Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to take on “vested interests” in society as he set out a radical programme to invest in public services, tackle climate change and re-nationalise key utilities.
Few set-piece events fall more squarely on a politician’s home turf than a manifesto launch, so standing ovations and hearty cheers from the audience are par for the course.
But this was still a confident launch from Corbyn, buoyed by a raucous crowd in perhaps one of his strongest performances of the campaign to date.
The Labour leader said his manifesto – titled “It’s time for real change” – was full of popular policies that the political establishment had “blocked for decades”.
“This is a manifesto of hope. A manifesto that will bring real change,” Corbyn said at the outset of a speech that included broadside and confrontational attacks against Britain’s rich and powerful — groups from which he said he welcomed hostility.
“But you can’t have it,” he says — or at least, that’s what the rich and powerful in Britain would have you believe.
“Over the next three weeks, they’re going to tell you that everything in this manifesto is impossible. That it’s too much for you,” he says.
Because they do not want real change in this country. Why would they? The system is working just fine for them. It’s rigged in their favour.
“But it’s not working for you,” Corbyn goes on. “If your wages never seem to go up and your bills never seem to go down, if your public services only seem to get worse, despite the heroic efforts of those who work in them, then it’s not working for you.”
“Over the next three weeks they will tell you that everything in this manifesto is impossible because they do not want real change in this country,” he said.
He said the system was “rigged in their favour – but it’s not working for you”.
They know that Labour will go after the tax dodgers, the bad bosses and the big polluters, he said as he unveiled a raft of major spending and taxation pledges.
Those pledges were were described by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank as “colossal” and “not credible”.
Corbyn’s praise of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the US President whose New Deal programs brought the US out of the Great Depression, sought to elevate his plans from charges that they hark back to failed projects of the 1970s.
“The US president who led his country out of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt, had to take on the rich and powerful in America to do it. That’s why he said: ‘They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred,'” Corbyn will add, according to excerpts of his speech already released to the media.
“He knew that when you’re serious about real change, those who profit from a rigged system, who squirrel away the wealth created by millions of people, won’t give up without a fight. So I accept the implacable opposition and hostility of the rich and powerful is inevitable,” Corbyn will add.
The Labour leader’s confrontational tone against Britain’s wealthiest has already become a hallmark of his campaign, and the wartime US President is a natural role model for Corbyn to seek to compare himself; FDR’s ambitious reforms included a swathe of tougher banking regulations alongside spending boosts and public work projects.
“If the bankers, billionaires and the establishment thought we represented politics as usual, that we could be bought off, that nothing was really going to change, they wouldn’t attack us so ferociously. Why bother?
“But they know we mean what we say. They know we will deliver our plans, which is why they want to stop us being elected.”
His domestic agenda, unveiled in full over the 107-page document, is one of the most radical manifestos unveiled by a major party at an election in recent memory.
Some of the highlights
- Climate: The first section of Labour’s manifesto tackles the climate crisis. It pledges a rule change that would delist companies from the London Stock Exchange if they do not contribute to the fight against climate change. A windfall tax on oil companies headlines their climate policies. Elsewhere, 9,000 wind turbines would be built around Britain, and Labour would “immediately” ban fracking.
- Healthcare: The manifesto says Labour’s “immediate task is to repair our health services.” It pledges increased investment across the health sector by an average of 4.3% a year, as well as £2 billion to modernize mental health provisions. It also promises an end to prescription charges, fully funded sexual health services and a free rollout of the PrEP HIV prevention pill — but does not include the legalization of cannabis.
- Nuclear weapons: Jeremy Corbyn has been repeatedly pressed on whether he would use a nuclear weapon as prime minister, but Labour’s manifesto supports renewing the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent. It adds that the party will also “actively lead multilateral efforts” to “create a nuclear-free world.”
- Education: There’s no plan to abolish private schools, which won some support at Labour’s conference this year. Instead, the party will “close the tax loopholes enjoyed” by the institutions. Alongside funding promises, the party says it will review school curricula to prominently feature black history and issues including the Holocaust. They’ll also ban fast food restaurants near schools.
- Labour pledges a “housing revolution” with biggest council house building programme for decades.
- scaling up council house building so that we are building 100,000 council homes a year by the end of the parliament, a more than 3,500% increase.
- building at least 50,000 additional genuinely affordable homes a year through Housing Associations by the end of the parliament.
- at least 150,000 new council and social homes a year within five years, delivering the biggest council housebuilding programme since the years immediately after the Second World War, and the biggest overall affordable housebuilding programme since the 1960s.
- Tackling Vested Interests: Labour will change how politics is funded, banning donations from tax avoiders and tax evaders, and closing loopholes that allow the use of shell companies to funnel dark money into politics.
- In its manifesto, Labour said freedom of movement will continue if the public votes to remain in the EU. If a majority vote for a Brexit deal, the party said free movement would be “subject to negotiations.” The party did not explicitly commit itself to seeking to retain freedom of movement in its current form.
“We recognise the social and economic benefits that free movement has brought both in terms of EU citizens here and U.K. citizens abroad — and we will seek to protect those rights,” according to the manifesto. The party pledged to build “a humane migration system” based on meeting skills and labor shortages in the U.K. economy.
The Labour Party claim: We will bring rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership to end the great privatisation rip-off and save you money on your fares and bills. We will deliver full-fibre broadband free to everybody in every home in our country by creating a new public service, boosting the economy, connecting communities and putting money back in your pocket. More clarity on nationalisation needs to take place knowing the restrictions the EU place on monopolies
Nothing in EU rules prohibits nationalisation – they do however have implications for how you run nationalised and privatised services alike. The EU does have rules on how much can be nationalised, we can never have 100% public ownership of rail, mail, or utilites a market share must be left for competition, you cannot have a monopoly.
Under Article 107(I) TFEU, the actions of member states must not distort competition. Interventions by EU member states in the economy can be ruled unlawful if it can be shown that they use state resources, distort competition, distort trade between member states or give enterprises a selective advantage. Article 87(1) TFEU covers “any aid granted by a member state or through state resources in any form whatsoever which distorts or threatens to distort competition by favouring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods, in so far as it affects trade between member states.”
The EU’s Court of Justice has interpreted Article 106 as giving private companies the right to argue before the national courts that services should continue to be open to private-sector competition. Nationalised services are prima facie suspect and must be analysed by the judiciary for their “necessity”. Thus the EU has given companies a legal right to run to court to scupper programmes of public ownership.
Yet the consensus that EU law really does preclude ‘renationalisation’ is pretty overwhelming. Legal scholars regard the jurisprudence surrounding Article 106 as “revolutionary”, since it reverses “the decades-old presumption…that Member States are free in principle to determine their preferred system of property ownership”. Even Polly Toynbee endlessly reiterated that EU competition law would make NHS privatisation irreversible, though curiously this didn’t dampen her pro-EU ardour in the long term.
Furthermore there is scant prospect of Article 106 ever being repealed. To do so would require the common accord of all the governments of the EU Member States. You’d only need a single neoliberal government to veto such a Treaty change.
For good measure, from the 1990s onwards there was a surge of EU liberalisation directives opening up gas, electricity, transport, telecommunications etc to private sector involvement. Fat chance of a Labour Britain getting these repealed either: to do so would require a “qualified majority” of Member States.