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Opinion

The Labour Manifesto for the forthcoming election is remarkable in its complete lack of ambition

15 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Beth Winter. Photo Aaron Chown PA Wire/PA Images

Beth Winter

The 2019 Labour Manifesto was an inspiration, and I am immensely proud to have stood on it.

For the first time in my life here was a manifesto offering a transformative vision to create a fairer, more equal, greener, socialist society for all based on equality, dignity and social justice, – in my home, Cynon Valley, and across Cymru.

Boris Johnson’s victory was a devastating blow to me, and to socialists everywhere.

Since that election we’ve suffered almost five more years of a Tory UK government. The result is a surprise to no-one; increasing levels of inequality and poverty, especially child poverty; an acceleration in the climate crisis; crumbling public services; the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory; living standards collapsing.

We must get the Tories out. And if the pollsters are to be believed this will happen at the forthcoming UK General Election when, after 14 years, the Labour Party will take the reigns of power.

Will this mean that socialist vision becoming a reality? The Labour Party manifesto published yesterday sadly suggests not.

Lack of ambition

The manifesto does contain some welcome proposals: the New Deal for Working People strengthening workers’ rights and conditions; a National Wealth Fund to invest in jobs for the future; public ownership of railways; reforming non-dom status; removing tax breaks for private schools; a Hillsborough law, and a commitment to end the injustice of the mineworkers pension scheme.

But in the face of multiple, complex crises, this document is remarkable in its complete lack of ambition.

Economic and environmental prosperity and sustainability

The current neoliberal orthodoxy is failing to deliver for Cymru. The cost-of-living crisis is widening economic inequality, poverty is increasing, and life expectancy is falling.

At the same time, we are witnessing the acceleration of the climate crisis which threatens the very future of our planet as we know it.

These two – economy and climate – are inextricably linked and without transformative change they pose an existential threat to our future.

We need large scale investment to restore our public services, create jobs and build the green industries of the future. That cannot happen within the fiscal straightjacket Labour are putting on themselves.

The Labour Party manifesto describes its economic philosophy as ‘securonomics’ which commits to retaining ‘strong fiscal rules’ and ‘tough spending rules’, albeit with some ‘prudent investment’ to deliver sustained economic growth and wealth creation.

We must fight back against this harmful myth that there is ‘no money left’. Accepting this myth has led to 14 years of austerity, and over 300,000 excess deaths.

Continuing to accept it will only lead to further austerity. The Labour Manifesto will lead to £19bn of cuts, according to the IFS. That is totally unnecessary.

Prosperity Without Growth

We need a fundamental shift in the way ‘economic progress’ is defined and measured. It requires ditching our obsession with GDP growth and replacing it with a new economic paradigm, fit for the 21st century, that focuses on sustainable improvement in the health, wellbeing and prosperity of people and the planet, today and tomorrow.

This is not a new idea, and UK Labour can learn a lot from the Labour-led Welsh Government.

It’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Act reframes prosperity so that it does not include GDP and instead focuses upon delivering healthier, more equal, more interesting, more innovative policies and actions; with higher levels of wellbeing and more environmental sustainability.

Tackling poverty and inequality /Redistribution of wealth and power

At the heart of the 2017 and 2019 manifestoes was redistribution. Disgracefully, the word redistribution is not mentioned once in the 2024 manifesto.

It is past time the wealthiest in our society contributed their fair share, and wealth taxes on ‘the few’ offer tremendous untapped potential to rebuild Britain for ‘the many’.

The tax changes announced by Labour amount to around £7bn in extra revenue and has already been set aside for commendable spending pledges included in the manifesto.

Cymru

That will result in around an additional £195m to the Welsh government by 2028-29.

That might sound a lot, but to put it into context, Welsh Government needs ~£500m from UK Government to make dangerous coal tips safe. Welsh Government are £1bn worse off since the end of EU funding owed (despite promises of not a penny less) and £4bn should be coming our way due to HS2 Barnett consequentials.

£195m is a drop in the ocean compared to what is required in order to address the extreme levels of poverty, inequality and injustice that exists here in Cymru.

The required redistribution of wealth must be accompanied by a transfer of power. Talk of ‘exploring’ further devolution insults the policy of Welsh Government, and the work done by the Constitutional Commission established by Welsh Government.

“Change”

People want and deserve transformative change that will end poverty and inequality and suffering and provide safety for future generations. In the sixth richest nation in the world, this is achievable, it just needs political bravery.

If politics continues to fail to deliver that, the alternative should terrify us all.

The far-right are ascendant, not just here in the UK but across the Western world, peddling their politics of hate, and scapegoating migrants and social security recipients for the problems caused by neoliberalism.

Keir Starmer has the power to change that, but he needs to be bold.

