You could almost write the Labour manifesto now, except that there’s a great deal more to come later this month as well as in the run-up to the election. It can be grouped under certain headings:
Protecting living standards
A Living Wage (£8.80 in London, £7.65 elsewhere), encouraged by incentives to business and enforced if necessary. An immediate energy price freeze lasting 20 months till January 2017, by which time the energy market will be radically restructured. A private rent cap as a check against rapacious landlords. The hated and deeply unjust Bedroom Tax will be repealed.
Growth and jobs
A National Investment Bank will be created to fill the gap left by the investment strike in the private sector. Labour standards will be protected particularly in the case of low wage and agency work., though another gap is the need for a strong endorsement of the positive role to be played by the trade unions in achieving a sustainable economic recovery. A grant of £30bn to local authorities to devolve responsibility for house-building, transport infrastructure and skills training will kickstart growth and jobs in the regions in the face of the currently anaemic recovery there. But this is also one area where a very different message needs to be got across. At present the dominant economic theme has been continuing the Tory cuts till 2020, which is about as offputting for disaffected Labour voters as can be. The message should focus relentlessly on growth, jobs and a return to full employment as a contrast to the Tories’ super-high unemployment policies (never fallen below 6.6% in 4 years). And growth is the best way out of austerity.
Harnessing the banks to Britain’s recovery
Since the banks precipitated the 2008 financial crash, have been greedy and culpable of gross and extensive corruption, and failed to rebalance the economy or increase lending to British industry, they should be broken up. The country needs smaller, specialist banks, especially in the regions, and ones that focus on science and technology, low carbon economy, SMEs,and design and innovation.
A tax on bankers’ bonuses will be imposed, which should be accompanied by a restoration of the 50p rate of income tax on the top 1% paid over £3,000 a week. A mansion tax on houses worth over £2 million will tax the ultra-rich in a way they cannot avoid. In general there will be a serious and determined crackdown on tax avoidance, as opposed to Osborne’s pussyfooting around.
The Health and Social Care Act will be repealed. But a big gap here is the need for clearer education policies to counter Gove extremism. And measures are needed to restore access to legal aid in the criminal justice system, as well to deal with the remorseless intrusion into privacy by the surveillance State. Popular calls by 65-80% of the electorate for the return to public ownership of Royal Mail, the railways and the energy companies must also be heeded.