Labour’s Otherworldly Manifesto

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Zionist Keir Starmes is quoted "I support Zionism without qualification." He's asked whether that means that he supports Zionism under all circumstances, whatever Zionists do.
Zionist Keir Starmes is quoted “I support Zionism without qualification.” He’s asked whether that means that he supports Zionism under all circumstances, whatever Zionists do.

Keir Starmer’s party is set to win by a landslide, but its ambitions are simultaneously unrealistic and uninspiring

AUTHOR: Keir Milburn

“Stability is Change!” This seemingly paradoxical, almost Orwellian statement is the principal slogan of the Labour Party’s current parliamentary election campaign. Labour leader Keir Starmer used the slogan at the party’s manifesto launch, and it provides a key prism for understanding the manifesto and its weaknesses.

There is little doubt that the UK electorate is in the mood for change. The widespread, off-stated consensus in the country is that nothing works. The National Health Service is so chronically underfunded that doctor’s appointments are difficult to get and long waiting lists proliferate. The trains are shockingly expensive but utterly unreliable.

The list could go on and on, but the image most frequently used to sum up the situation comes from the failure of the privatized water services. A lack of investment in infrastructure accompanied by the looting of those companies for huge shareholder dividend payouts has led to the near constant release of untreated sewage into the UK’s river system. It flows from there onto our beaches. The British are quite literally swimming in shit!

These problems are identified quite clearly in the Labour Party manifesto, but the diagnosis of their causes and therefore their solutions proves much less convincing. Labour may have a plan to win in July, but how it will govern in the interests of its voters is anybody’s guess.

The totality of Labour’s spending pledges amounts to just 0.2 percent of GDP, smaller even than the Conservative pledges of 0.8 percent and dwarfed by the previous two Labour manifestos, which promised 2.1 percent and 3.2 percent respectively. Even the pro-market Institute for Fiscal Studies called Labour’s plans “tiny, going on trivial”.

These policies do not point to stability, not least because they do not address the 18 billion pounds of government spending cuts that the Conservatives have already baked into the government budget going forward. The effects of implementing such cuts on government services — which have already suffered so badly under 14 years of severe austerity — makes it hard to imagine that Labour will stick to this commitment. It seems likely that money will be found to prevent the worst of these cuts through technical changes in accounting between the government and the notionally independent Bank of England.

Beyond this paddling, however, the need for investment in the UK is huge. Both public and private investment in the country has collapsed since 2008. It has the lowest business investment in the G7 and ranks just twenty-eighth out of the 31 OECD countries. In the face of this, Labour, hamstrung by self-imposed fiscal rules on bringing down government debt and pledges not to raise the main forms of taxation, are promising so little investment that their plans seem unbelievable.

Until last February, Labour was promising to immediately strengthen workers’ rights through a New Deal for Workers, and to spend 28 billion pounds per year to decarbonize the economy through its Green Prosperity Plan. The Labour Party’s current openness to corporate funding and lobbying, including the imposition of over 30 parliamentary candidates with corporate lobbying backgrounds, has led to a dramatic watering down of these pledges. The Green Prosperity Plan has been reduced to just 3.5 billion pounds, but the form that spending will take reveals another logic or worldview which may come to the fore as crises mount.

The word “securonomics”, an ugly portmanteau favoured by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, makes an appearance in the manifesto, introducing the idea that public investment should support and de-risk private investment in strategically key sectors. The chief vehicle for this will be a National Wealth Fund “capitalised with £7.3 billion over the course of the next parliament”. What precisely this will look like has yet to be determined, but The National Wealth Fund “will have a target of attracting three pounds of private investment for every one pound of public investment”. This is an explicit return to and acceleration of the kind of public-private partnerships that lost legitimacy in the UK during the fallout from the disastrous Public Finance Initiative under New Labour.

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How the UK’s social security system stopped tackling poverty

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Sharon Wright, University of Glasgow

The cost of living is the most important issue for many voters this election. It’s no surprise why. In 2022, nearly 4 million people in the UK experienced destitution, meaning they could not meet their basic physical needs such as having enough to eat and staying warm.

