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Boldness must be the key to change

Labour has an historic opportunity to turn the tide on 14 years of Tory misrule, chaos and austerity. The circumstances are not as propitious as 1997 when the economic winds were more favourable. Keir Starmer and his team will face the worst cost of living crisis in fifty years. Over the last three years food prices have risen 31%; rents up 21%, mortgages up 120% and energy prices up 53% (ITN source). Poverty, especially child poverty, has rocketed. Food banks are now ubiquitous. Huge transfers of wealth have been made to the rich. The climate crisis deepens.

Bold policies are required from an incoming Labour government. However,

Starmer and shadow chancellor Reeves have sought to play safe committing to the Tories fiscal rules, trying to avoid becoming a target of Sunak and the right-wing media. This position won’t hold in the real world.

Contributors in this issue seek to both examine Labour’s Manifesto commitments and more widely examine the malaise of social democracy.

James Meadway outlines the gap between aspiration and funding in Labour’s manifesto with a specific take on the National Health Service. The spending commitments come nowhere near the remedial funding necessary for structural repairs and new build, staff recruitment and pay settlement for doctors. He challenges the “growth” mantra as being founded on three pillars only one of which, better trade relationships with the EU, has any chance of short term delivery.

Maria Exall outlines Labour’s flagship New Deal for Working People which aims to repeal anti trade union laws and strengthen workers’ rights. Duncan Bowie finds the commitments on housing woefully short of requirements, particularly on social housing for rent at affordable prices. Rent caps alongside scrapping of no fault evictions and planning reforms must be matched by serious local government support.

Gordon Peters calls on Labour to grasp the social care crisis with both hands. Investment in its National Care Service is critical to relieving pressure on NHS beds and staff while providing elderly and ill people with a qualitatively better deal.

Paul Salveson examines the welcome commitment on rail nationalisation but has reservations on broader transport plans. Dave Toke highlights the promise of greater investment in wind and solar, the blocking of licences for oil and gas and insulation upgrades for 5m homes set against the costly commitment to Sizewell C nuclear expansion.

Change is the title of Labour’s Manifesto. At over 130 pages the document covers some important areas. But strikingly there is no commitment to end the two-child benefit cap which consigns almost a million children to poverty.

Don Flynn provides an overview of Labour’s manifesto finding a financial hole in its heart.

On education the mission is to provide free breakfast clubs and nursery places and 6,500 more teachers to begin to fix the serious staff shortages. On criminal justice the Manifesto promises to “return law and order to our streets” by increasing police officers and prison capacity despite England and Wales having the highest per capita prison population in western Europe. Social deprivation and poverty are the main drivers of crime. The same can be said on migrants where what’s needed is a negotiation with Europe on safe and legal routes, sanctuary (not Bibby Stockholms and crackpot Rwanda schemes, rightfully rejected) and rights to work while being processed.

Bryn Jones continues our analysis of the crisis of social democracy by picking up on Rachel Reeves’ definition and the flaws in its conception and delivery.

Gerry Hassan anticipates the recovery of Scottish Labour at the expense of the Scottish National Party, itself embroiled in crisis following the resignation first of Nicola Sturgeon and then Humza Yousaf. Hassan poses big questions for Anas Sarwar as leader of Scottish Labour and the extent to which he will pursue more radical policies.

On democracy Labour has swerved away from the big issues: electoral reform and abolition of the House of Lords. Despite a majority of trade unions and Labour conference voting for change, the manifesto is silent.

The international context is darkening. As Glyn Ford and Patrick Costello report, the far right have advanced in the European elections throwing France into political turmoil. Although parties of the centre retain control of the European parliament the spectre of neo-fascism and its foot soldier ethno-nationalism is on the march. Seema Syeda identifies the fuel of Islamophobia across Europe as a key driver behind this threat.

The Ukraine war highlights another menace to Europe where Trumpite Republicans delayed military aid, emboldening Putin to intensify his brutal assault and occupation. Pete Duncan calls on Labour to raise aid and solidarity.  Meanwhile in Georgia the regime is taking a page from Putin’s playbook to repress civil opposition with new legislation on “foreign agents” as reported by Alex Scrivener. Regarding Gaza we report that the genocide must end, with a Labour commitment to a permanent ceasefire, hostage exchange and arms embargo on Israel now.

Bob Newland reports on the loss of the ANC majority for the first time since Apartheid and the implications of coalition with the centre right. Shashi Tharoor, leading Indian Congress MP, similarly explores the consequences of nationalist leader Modi’s electoral losses.

Underlining all Labour’s commitments, many reduced in scale, particularly the £28bn for the green new deal, is the fiscal rule. But if this is not to be a shallow victory, overturned in five years, boldness must be the key. Boldness on democratic reform and above all boldness on economic recovery and redistribution. This must mean the top companies paying more in corporation tax, a greater tax share from the top earners and a missionary zeal to recoup the £70bn plus that the Tax Justice Network cite as evaded or avoided tax. Investment in public services, industrial regeneration, improved relations with Europe and a green transition are essential for a more equitable and sustainable Britain and a further Labour term.


  1. The country needs bold policies but probably doesn’t much appreciate the idea. Let’s be lucky and pray for the political equivalent of Jude Bellingham!

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