Labour has moved quickly to get into top gear for the General Election on June 8th. With the initial challenge of poor polls, together with the difficulties of mounting a recovery in Scotland and the unremitting media hostility and diehard Blairite snipers, the Corbyn led party has taken on the task of uniting to fight on the issues which are vital to working people across the UK. The crucial need that must be met to forge success in the campaign is for a platform of policies which address the deep discontent that is known to exist amongst the majority of voters. Chartist correspondents have been critical on the lassitude on developing policy but this has to be parked now in the interests working for a Labour government.
The ten pledges are being filled out in the manifesto which is being finalised as we go to press. Policy initiatives had begun in the run-up to the May local and mayoral elections. We have had pledges to put VAT on private schooling to pay for free school meals for all, pledges to improve teacher numbers and reduce super-size classes, a living wage of £10, boosting public sector contracts. These policies need to be linked in the way Corbyn did at the launch of Labour’s campaign in Croydon. The over-arching narrative has to be formed from his powerful popular assault on the ruling wealthy corporate establishment and its fawning political elites epitomised by the Tory party.
Brexit will inevitably frame much of this election campaign. Remain voters will feel this is another chance to demonstrate their conviction that Britain needs to be in Europe. Brexiteers will argue the contrary, possibly without as much passion. Labour will need to connect its policies particularly those on the economy, jobs, environment and human rights with the case for Europe. The groundwork to make the case on the folly of withdrawal into a nationalist, little England redoubt (Scotland and Northern Ireland clearly see this) needs to be laid in speeches, campaign statements and doorstep arguments.
Above all Labour, from top to bottom, needs to campaign for a common political platform with a clear socialist message. In the pursuit of this goal Chartist proposes some key policy ideas on a range of themes that could be used during the campaign. Some may be picked up in the actual Labour manifesto.
Economic Policy Re-build a capacity for economic planning and positive interventions in the economy to rein in on the damage that unfettered free markets are capable of inflicting. Re-establish a Regional Economic Policy to support employment growth across the UK. Where unemployment is high this will include incentives to employment generation and relocation of some employment, including non-local public services, away from London and the South East. Ensure nationally funded infrastructure investment supports employment growth in the regions. Ensure representation for workers on company boards. Establish a green investment bank.
Transport Take back public control of rail franchises and repatriate profits from rail and bus services currently owned by foreign companies, including companies owned by foreign states. Implement integrated public transport plans across all regions which complement economic growth.
NHS Replace internal market by health needs led resourcing. No more PFI deals and outsourcing. Repeal and replace Health Act 2012. Reverse Tory planned £22b cut by 2020. Education Reinstate local authority control of all maintained schools. No new grammar schools! Scrap all existing selection for secondary school education. Take steps to ensure every school is a good school. Reduce the burden of testing & give teachers greater control over what they teach. Remove charitable status of all private education provision. VAT on private school fees to pay for free school meals for all primary children is a start. Stop the Tory plan to move funds from deprived inner city areas to Tory shires.
Higher Education Reinstate the system of free higher education to parallel Scottish system. Ensure that higher and further education provide students with the skills to access the job market. This means prioritising funding for courses which relate directly to professions and other employment opportunities, in effect ensuring that some Universities return to the original functions of polytechnics. Expand apprenticeship schemes (but without a link to ‘academic’ institutions). Planning Develop a national spatial plan to support national and regional level decisions on infrastructure investment. Introduce a democratically accountable system of planning at city regional and combined authority level. Re-establish a planning system which is led by an assessment of need for development which is in the public interest rather than by the demand for private profit.
Housing Abolish the Right to Buy in England (to parallel system in Scotland and which is being introduced in Wales). Repeal the 2016 Housing and Planning Act. Reinstate national grant funded programme for new local authority developed housing. Reintroduce regulation of Housing Associations in receipt of Government grant. Stop all public subsidy to home ownership. Allow councils to acquire land for new council housing at Existing Use Value Strengthen Local Authority powers to take control of privately rented homes which have been mismanaged.
Local Government Remove borrowing restrictions on local authorities. Restore democratic systems within local government (abolishing directly elected Mayors and two tier political structures within councils – i.e. replacing cabinet systems with committee systems). Remove caps on local authority council tax increases.
Taxation Introduce higher rates of income tax for persons on higher income levels on a progressive scale. Tax savings on same basis as earned income. Increase inheritance taxes, especially in relation to inheritance of property assets Phased replacement of stamp duty by tax on capital gains on residential property ownership; in short term transfer liability for stamp duty from purchaser to seller. Ensure an effective system of corporate taxation which minimises tax evasion and avoidance.
Welfare Policy Restore cuts in Housing and other Welfare Benefits. Ensure benefits, including pensions and disability benefits, are uprated in line with inflation. Maintain the triple lock on pensions.
Trade Unions and workers’ rights Repeal all legislation which impedes the right to organise in the workplace. Restore access to Employment Tribunals by abolishing fees for initiating complaints.
Immigration and Human Rights The UK government to play a full role in supporting refugees in line with its commitments under the Geneva Convention by taking a proper share of those who need a safe haven. Guarantee the rights of EU nationals resident in the UK. Implement a programme for the regularisation of all migrants resident in the UK for five years. Maintain the right to free movement for all persons resident in member states of the EU. Ensure the right to family life through reunion with settled family members, irrespective of income levels.