So, we’re now a mere matter of hours away from finding out who has managed to convince a portion of the population that they are worthy of being allowed into one of the most famous addresses in the world, under a 5 year tenancy agreement. By the looks of the current polling which party that will be is anyone’s guess, although Labour could be seen to be in the more advantageous position.
We’ll be saved from another 5 years of the vicious, malevolent Tories, with their blood-stained public-spending axes, razor-sharp welfare scythes and titanium-plated NHS knuckle-dusters. Labour will rescue us!
But will they? Undoubtedly they are preferable to the Conservatives, and yes (before anyone says it) there’s £28.5 billion of cuts between them (we won’t mention that’s 0.7% of total public spending in the next Parliament – that doesn’t sound as good). Some of their policy pledges are excellent – do not mistake me. But the fact remains, Labour’s overall offering, to some, is centrist mediocrity at best.
Much has been made of the fact Labour model themselves as the party of the “Working Family” (apologies to those of you eating), and they’ll take on the 1%. But if their proposals are “taking them on”, I wouldn’t like to see them fawn.
Their much-lauded 50p tax rate, starting at £150k, is by no means Golden Goose it’s portrayed to be. The OBR described it as “strolling across the summit of the Laffer Curve” – in layman’s terms, meaning that no-one knows how much additional money, if any, it will make.
The “Mansion Tax” (if you don’t know what that is, you’re lucky), is a cheap headline grabber, which the IFS says would be better served by reforming the council tax system, and does not take into account those, for example, owning weekend residences under £2m, and a working week property of the same value – or are these people “poor”?
Labour’s screeched clampdown on tax avoidance & havens is also shallow and ill thought through. The threat of “blacklisting” tax havens is a ludicrous one, as this can only be decided by an OECD vote (currently this list of tax havens is… err… blank). Forcing them to release the data of those with a 25% or more interest in a company logically doesn’t go far enough, their plans completely ignore the reality of how Crown Dependencies really operate, and their proposed reforms to tackle avoidance are without teeth (especially regarding GAAR) – unless you deem recovering £7.5bn out of an estimated £80-120bn a “success”.
Similarly, we have been bombarded with statistics on inequality, rising use of foodbanks, zero hours contracts and sanctioning of those on benefits. But look closely at Labour’s policies, and little will be done to stop the rot.
They will be keeping the benefit cap of £26k (and effectively lowering it in some areas, by making the housing element geographical), which was recently described by a panel of Supreme Court Judges as “breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”. This is coupled with their abandonment of the target of eliminating child poverty by 2020 (“as a result of this Governments failures” – blame “The Last Tory Government”?), and a 1% cap on child benefit increases for 2 years.
As with many of their other fiscal policies, the 10p tax rate is ludicrous. The IFS describes it as a “gimmick” and a “remarkable failure to learn from history”, and says the difference between it, and raising the threshold (the Tory/Lib Dems plan) is minimal. Oh, and the £8 minimum wage by October 2019? It will be barely more than it would have been anyway (based on the current methodology & historical increases).
Their assault on those dastardly zero hours contracts is pure PR. Forcing employers to offer a regular hours contract after 12 weeks? You can see the rocketing of 4 hour starter contracts coming a mile off, plus this is an issue which affects 250k people. Labour would be better tackling the huge rise in self-employment, which has been the “jobs miracle” of this coalition – the ONS say 1.7m people have entered this form of work since 2009, & on average they earn 40% less than employees.
Labour housing policy will do little to help the 1.8m households on council waiting lists. They have abandoned their “200k homes built a year by 2020” pledge, in favour of “1m homes under construction by 2020”, with no target for how many will be social. Their rent reforms are still soft on landlords, as they offer no protection from rent being hiked after three years, or between tenancies, & work on the assumption that interest rates will remain low; and the “Home Building Fund” for banks? This is a Ponzi-esque scheme, where the tax payer underwrites funds given to banks to build properties, only to pay for it AGAIN, in mortgage interest to the banks.
All this is without touching on:
The reduction in student fee’s to £6k per annum will have no effect on the poorest 50% of graduates; guaranteed apprenticeships for school leavers “if you get the grades” – and if you don’t?; complicity in the promotion of fracking, ignoring advice from Friends of the Earth calling for a full moratorium; ignoring an official government report on national security threats, which made no mention of Nuclear threats nor Trident; broad support for (what many consider to be toxic) TTIP and weakened language on ISDS; pledges for the disabled, which have been deemed an “afterthought”, and ignore calls to save the Independent Living Fund and abolish Work Capability Assessments; obession with getting young people on “the mortgage ladder”, amid worldwide debt being at it’s highest levels in history.
So we won’t touch on any of that.
However, the elephant in the room? The Nelly, whom is standing there, is frantically flapping its ears.
The Financial Services Industry, & Labour’s continued appeasement of it, may well be the final nail in their coffin over the next 5 years *for background, see https://stevetopple.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/same-old-new-labour-beyond-the-third-way-or-a-stealthy-mk2/
For all Labour’s tough talk in the past 18 months on the spanking of the Bankers, there is little of any substance in their manifesto. The Banker’s bonus tax? Companies will simply offer share options, or change the timings of their bonus payment (the IFS, not me). Increasing the Bank Levy? Hardly a Marxist assault, as the coalition have done it 8 times. Putting the rate of corporation tax back up? It will still be the most competitive in the G7, & if companies don’t like it, profits will go overseas.
Many economic commentators are already predicting a forthcoming economic crash, much worse than the one seen in 2007/08. We have now entered another “7½ Year Itch” (a period where markets rally before collapsing); a coincidence? This would be the third time, so that’s one hell of a quirk. Many other signs are there – and when the BBC’s Robert Peston even mentions it, then something’s up.
Labour is doing nothing to firewall the UK from this. For them to deny knowledge is disingenuous, when one of their senior advisors was responsible for the US banking deregulation that led to the 2008 crash. The reasons for the Party’s “head in the sand” attitude are debatable (and not for this blog), but by scrapping previously tabled pledges like separating bank’s high street and investment operations, setting no timetable for the sale of our stake in RBS, and being apathetic to HSBC’s crimes, they are demonstrating complicity.
If Labour were really acting for the “99%” of us, who have had to suffer at the hands of the unbridled greed of a small minority of society for far too long, they would have a manifesto that began to negotiate a path to economic & industrial security – a move away from the reliance on the FSI and towards class justice for the people of the UK.
Instead, we have Capitalists trying to save Capitalism, with an agenda set by the very people who shafted us in 2008 (and will do so again, before we’ve even had time to lube up); an agenda which is explicitly designed around them – with absolutely no regard for the rest of us. We are not alone in this – Obama and the Democrats are instigating the exact same program in the U.S.
This is why, for all Labour’s pledges on “An NHS with Time to Care”, “Controls on Immigration”, and whatever else they wish to inscribe on mugs and Biblical slabs of rock, they are, simply put, just not good enough.