Labour’s Manifesto: Lost opportunities, lost possibilities

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Opportunities can define a political Party, even the ones they miss.

The launch of Labour’s Manifesto today only intensifies a tragic sense of missed opportunity.

Instead of sailing into battle with the wind behind us in transforming our political and economic settlement in favour of workers and those most abused and neglected by the domination of the rich and the most advantaged, we have the wind against us and there is a gaping hole in our ship.

Our manifesto is committed to nationalising water and rail and providing free broadband for all.

It has an industrial strategy based around renewing skilled work and redistributing investment to the neglected parts of our country. Its training programme is linked to the building of homes and integrated with the renewal of skills.

It would challenge the domination of the oligarchs and redistribute power and wealth. Labour would build homes and a home for a wide coalition of people who have been excluded from participation and provide the basis of both a shared common future and a reckoning with the past forty years through a new settlement based on greater equality and participation.

Labour would be a beacon for the moribund European Left on how to lead a democratic socialist politics that brings together locals and immigrants, north and south, women and
men through a politics that rejects the domination of the market in the organisation of society and overcomes division through a new class politics. For the many not the few and for the first time in a long time, the rich would pay. Boris Johnson would be a symbol of a narcissistic entitled elite who have no shame or obligation and Labour would be a power in the land once more.

But it can’t. And it won’t.

Whereas last time Labour said that it would respect the result of the Referendum and people believed it. This time they won’t.

The nature of the Maastricht and then Lisbon Treaties, with their very specific prohibition on interferences with competition (nationalisation) and on State Aid (industrial policy) means that Labour’s manifesto would be vigorously challenged by capital through the European Court of Justice, and that capital would win. As in Greece and Spain, democracy would be subordinated to Treaty Law.

Even Labour’s housing policy relying on state investment and the training and priority of local labour would run counter to EU rules on competition and state interference in markets. Article 106 states that interference is only justified because of ‘necessity’. A political decision is not enough.

The Labour leadership’s refusal to make the distinction between globalisation and internationalism and present a vision of solidarity to defy the ownership of the world by those who own capital it appears to be in bad faith. By refusing to assert that democracy is the way we resist capitalism and that legal treaties only entrench its rule Labour has not built the coalition between the working class and the progressive middle-class that has always been the basis of its power.

Instead large numbers of working class Labour voters, who understand that leaving the EU is central to their interests are either not voting or voting for the Conservatives, who are at least committed to leaving the EU.

Opportunities can define a political Party, even the ones they miss.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had a chance at this election to redirect the history of our country in a socialist and democratic direction that would have transformed it for a generation. Because of their refusal to name the European Union for what it is, a capitalist machine that subordinates democracy, many people are not listening to our manifesto commitments because they do not believe we can deliver on them. The sacred bond of trust that has existed for generations has been ruptured.

“I will continue to campaign for Labour over the next month because it is better than any alternative, but I do so with the cold wind in my face rather than my back.”

For Labour Heartlands By Maurice Glasman.
Baron Glasman is an English political theorist, academic, social commentator, and Labour life peer in the House of Lords. He is a senior lecturer in Political Theory at London Metropolitan University and Director of its Faith and Citizenship Programme.

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