Mike Davis on a message for May
We said it would be Tory own goals (Chartist 286, ‘Corbyn in Downing Street?’) and a steady consistent, straight-talking narrative from Labour that could shift opinion. That seems to be happening with a narrowing of the Tory lead in the polls.
There certainly have been own goals aplenty from the Tories including the big Maybot ruse that there would be no snap general election and then the ‘no show’ in the TV leaders debate. The symbolism of the absent Tory leader spoke volumes about her real confidence.
Strong and steady has morphed into weak and wobbly as the Tories defended the abolition of Winter Fuel payments in England and Wales while retaining them for Scottish pensioners, who we all know live in Arctic conditions and are much poorer. Then came the u-turn on social care. The Tory manifesto pledged to introduce a ceiling of £100,000 on the value of your home, at which point a charge would be made for residential and home care for sick, mentally ill or disabled elderly. This ‘dementia tax’ rebounded on Theresa May who hastily sought to back pedal saying it would be reviewed and there would be an unspecified cap. But the damage was done.
Then we have the shiftiness on tax. There is no commitment in the Tory manifesto to pegging National Insurance or income tax, while ministers proclaim they will reduce taxes. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies said, the Tory manifesto remains uncosted.
Following the terrible atrocities in Manchester and London Jeremy Corbyn has highlighted the 20,000 cut in police numbers including specialist forces. This is where the Tories austerity agenda gets them unstuck.
Meanwhile the Tories have received huge donations from big business and look like outspending Labour by three to one. No wonder, it is only Labour that is pledging to restore Corporation Tax to something akin to the G7 nations’ and up tax on the rich top five per cent of people.
As Labour have looked stronger and Jeremy Corbyn more appealing the tabloid media and parts of the broadcast media have increased the muck-raking, insults and demonization. The barrage of lies, distortion and half truths will intensify in the last few days of campaigning.
Corbyn’s appearances on the campaign trail get steadier and stronger. The early leak of the Labour manifesto may even have served to gain more earlier positive publicity. Pledges to fund a national education service, the NHS, police and other hard pressed public services have touched a popular nerve. Similarly proposals to bring railways back into public ownership as franchises expire alongside water and Royal Mail also strike a chord with the public. Where the Tories refuse to safeguard a triple lock on pensions, Labour commits to maintain it. Labour also commits to a wide range of other reforms including an end to zero hours contracts, a living wage for all of £10 by 2020, four new public holidays, an end to the public sector pay cap (which has seen earnings fall every year since 2007).
Labour’s is a radical manifesto which addresses the central problems facing British people. It is more Keynesian than Marxist but seeks to put the interests of people before unregulated profits, properly funded public services before private greed and sustainable investment before reckless tax reductions for the super rich.
The manifesto is costed, the IFS acknowledge that, and was open to scrutiny by the Office for Budget Responsibility, unlike the Tory manifesto.
The Labour manifesto and Corbyn’s refreshingly open, honest campaign style has helped debunk many of the myths that the Tories were able to perpetrate about Labour wanting to introduce a communist state and chaotic rule. On the contrary it is the Tories have shown a lack of clarity and consistency in their plans. Mrs May’s robotic campaign style has unravelled.
So the gap has closed. Whether it is enough to pull off an historic victory we will know soon enough. What has happened in this election campaign, which many believed would be boring and predictable, is that people have been presented with clear alternatives. Labour’s manifesto projects a future of greater equality and opportunity with an end to austerity and the Tories attempt to turn the clock back to 1950s grammar schools, nostalgia for a disappeared empire and hostility to European allies.
The Brexit issue is still huge but has been reduced in significance during the campaign. Labour is right to call for the scrapping of the Great Repeal Bill and its replacement by an EU Rights and Protections Bill. Labour pledges to immediately secure the rights of 3m EU nationals in Britain and also right to adopt a wholly different more positive negotiating stance while committing to parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary votes on agreements.
If the Tories win Brexit will come back with a vengeance as the contradiction between a hard Brexit ‘no deal’ and a prosperous Britain is brought into sharp relief, as it surely will by the bombastic Tory right and their UKIP cheer leaders. Living standards will plummet, jobs will be lost, Britain will become a poorer, smaller, meaner more divided nation.
Labour has much to play for in these last few days. It is important that supporters get out in the marginals for a last big push. Opinion polls can never be relied upon. But recent findings suggest Corbyn is doing at least as well as Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown in similar phases of the last two general election campaigns. Denying Mrs May a majority should be the minimum aim. A more ambitious aim should be work to ensure June (8th) sees the end of May and Corbyn as PM.