts, which enable companies` profits to rise, whilst the taxpayers subsidise the low-paid. Which is more alarming in the eyes of the average voter? Allowing those forced to work on zero-hours contracts full- time employment after three months, or threatening workers with “day-to-day hiring”, as the CBI chief, John Cridland, did when Miliband announced his plan?
    The idea that those earning houses worth £2m and over should pay the so-called “mansion tax” originated with the Lib Dems, so automatically ruling it out as “radical” or left-wing”. Tristram Hunt unbelievably said, in an interview with the Tory Times, that it reduced people`s aspirations! The sensible view is that it was merely an extension of the council tax, and the £3-5,000 most would have paid a year would have been offset by the rise in the value of the property, especially as most houses worth over £2m are in London and the south-east. It certainly did not prevent Labour doing rather well in the London area.
     Left wing policies in the Labour manifesto were far more noticeable by their absence. Where were the pledges to re-nationalise the railway and energy companies, ideas which, according to opinion polls, would have proved rather popular? Did Labour promise to keep hold of the 79% taxpayer-owned RBS and convert it into a People`s Bank, to rival those on the high street? No, of course not, just a bonus tax which bankers would, no doubt, have circumvented, with claims that their extra pay constituted annual “allowances”! Not even a promise to participate in the EU`s Financial Transaction Tax in January, 2016.
      With so many tenants having to pay up to 60% of their earnings to Rachman-like private landlords, was there a pledge to review exorbitant rents? No, merely a cap on future rent increases. Did the education policy plan to increase social mobility, or even to review Gove`s unnecessary assessment reforms?
     Presumaby, raising the top level of income tax to 50% for the very high earners was regarded as left-wing by Blairites, even though it was placed at that level by  Brown`s government, and under that Marxist, revolutionary, Margaret Thatcher, it was much higher: between 1979 and 1988 it stood at 60%!
      So, not left-wing at all, and certainly not really a factor in the election defeat. Many clearly voted for other parties because Labour`s manifesto included so many moderate ideas, rather than ones which would re-shape the country`s economy and transform our society. A stress on the fact that the coalition`s policies were, in actual fact, extremely right-wing, rather than Labour`s being too far to the left, might prove a more accurate evaluation by the leadership candidates; perhaps one of them will have the bottle to say so, but I`m not holding my breath.

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