Now is the time for progressive forces in Cymru to work together to develop socialist policies and actions that give people hope and a vision for a kinder, more equal, greener and tolerant society.

It can be done, and once people are presented with that alternative, they will see that they have nothing to lose – they have a world to win.

Beth Winter was most recently the Labour MP for Cynon Valley, and left the Commons on 30 May 2024.


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John Ellis
John Ellis
29 days ago

‘… if the pollsters are to be believed this will happen at the forthcoming UK General Election when, after 14 years, the Labour Party will take the reigns [sic] of power. Will this mean that socialist vision becoming a reality? The Labour Party manifesto published yesterday sadly suggests not.’ Well, Labour tried getting elected on a ‘socialist vision’ in 2017 and again in 2019, and the result was … well, disappointing. So, given that politics is absolutely and essentially about getting your party voted into office, it’s surely not wholly surprising that in the Starmer era Labour’s sought to make… Read more »

Last edited 29 days ago by John Ellis
Annibendod
Annibendod
29 days ago

There is so much on which I agree with Beth and much of her analysis is on the money. For example, the endless drive for economic growth which burns through our environmental capital at the expense of the Earth’s living systems must end. The fact that this environmental capital and our labour is turned into wealth and assets that are owned and enjoyed, for the most part, by the few and not the many is an absolute outrage. Further, that Starmer’s Labour does not present a viable solution to these difficult problems is not in question. So far, entirely on… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
29 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Excellent comment that nails it in one.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
29 days ago

Lack of ambition…matches the electorate, judging by the last half generation…

Mawkernewek
29 days ago

She could have also mentioned Lords reform which sounds like it will be kicked into the long grass again. According to the manifesto the 72 remaining hereditary peers will go, which I think Labour promised many years ago.
They also say they are going to introduce a mandatory retirement age, which actually makes it sound more like they are going to be making room to appoint lots of new peers rather than it being an interim measure before replacing it with an elected second chamber.

Annibendod
Annibendod
29 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Labour kept telling us, wait till you see Gordon Brown’s report … sheesh, where do I start! Apparently his original proposal was to reform the UK as a Federal structure. In that context, the Lords was to become a parliament of the Nations and regions. That idea was shut down and they went with a strangely disembodied reformed Lords as a surviving policy. Then they decided they didn’t like that either and shut that down too.

Atrocious.

Mawkernewek
29 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

I’m sceptical if I hear this “Nations and regions” phrase. It sounds to me like its more of a plan to reduce the minority nations to the status of regions.

Annibendod
Annibendod
29 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Likewise. Even Brown’s original proposals are insufficient IMHO but they were at least an improvement on the status quo or anything else that’s on offer from the LabCon constitutional consensus.

Last edited 29 days ago by Annibendod
Crom
Crom
29 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Why the enthusiasm for an elected second chamber? We have an elected first chamber and that is not exactly a good advertisement for the system.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
29 days ago

Analysis of the Labour manifesto shows us Labour have drifted to the right and many social policies seemed to have been ditched. In the 7 party debates Plaid, the SNP, the LibDems and certainly the Greens appeared far more to the left than Labour. Yes, we need change but it will not come from this Labour government. If you are a floating voter reading this and want more substantial change – vote Plaid Cymru.

Ron Puma
Ron Puma
29 days ago
Reply to  Steve A Duggan

Radical policies don’t get parties elected under FPTP. That’s why nothing really changes.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
29 days ago

Union Flag waving UK Labour’s manifesto is basically copy & paste Tory policies and to continue treating Wales and Welsh devolution with utter contempt. It’s as you were Wales. No more devolution. Go to the end of the queue where you belong. England & Westminster power is our main priority.

Daniel Pitt
Daniel Pitt
28 days ago

Beth would be a wonderful addition to the growing Welsh indy movement. She has heart, she has experience, and she really does care about forgotten communities. I’d love to see her in the Senedd.

Adrian
Adrian
28 days ago

Labour moaning about Labour: this’ll be the shape of things to come. Maybe, Beth, you should worry less about the fictitious climate catastrophe and more about child poverty, the state of the NHS and Welsh school children being taught the ‘gender identity’ fairy tale as if it’s fact. Also, if Boris Johnson’s tenure was such a disaster then why do we have our own version of the clown as First Minister right now?

Ron Puma
Ron Puma
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

Are you ok?

Ron Puma
Ron Puma
28 days ago

With a proper voting system both main parties can split so they offer voters a real choice. Then the voters can decide – and not party factions – which policies and politics dominate the agenda by deciding the relative weight of each in a coalition.

John Brooks
John Brooks
27 days ago

It is looking likely that Starmer’s Labour will receive fewer votes and maybe a smaller percentage vote share than Corbyn’s 2017 Labour. Albeit with mote seats due to the vagaries of FPTP. I have bookmarked the 2017 figures and I look forward to comparing them to 2024.

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