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Labour’s manifesto: Sober plan or ‘Captain Cautious’?

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Sir Keir Starmer has launched the Labour Party’s manifesto for the General Election at an event at the Co-Operative Group’s headquarters in Manchester.

– What does the manifesto mean for the campaign?

With a commanding poll lead and little change in the three weeks of the campaign so far, Labour will be hoping its manifesto launch simply cements the party’s current position.

To that end, the manifesto offered few major surprises. Most of the policies, and all of the major ones, had already been announced either during the campaign or before it.

That could help Sir Keir Starmer in his effort to portray himself as a sober, serious party ready for government, with the Labour leader himself on Thursday saying he was not standing to lead a “circus” after it was suggested he was being “Captain Cautious”.

But it is also unlikely to dispel questions about what a Labour government would mean for taxation, with opponents instantly seizing on analysis suggesting the party’s plans would see the overall tax burden reach its highest level ever.

That analysis is rejected by the party, with a spokesman saying Labour’s plans would mean higher growth and thus a lower proportion of tax to GDP.

– What are Labour’s key points from the manifesto?

The overall focus of the manifesto is on growth, with 4,500 words dedicated to economic stability and working with industry to get Britain’s economy growing again.

Key to those plans is reform of the planning system, both to deliver 1.5 million new homes but also to speed up delivery of the infrastructure needed to drive growth and secure investment.

Labour has vowed to invest in renewable energy (Tom Leese/PA)
Labour has vowed to invest in renewable energy (Tom Leese/PA)

There is also a considerable section on green policies, with a commitment to achieving clean power by 2030 and establishing GB Energy to invest in renewable energy projects.

Labour’s six “first steps” feature heavily, as does a pledge to cut net migration and bring in constitutional reforms including votes for 16-17-year-olds and removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

– What is not in the manifesto?

Social care does feature in the manifesto, but there is little in the way of detail about how Labour would reform the system, only a commitment to “build consensus for the longer-term reform needed to create a sustainable National Care Service”.

Despite suggestions Labour could commit to £12 per hour wages for the sector, there was no set figure for social care wages and, crucially, no money in the manifesto’s costings for social care.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

There was also no mention of assisted dying, after Sir Keir said in March he would allow a vote on the issue if Labour came to power.

– What are others saying about Labour’s manifesto?

The Conservatives have focused on tax, with Treasury Chief Secretary Laura Trott saying the manifesto contained “only tax rises, no tax cuts” and would see “the tax burden in this country will rise to levels never seen before”.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the tax hikes and spending promises were “trivial” and would still involve the cuts to investment spending and unprotected departments included in current plans.

The Resolution Foundation made similar comments, with its interim chief executive Mike Brewer saying Labour’s cautious approach “sets the scene for a parliament of tax rises and spending cuts for unprotected departments.

“Even then, a modest dose of bad economic news could force a fresh round of tough fiscal choices if the debt rule is to be met.”

Former Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls warned the manifesto is “boxing Labour in”.

“It will be seen as a straitjacket, with tough fiscal rules and limits on borrowing, big commitments not to raise income tax or VAT or national insurance,” he told his Political Currency podcast.

“This manifesto makes the first year in government for Labour very difficult.”

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