The Labour manifesto. Where else to start? One suspects a former Party insider bent on revenge of some sort will release a tell-all account of the events of the 10th and 11th of May 2017 one day but, for now, I will simply do my best.
The week started with Labour holding a series of policy announcements in the leadup to the (planned) release of the Party’s manifesto next week. The introduction of a national education service, investment to reduce class sizes, new regulations on food advertising to combat childhood obesity: these were all measures designed to promote Labour as a party of substance during a campaign in which the Prime Minister has revealed very little policy detail to date.
The announcements were largely successful in shifting the dial from the focus on Labour’s performance in last week’s local elections (they did terribly, in case you’d missed it), though LBC presenter Nick Ferrari once again sunk his teeth into a member of Labour’s top team, with shadow education secretary Angela Raymer unable to explain the number of children who would benefit from the class size reduction.
Political news, comment and gossip of the past few weeks has now been consigned to the dustbin of history with the release of the Labour Party manifesto for 2017. The document was leaked to the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror after my bedtime on Wednesday night, but caused quite the media frenzy, with print and broadcasting outlets covering little else since.
At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, the contents of the manifesto received mixed reviews. Labour proposals to renationalise Royal Mail; return the energy sector and Britain’s rail system to much greater public control; to spend billions more on the NHS and education; to ban fracking and employment tribunal fees and scrap the bedroom tax; to guarantee the rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK; and to abolish university tuition fees certainly set the Party in contrast to the Conservatives.
The manifesto is undoubtedly progressive, but not definitively radical when compared to past efforts. While the more conservative papers, including the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and George Osborne’s Evening Standard said the programme of policies would take Britain back to the Seventies, the BBC and Guardian felt it was all more Ed Miliband than Michael Foot. Personally, I’m yet to be convinced the Seventies was as bad a decade as we’re being led to believe, but I wasn’t there, so what would I know?
The real problem for Labour was the manner in which its manifesto came to light. Accusations were flying from all sides of the Party on Thursday, with the perpetrator of the leak as yet unknown. Was it sabotage from the right of the Party? A pre-emptive strike from Corbyn’s team so it has someone or something to blame for the predicted whitewash on 8 June? The Independent speculated that the Labour leader may have even leaked the document himself! Whoever the culprit, the leak allowed political journalists and broadcasters to focus on another Labour blunder, and did nothing to close the so-called ‘credibility gap’ with Theresa May’s Conservatives.
On the other hand, the platform of policies has put pressure on the Prime Minister to respond, and she will perhaps be slightly irked that the local elections honeymoon hasn’t come to fruition. Theresa May has come under fire this week for lacking substance, allegedly dictating questions from the media, and failing to adequately respond to the NHS staffing crisis. Still, I suspect an extremely healthy poll lead and rumoured warm sunny spells will help her enjoy the weekend quite nicely.