Labour off to remarkable start

Photo: Labour Party

Labour has got off to a flying start since the general election was launched last week. Corbyn launched its campaign the very next day in Battersea Town Hall in front of a hugely enthusiastic audience. 

On Saturday, Corbyn spoke at three packed rallies – in North and South Swindon, and then in Bristol – consciously focusing on marginal seats. And it wasn’t just the Labour leader who was pulling in the crowds – a remarkable 400 canvassers turned out the same day to support Faiza Shaheen’s attempt to unseat Ian Duncan-Smith in Chingford and Woodford Green.

All this has thrown the Johnson campaign on to the back foot – it does not yet even have a launch date.

The Sunday Times recorded a 6-point increase for Labour in a YouGov poll after just 3 days of the campaign.

Momentum has raised over £250,000 in just six days in a record fundraising drive and has urged members to take a week off work to help its campaign in the run-up to the general election. The group raised £255,000 from 10,000 individual donations and has nearly equalled the £260,000 it raised during the whole general election in 2017. 

Momentum’s national coordinator, Laura Parker, said the level of fundraising showed that the “same people-powered movement” from 2017 “is back, bigger and more dedicated than ever”. Labour itself has already received £2m in donations in the first two quarters of this year.

At the same time, it is clear that Labour is going into this campaign with a manifesto well to the left of 2017. It will include a 500 billion investment programme with the nationalisation of Royal Mail, rail, and energy supply plus water and sewerage companies.

It will include a massive public-sector housebuilding programme, large-scale investment in public services, new rights for workers and trade unions as well as the reintroduction of sectoral collective bargaining. It will also include an immediate 10 per cent rise in the minimum wage, applicable from 16 years olds, free tuition fees for students,an end to Universal Credit, and increases in pensions and social benefits. 

The defence of the NHS is central to the campaign and the manifesto will include an entirely new level of investment in the NHS, the end of privatisation and outsourcing, and free care for the elderly. Tory protests that Corbyn is politicising the NHS could hardly ring more hollow since it clearly is a central political issue. In any case the Tories themselves have been politicising it for years. 

The manifesto will also include the most radical challenge to climate change ever proposed by a major political party with a target of net zero emissions by 2030, regulations to ensure that all new homes are carbon neutral, a 77 billion programme of retrofitting the homes of low-income families with insolation and carbon neutral heating system. It also includes a big reduction in working hours with a 4-day week within 10 years, which is a key component for  a sustainable economy.

John McDonnell has also pointed towards a strengthening of Labour’s position on airport expansion. According to Daily Telegraph, he has ruled out a third runway at Heathrow, as being against Labour’s red lines, raised doubts over plans to increase capacity at Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, and East Midlands airports. The criteria that will be applied, he said, will be the ‘survival of our planet’. This is completely new language and it is very welcome.

After over two years of debate, Labour has a position on Brexit that already stands up well in the campaign. It is a proposition that puts Labour in the position of being the only major party in the election pledging a second referendum on Brexit. In fact, the only way to get a second referendum now is to vote Labour. Johnson, if he won, would immediately introduce his free market proposal that would open the door to a hard-right deal with Trump. If the LibDems won, they would take the deeply undemocratic and divisive step of revoking Article 50 without a referendum.

Labour, on winning office, would seek to get the best deal they could get from the EU – essentially a soft Brexit with a customs union – which would then be put to a referendum along with a Remain option. The decision on Labour’s attitude to this would be decided at a one-day Labour Party conference in advance of the referendum. It’s central proposition, however, is to let the people decide, which would be on a dramatically more informed basis than in 2016, and to respect the outcome of this second referendum. To argue, as its opponents do, that this is complicated does not make sense. The alternative would be to put Johnson’s deal as the alternative, which would be a big mistake.

It is time now for the entire left to get behind the Corbyn campaign. There will never be a better chance. We have the real possibility of electing a radical Red-Green Labour government – as everyone is saying – just before Christmas!

Alan Davies, 5 November 2019

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2 Comments on Labour off to remarkable start

  1. Labour’s achilles heel remains Scotland, a country where it was once dominant for decades especially during the Thatcher/Major Tory period. But it is now reduced to at best third place and possibly lower.
    Labour stands four-square against Scottish independence, despite the majority support for this among the Scottish left and increasing support from among Scotland’s young and working class people. The decision to “accept” a second independence referendum AFTER the Scottish Parliament elections of May 2021 is a step forward, but misses the fundamental point that it is the right of Scottish people to decide whether to have a referendum – the principle of self-determination – not the parliament in Westminster. This point is being hammered away day in and out by the SNP and Scottish Labour will struggle to retain its paltry six seats.
    Labour’s campaign may seem left wing in England, but in Scotland many of its policies are already implemented by an SNP government (and Scottish Labour’s record of privatisation while it was in office up to 2007 still looms large).
    Labour also supports a replacement for the Trident nuclear missiles based on the Clyde, at a cost of £200billion and opposed by the vast majority of Scottish people; again a point hammered away by the SNP.
    And while Labour’s proposals for another EU referendum may be a welcome shift, it doesn’t cut much ice in Scotland where a large majority are against Brexit – what happens if Scotland again votes to remain while the UK as a whole votes to leave the EU?

  2. I agree with Mike about Labour’s wekaness on Scottish self-determination. SR’s coverage of Labour’s stance on migration also needs to be sharper and more critical. Even The Guardian has reported that Labour activists are calling for Labour’s landmark conference policy on migration to be in included the manifesto. I hope it is, but I won’t hold my breath.

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