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Opinion: Labour’s general election manifesto attracts questions over potential tax rises, writes Paul Francis

The Labour Party has unveiled its general election manifesto, with plans to ensure economic stability, cut NHS waiting times and reform planning rules to build 1.5 million new homes.

Here, KentOnline’s political editor Paul Francis gives his analysis of the pledges set out by leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Paul Francis gives his view on the latest in politics
Paul Francis gives his view on the latest in politics

If you were expecting something bold, radical and genuinely groundbreaking, the Labour Party manifesto is probably not where you would start your search.

As with all manifestos, political parties err on the side of caution when it comes to setting out what their programme will be in the event they take office.

In the case of Labour’s manifesto, the party has taken steps to ensure there are no hostages to fortune, especially on the issue of taxes.

Questions from the media after Sir Keir Starmer finished his speech were dominated by the issue, with the leader invited to rule out any rises or leave a little wiggle room that would allow them to do just that.

Responding to multiple questions on the subject, Starmer held the line saying there would be no increases in the major taxes, such as income tax and National Insurance.

But voters’ concerns that Labour might revert to type and look elsewhere to raise additional funds will not have been assuaged by party spokesman Patrick McFadden who declined to say whether other tax rises such as council tax might go up.

With Labour still holding a dominant lead in the opinion polls, its major challenge now is to survive the next 21 days of the campaign without committing any faux pas or blunders.

This approach might mean the campaign could be the dreariest in modern history but if it delivers victory for Labour, it won’t mind a jot.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer unveiling the party's manifesto (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer unveiling the party's manifesto (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Labour Party manifesto at a glance:

– The economy

Economic stability is the party’s headline pitch to voters with a pledge to cap corporation tax at its current rate of 25% to give businesses long-term certainty.

A national wealth fund will be established to “support growth” and deliver private and public investment, including £2.5 billion to rebuild the steel industry, £1.8 billion to upgrade ports and build supply chains, and £1.5 billion to the automotive industry.

Along with this, Labour has ruled out raising the rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT.

It has committed to charging VAT on private school fees, abolishing the non-dom tax status, and closing “loopholes” in the windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

In total, Labour plans to raise more than £7 billion in revenue from tax, its costings document confirms.

- Health

Labour’s manifesto proposes to shift the NHS “away from a model geared towards late diagnosis and treatment, to a model where more services are delivered in local communities”.

The party has pledged to cut waiting times with an extra 40,000 NHS appointments a week, using evenings and weekends to deliver this.

Cracking down on tax avoidance – which it said will raise £1.5 billion – and non-dom loopholes will pay for the additional appointments, the party said.

The party also said it will recruit an additional 8,500 new mental health staff and introduce a new “Fit For the Future” fund to double the number of CT and MRI scanners to catch cancer earlier.

A dentistry rescue plan is also included in the manifesto, with a focus on providing 700,000 more urgent dental appointments and recruit new dentists to areas in need.

– Energy

Great British Energy, a state-owned clean power company, would be established to cut bills and boost security, funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

Labour has said it will invest an extra £6.6 billion over the next Parliament to upgrade five million homes to cut energy bills.

Grants and low interest loans will be offered to homeowners through the “Warm Homes Plan” to invest in insulation and make improvements such as solar panels, batteries and low carbon heating.

– Immigration

The party has pledged to scrap the “wasteful” Rwanda scheme and use the savings to set up the Border Security Command, which would improve counter-terror powers and crack down on people smugglers.

Alongside this, a new returns enforcement unit, with 1,000 additional staff, will be established to fast-track the removal of asylum seekers, who do not have the right to be in the UK, to safe countries.

– Housing

Labour has promised to fund local authorities to improve the condition of local roads and break down planning barriers to ensure vital upgrades to infrastructure is delivered on time and to budget.

The party has vowed to reform planning rules in a bid to help build 1.5 million new homes on the “grey belt”.

– Transport

As part of its plan to help drivers, Labour has pledged to tackle the soaring cost of car insurance and fix one million potholes every year.

An overhaul of Britain’s railways is also promised in the manifesto.

– Education

Labour has set out plans to recruit 6,500 new teachers and create 3,000 new primary school-based nurseries. It has also pledged to have free breakfast clubs at every primary school.

The party’s industrial strategy will aim to guarantee that all 18 to 21-year-olds have training, apprenticeships or help to find work.

– Police

Labour has pledged to “return law and order to our streets”, with a new neighbourhood policing guarantee, which aims to restore patrols to town centres by recruiting thousands of new police officers, police and community support officers and special constables.

– Defence

The party has pledged its “unshakeable” commitment to Nato and committed to increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, in line with the Conservatives’ proposals.

Labour has not set a date for this but said it will undertake a Strategic Defence Review within the first year of government, to set out a path to the 2.5% increase.

The manifesto also pledges to bring in “Martyn’s Law” to help protect against terror attacks.

The law is named after Martyn Hett, the 29-year-old who was one of 22 people murdered in a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May 2017.

– Foreign policy

Labour has said it will keep backing Ukraine against Russia and support recognising a Palestinian state as part of a peace process in the Middle East.

– Peers

Labour would bring forward immediate legislation to abolish “indefensible” hereditary peers from the House of Lords, its manifesto says.

The document reads: “The next Labour government will therefore bring about an immediate modernisation, by introducing legislation to remove the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

“Labour will also introduce a mandatory retirement age. At the end of the parliament in which a member reaches 80 years of age, they will be required to retire from the House of Lords.”

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