From the polls taken in the UK a few hours ago, the Conservatives are in for an historic fourth consecutive term in Parliament.
Just six months ago the Conservatives were in total disarray, with their Prime Minister regularly humiliated in Europe and in the UK Parliament. Labour should have been able to best a government that was falling apart and that had pulled Parliament into total paralysis for several years in a row.
Rather than get to the role of leadership, it’s worth looking for a moment at the main party policy highlights.
UK Labour are not short of attractive policies.
Their leader Jeremy Corbyn launched the Labour Party manifesto with an announcement of a spending spree of £83 billion to bring in “real change”, which will be funded by raising taxes and extra borrowing, should the Labour Party win a majority in the 2019 general election.
The Labour leader vowed to take on “vested interests” in society and set out a radical programme.
Labour’s 105-page manifesto set out plans what Mr Corbyn described as a “radical and ambitious plan to transform our country in decades.”
– Increase the health budget by 4.3%, and that includes scrapping prescription charges, no charges for parking at hospitals, and free basic dentistry. And of course not selling out the entire national system through a trade deal with the United States once the UK leaves the EU
– A “final say on Brexit” referendum, and Corbyn has promised he will remain neutral if he gets to hold one
– Raise the minimum wage from £8.21 to £10 an hour.
– Pension age remains at 66. And reviews for starting younger if you’ve been in an arduous job.
– A comprehensive nationside National Care Service, like they already have operating in Scotland.
– Bring forward the “net carbon zero” target by about a decade
– Re-nationalise key industries such as Royal Mail, the Big Six energy firms, the national grid, the entire water industry, all railways, and the broadband arm on British Telecom.
– Free bus travel for everyone under 25
And there’s more, but you can get a sense it’s not lacking in ambition.
Whatever labels one would wish to put on them, UK Labour have a pretty proud history of similarly bold policy action, which you can see in their history.
But this time – unlike 2017 – their campaign hasn’t caught on with the general public.
It made some inroads for a while. Unfortunately that was after several months of tanking. And it has failed to push upward in the critical final days towards 40%.
It’s clearly not yet time to call on whether Labour will achieve power, because miracles have happened before. Did anyone really think that World War 2 giant Winston Churchill would be turfed out so soon by Labour after his leadership to victory? But it happened.
OK sure, this isn’t a post-war moment. And as per above, it’s very unlikely.
It’s just that Corbyn feels as policy-nerdy as Attlee.
For the long version of what I mean by that, see Ken Loach’s “Spirit of ’45”, which had plenty of interviews with those who executed that bold set of policies and also those who benefitted.
That is a serious warm bath in soporific nostalgia. Back when the state was the state and did stuff.
Maybe Labour winning the battle on Instagram means they lose but gain even more of the young generation to secure a win some other time in the future. Pretty cold comfort.
In my industry I talk to a lot of recent UK professional emigrants to New Zealand. They generally refer to the UK now in very negative terms. Words like “shithole” and “wrecked”. There’s not a lot of belief in the effectiveness of politics to change things for good.
That view will certainly be reinforced by a further Conservative win.
So for a sense of what is likely to be implemented under a Boris Johnson government, here’s a few of their manifesto highlights:
– For England itself, increase the number of nurses by 50,000
– Leave the EU in January 2020
– No Income Tax, VAT, or National Insurance Tax rises
– Pension increased per year by either rate of inflation, or CPI, or 2.5% (whichever is highest)
– No one will sell their home to pay for care
– Net carbon emissions by 2050
– A points-based immigration system
There’s more in the summary here.
There’s a very strong likelihood that this is another term – possibly another 5 year term – in which the memory of what is possible for the UK left recedes further and further away into historical memory.
So in policy terms there is quite a big set of differences, and for the UK as a whole quite a lot at stake for the direction the UK could go.
By the end of this week we should know which way that is.