The UK’s social security system is failing in its core purpose to prevent poverty. And yet the Conservatives have promised more crackdowns on welfare, with the prime minister linking this with his pledge to lower taxes.

When the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government came to power in 2010, they inherited a social security system in radically better shape than it is now. What happened?

During the previous Labour governments (1997-2010), 2.4 million people were lifted out of poverty, including 700,000 children. This was done during favourable economic conditions, but was also the result of progressive social security measures such as tax credits and child benefits.

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People received working-age benefit payments for different needs: jobseeker’s allowance, income support for single parents and incapacity benefit for long-term illness and disability. Housing benefit went directly to landlords to cover claimants’ rent.

Enter the global financial crisis. The Conservative-led government’s response was austerity cuts: cutting back on welfare to tackle the budget deficit.

Lowering the value of benefits is the biggest austerity cut to have affected incomes. In 2010, the government switched from uprating the value of benefits each year in line with the retail price index to using a different measure of inflation, the consumer price index, instead. This is usually lower and effectively makes payments worth less.

This was expected to save the government around £6 billion pounds a year. In 2012, the value of benefits was capped to increase at 1% while inflation was forecast at 5.2%.

Benefit sanctions and caps

In 2012, the government introduced a new system of tougher rules and sanctions on people receiving benefits. Conservative politicians said this would end “the ‘something for nothing’ culture”, but the change has had lasting negative effects.

Benefit sanctions were always part of the system, but became extreme in 2012. If, for example, someone misses one Jobcentre appointment their benefit could be reduced or removed for 28 days.

Woman looking worried and tired sat by window with toddler
Many people receiving benefits have been penalised with sanctions. Bricolage/Shutterstock

Nearly a quarter of all jobseeker’s allowance claimants were sanctioned between 2010 and 2015. Research shows that sanctions have “profoundly negative outcomes”, including on people’s mental health.

Other cuts to incomes followed the Welfare Reform Act 2012. The “bedroom tax” penalised social housing tenants who had “extra” bedrooms. The idea was to reduce renters’ housing benefit so they would downsize to a smaller home. However long-term housing shortages mean that smaller properties are rarely available.

In 2013, the household benefit cap was introduced to limit the maximum amount a family could receive in benefits payments. It had the most impact on families with children and those with high rents.

Universal credit

Universal credit, introduced in 2013, was billed as the biggest shake-up of benefits in 70 years. It promised to make work pay and simplify the system. It replaced separate tax credit, unemployment, lone parent, disability and housing payments with a single payment.

Research from think tank the Resolution Foundation suggests that universal credit provides more support for working people who rent their homes than the previous system. But disabled people who cannot work are likely to be much worse off than under the old system.

There are other problems with universal credit. Unlike under the previous system that gave housing benefit straight to landlords, claimants have to pay their rent from a pot of money provided by the government that is almost certainly too small to cover all their costs.

The first universal credit payment takes around five weeks to arrive, meaning people may fall into rent arrears. A result is that some landlords take legal action to evict those receiving universal credit.

Further cuts

In 2015, the Conservatives abandoned targets set by Labour to reduce child poverty. Then in 2016, new legislation slashed spending again. Benefits were frozen for four years.

The two-child limit was applied to tax credits and universal credit in 2017 to remove income for third or subsequent children. Large families faced increased poverty as a result.

In 2020, the pandemic hit. Universal credit and tax credits were raised by £20 per week, but this ended in late 2021. The cost of living crisis has since widened the gap between benefits and prices.

Today, the value of universal credit falls £890 per month short of the cost of living for single people over 25. This is because of the changes to uprating and the benefit freeze.

In Feburary 2024, charity the Trussell Trust published research showing that over half of people on universal credit had run out of money for food in the previous month.

What can the next government do?

The next UK government must make emergency repairs to social security to halt harrowing declines in health and life expectancy. This should ensure a minimum acceptable standard of living, including restoring the value of benefits such as universal credit to cover the costs of living.

