The plan includes important and popular demands to end to the public sector pay cap, repeal the Tories’ Trade Union Act, ban zero-hour contracts, introduce four new bank holidays, and raise the minimum wage to £10.
Elsewhere, Corbyn has also pledged to find £3billion to plug the shortfall in school funding; increase pay for overworked NHS staff as well as scrapping tuition fees for student nurses and midwives, which had previously been covered by bursaries; and to work toward solving the housing crisis by building half a million council houses by 2020.
These are vote-winning policies, which could strike a mortal blow against the Tory government.
But how this program would be funded remains unclear. Corbyn has identified the key issues faced by the working class (i.e. poverty, underemployment, privatisation, etc.), but his program could be sharper in its treatment of parasitic big business.
Corbyn has said that a Labour government would reverse the Tories’ cuts to the top rate of tax on investment gains. At a conservative estimate, this would generate around £2billion a year.
He has also pledged to introduce a 20:1 maximum pay ratio in the public sector.
These are significant steps in the right direction, but in themselves they do not go far enough in ending the “rigged economy” – a fact which has not gone unnoticed in the Tory press.
To answer this, Corbyn should make the billions of pounds lost every year to corporate tax avoidance one of the centrepieces of his election campaign! Indeed, just a few weeks before the election was announced, John McDonnell stated:
“Labour will pour the disinfectant of sunlight on large company accounts, helping close down the loopholes and the scams that the tax dodgers rely on.
“The Tories are running a rigged economy for the super-rich and giant corporate tax dodgers. Only Labour will stand up for workers and small businesses to make our tax system fair and our public services like education and the NHS protected.”
This program needs to be restated and then shouted from the rooftops, both by the Labour leadership as well as by Labour’s 500,000+ members.
Coming out in support of nationalising the railways, water companies, and other utilities would also help to strengthen Corbyn’s hand enormously. According to a 2015 Yougov poll, 58% of the public would support these policies with only 17% opposed and 25% undecided.
The public have also expressed consistent support for the renationalisation of Royal Mail.
Such nationalisations need not be expensive to carry out either. Compensation to the industry tycoons need only be paid on the basis of proven need – so new yachts do not count!
Who will determine Labour’s manifesto?
Corbyn says that the financing of his program of social investment will fleshed out in Labour’s yet-to-be-published election manifesto – the content of which will be debated on May 11.
The preliminary manifesto is currently being drawn up by Andrew Fisher, a close political advisor to Corbyn. This is good news. But it is possible that, on May 11, many of the more radical proposals will be watered down by the Blairite-controlled National Executive Committee (NEC).
This could be an obstacle to getting Labour elected, and ultimately in determining the fate of Corbyn’s position within the Party.
If Corbyn campaigns on a bold socialist program he could win. If such a program is given a mandate in the general election, the Blairites would not have a leg left to stand on.
But if Corbyn loses on a weak program, the Blairites would likely claim that he was too left wing and seek to remove him. If he wins on a weak program (unlikely though it is), the Labour right will claim a victory for their own policies.
The only way Corbyn can win a decisive victory is to campaign on clear socialist policies which, after the election, will provide a mandate to democratically remove the Blairite MPs and councillors who actively oppose the views of the membership.
Labour’s 20-point plan points out that
“FTSE 100 CEOs are now paid 183 times the wage of the average UK worker, and Britain’s wages are the most unequal in Europe.”
This quote, short though it is, lays bare the class conflict which sits at the gangrenous heart of capitalist society.
To address this problem, therefore, it is paramount that Corbyn wins this general election on a class basis – with a program which protects the rights of ordinary workers whilst challenging those of the super-rich!
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