[guest post by JVW]
Ten days out from the U.K.’s coming election and the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn has released its campaign platform, more stylishly described by our overseas cousins as a manifesto. Over at City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple makes an effective argument that Labour essentially calls for left-wing “quasi-totalitarianism,” empowering bureaucracies, trade unions, and public sector employees, the same formula that brought Britain to the brink of insolvency in the mid-Seventies before Margaret Thatcher was invited by Her Majesty to form a government.
Labour is betting that the people of Great Britain desire sweeping change. Whereas the word “radical” is largely eschewed by Democrats and Republicans here in the U.S., except when describing an opponent’s ideas, Mr. Corbyn and his leadership embrace it, promising in their preamble “Our manifesto is the most radical, hopeful, people-focused, fully-costed plan in modern times.” And they ain’t just whistling Dixie. Naturally, Labour favors all of the trendy Green ideas, but where the American left invokes what they believe was a golden age of government activism by calling their economic restructuring “the Green New Deal,” the British left ironically invokes what many of them believe was the historic ruin of their homeland by dubbing their plan “the Green Industrial Revolution.” It’s a platform that our delightfully clueless but earnest niece might recognize, praising windmills and solar panels while inveighing against cow farts and fossil fuel emissions; fetishizing public transportation while decrying private automobiles and ride-share companies; promising to seize energy and water systems from private hands and placing them into public ownership, though unconvincingly insisting that they will be community-owned and not micromanaged from London. In fact, much of the entire platform promises that the newly empowered government regulators will operate on a local, community-based level, which is certainly an attempt to allay the fears of rural residents that they will be thoroughly brought under the thumb of Whitehall.
The rest of the manifesto is no better than the green dreck. Like American Democrats, Labour no longer spends money, it “invests” in social projects. So the new railways, upgraded highways (at the same time they are discouraging private automobile travel), bike paths, pedestrian ways, etc. will naturally pay dividends of some sort, probably in securing the vote of all of the construction workers who will be employed by this taxpayer largesse. In fact, Labour unsurprisingly wants to “rebuild” the public sector after “a decade of Tory cuts,” and to that end they promise to spend £150 billion to build new schools, hospitals, public housing, and retirement homes. Public employees will be guaranteed an immediate pay increase of 5%, and thereafter see their wages rise annually with the rate of inflation, irrespective of economic growth. All of this will be paid for by a tax increase on anyone making more than £80,000 per year (about $103,000 here) and an increase in the corporate tax rate from 19% to 26%, neither of which according to Labour will affect economic productivity. The minimum wage will be hiked to £10 per hour ($12.94, much more reasonable than the Democrats’ proposal!), the work-week will be lowered to 32 hours yet somehow with no reduction in weekly pay, and at the same time Labour will not let any private sector executive be paid more than twenty times the wage of the lowest-paid worker at that firm. Workers will be designated a minimum of 10 percent of a company’s annual profits, and they will be given one-third of the seats on a company’s board of directors. Labour promises not to increase the VAT, since that is regressive taxation, but vows to “launch the biggest ever crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion,” further empowering bureaucrats to wreck havoc in the lives of Her Majesty’s subjects.
There is so much more dim-witted demagoguery and rank pandering to unpack in this manifesto, but suffice it to say that any left-wing idea that has been bandied about here or abroad is represented: from subsidized rent for college students to universal basic income to hiring set-asides and quotas for women and minorities to giving the LGBT+ (Labour mercifully cuts off the alphabet soup at the end there) community whatever the hell it demands on any given day. And of course there is Labour’s barely-concealed anti-semitism and anti-Zionism. While Corbyn’s Labour Party talks a good game about eradicating anti-semitism and the party manifesto stresses the desire for a peaceful Israeli state living side-by-side with a peaceful Palestinian state, the manifesto also makes a pivot towards trendy left-wing third worldism by immediately banning arms sales to Israel, granting recognition to the state of Palestine, and advocating for every government which claims historical victimization by colonial powers, no matter how nasty and brutal their societies might currently be.
Finally, on the important matter of Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn has historically be very cagey with respect to the EU, at times signaling that he resents the influence wielded by capitalists in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels, but at other times singing the praises of multi-national governments and regulatory bodies. Labour’s manifesto leaves the party’s disposition on the issue of Brexit unspoken — a wise move considering that a large chunk of Labour voters are believed to have supported the Brexit referendum nearly four years ago — but promises to negotiate a new deal for Brexit within three months and then put it up for a new binding public referendum shortly thereafter. Because Labour has preemptively foreclosed on the idea of a no-deal Brexit, it’s kind of hard to see what sort of negotiating leverage Mr. Corbyn would have in securing a new deal, but if he can get enough voters to buy in to his nonsense then I guess more power to him. Even if the Brexit movement wins the second vote, the Labour manifesto pledges so much continued cooperation with the EU (for example, a promise to voters that Britain’s green policies will be no less strict than the EU’s) that it’s definitely a stretch to imagine that Britain would be rid of the meddlesome Brussels busy-bodies anyway.
This vote on December 12 could very well be a harbinger of what to expect next year. Just as the narrow pro-Brexit vote in June 2016 served as a indication of an anti-status quo sentiment which swept Donald Trump into the Oval Office less than five months later, so too might a Labour victory later this month act as a warning shot of a resurgent left who could stampede an Elizabeth Warren (or, crazily enough, a Bernard Sanders) into the White House. The polls today suggest that the Conservatives are on their way to a strong victory, but I wouldn’t be popping any champagne corks until Boris locks the doors at 10 Downing Street on December 13.