Since 71% of children living in poverty are in working families, employers should be required to pay the real living wage. In-work universal credit also needs to top up wages enough to make work pay.

Repairing the social safety net is an enormous challenge, but public support for it has been on the rise for years. In 2010, many people thought benefit claimants didn’t deserve any help. But from 2015 there has been a growing preference to help people receiving benefits.

Sharon Wright, Professor of Social Policy, University of Glasgow

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingHow the UK’s social security system stopped tackling poverty

Labour and Tories would ‘both leave NHS worse off than under austerity’

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NHS emblem

Analysis by leading experts the Nuffield Trust reveals that main parties’ manifestos would squeeze health spending

Labour and the Conservatives would both leave the NHS with lower spending increases than during the years of Tory austerity, according to an independent analysis of their manifestos by a leading health thinktank.

The assessment by the respected Nuffield Trust of the costed NHS policies of both parties, announced in their manifestos last week, says the level of funding increases would leave them struggling to pay existing staff costs, let alone the bill for massive planned increases in doctors, nurses and other staff in the long-term workforce plan agreed last year.

The Nuffield Trust said that “the manifestos imply increases [in annual funding for the NHS] between 2024-25 and 2028-29 of 1.5% each year for the Liberal Democrats, 0.9% for the Conservatives and 1.1% for Labour.

“Both Conservative and Labour proposals would represent a lower level of funding increase than the period of ‘austerity’ between 2010-11 and 2014-15.

“This would be an unprecedented slowdown in NHS finances and it is inconceivable that it would accompany the dramatic recovery all are promising. This slowdown follows three years of particularly constrained finances.”

The trust added that the planned funding increases “would make the next few years the tightest period of funding in NHS history”.

Sally Gainsbury, senior policy ­analyst at the Nuffield Trust and a leading authority on NHS funding, said: “They will struggle to be able to pay the existing staff, let alone the additional staff set out in the workforce plan. It’s completely unrealistic.”

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Andrew Feinstein: what’s wrong with the Labour manifesto

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Andrew Feinstein is challenging Keir Starmer by standing as the independent candidate for Holborn & St Pancras.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer at the Mornflake Stadium, home to Crewe Alexandra while on the General Election campaign trail, June 13, 2024

From muzzling Palestinian rights to embracing austerity and outsourcing the NHS, Labour’s ‘tough choices’ always seem to hurt normal people while sparing wealthy donors — that’s why I am running to unseat Keir Starmer on July 4

…[T]he Labour Party launched its election manifesto — a dispiriting Thatcherite promise to continue endless austerity, soaring inequality and forever wars.

I announced my bid to become the independent MP for Holborn and St Pancras three weeks ago. Then, I was convinced that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party would offer little to improve the lives of this constituency’s amazing and diverse communities, or meaningfully restrain Israel’s genocide of Gaza. Having read this manifesto, I am more convinced than ever.

Starmer’s election campaign has traded on a series of stock phrases, all of which are profoundly misleading. Starmer promises to bring about “change,” but repeats tired economic shibboleths of the George Osborne variety.

He also claims to have remade the party “in the service of the working people.” In fact, the party is financially reliant on donations from big business and billionaires and its MPs rake in donations from the private-sector companies who circle the NHS.

The party’s long-feted New Deal for Working People is so disappointing that the party’s largest affiliated union, Unite, has refused to endorse the Labour Party manifesto.

But the most galling of all of the current Starmerisms is his invocation of “tough choices.” Starmer deploys the line to explain why the country cannot afford to pull half a million children out of poverty by ending the two-child benefit cap: a decision now confirmed by the manifesto.

Liz Truss’s mini-Budget, Starmer sadly explains, has made it impossible for the sixth-richest country in human history to lift children out of poverty at a cost little under £2 billion a year, a relatively measly sum in a country with a GDP of £2,274 trillion.

As the Labour Party manifesto makes clear, there have been plenty of hard choices made by the party — but all of them to the detriment of the poor and to the benefit of the mega-rich and big business.

Starmer makes the “tough choice” not to substantially increase funding the NHS, to end child poverty or reverse the swingeing cuts of the last decade; but only because he fails to make the “tough choice” to tax billionaires marginally more, even though the 10 richest people in the country are now richer than they have ever been.

I’m especially angry that the Labour Party, like the Tories, has promised to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP: a real-term £7bn a year increase by 2029. This is almost double the entire £4.7bn a year the party intends to spend on its Green Prosperity Plan to tackle the imminent existential threat of climate change.

What sort of security does this really buy? The party’s offer on Palestine is, frankly, an outrage; the manifesto speaking out of both sides of its mouth. So while it recognises that “Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people,” it then makes Palestinian statehood contingent on a meaningless word salad.

“We are committed to recognising a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign state.”

So much for an inalienable right, which requires Israel to feel “safe” before Palestinians get statehood — just as Israeli leaders claim that Israel will only feel safe when Gaza is cleansed of its citizens because there are “no uninvolved.”

This offer significantly dilutes the party’s previous commitment to recognising Palestinian statehood on the first day of government — something first brought in by Ed Miliband, appearing in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos. If there was any hope that Labour would be any better than the Tories on Gaza once in power, this should dispel it once and for all.

Both the Lib Dems and the Green Party, by comparison, have committed to immediately recognising Palestine. The Labour Party now joins the ignominious company of the Tories and Reform in refusing to do so.

Continue ReadingAndrew Feinstein: what’s wrong with the Labour manifesto

Everything you need know about where the political parties stand on the NHS

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NHS emblem

Dr Sally Ruane looks in depth at what’s being offered for the NHS at the general election

Although the NHS remains a key issue for voters, a clear picture of what parties will offer to resolve the current crisis have not yet been published.

Both Labour and Conservatives promise a recruitment drive through expanded training places (Conservatives plan roughly a third increase to10,000 medical and 40,000 nurse training places by 2028) and the use of alternative routes into the professions, including apprenticeships. More radical are changes in the workforce mix to include new roles with typically, less trained, lower paid staff (such as Medical Associate Professionals) to supplement – or even replace – more highly trained professionals.

The Conservatives promise an extra 12,500 doctors and nurses by 2028. Labour promise 8,500 new mental health staff, double the number of district nurses and training 5,000 more health visitors. The Lib Dems are promising to recruit 8,000 more GPs, although recruiting extra GPs is much easier than securing an increase of full-time equivalent GPs especially given retention problems. Reform UK believe a zero basic rate income tax for frontline health and social care staff will improve retention and attract others back into the service.

What isn’t clear is whether the resources needed to implement much needed expansion will be in place. The government is spending £5bn less on health in England than promised in 2019 and now offering only very small increases in day-to-day funding. £730m per year has been promised to fund additional mental health services, paid for out of cuts to other services, in order to keep more people in work.

Faced with the fact the NHS cannot be restored without significant additional funding, Starmer insists that the NHS “is always better funded under Labour”. However, Labour has not so far added substance by telling people what the improved level of funding will be. Having supported cuts in National Insurance Contributions, Labour are trying to find revenues for health through taxing the non-domiciled and tackling tax avoidance. Welcome though these may be, they will not raise the funds needed to restore the NHS. With the Conservatives and Labour not differing enormously on their tax policies and fiscal rules, voters will be sceptical that the necessary expansion in NHS capacity will be delivered.

The Green Party is the first to make a bold spending pledge. Through requiring “the very richest” to pay more tax, it promises over £50bn of extra spending a year by 2030 on health and social care with a further £20bn for capital investment. Labour has yet to commit itself on the Conservative’s hospital building plan to build “40 new hospitals by 2030” which has not gone ahead and lacks sufficient funding.

The lying EU bus promoting money for the NHS when all the anti-EU shites are anti-NHS Neo-Liberal shites.
That’s a funny-looking bus, it’s Boris’s lying anti-EU bus promoting money for the NHS when all the anti-EU shites are anti-NHS Neo-Liberal shites.
Continue ReadingEverything you need know about where the political parties stand on the NHS