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Capital’s B-Team Are Ready to Take Charge

Keir Starmer claims that Labour is now ‘pro-business and pro-worker’, but the order of these priorities is no coincidence. Yesterday’s manifesto confirmed that the interests of big business and the wealthy will come first under a Labour government.

Labour's Shadow Cabinet with the party's election manifesto. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

Labour is ‘pro-business and pro-worker’. That is the message that Keir Starmer wants voters to take away from his manifesto launch.

If you’re a Marxist, like me, then this statement is an oxymoron. But Labour has historically branded itself as a social democratic party that governs by encouraging compromise between bosses and workers.

There are plenty of ways the party could attempt to revive this social democratic tradition — and it has failed on every count.

The NHS is in the midst of a deep crisis. Investing in the health service would lead to improved health outcomes, which would reduce the record numbers of people currently out of work due to long-term sickness.

Our infrastructure and utilities networks are creaking at the seams, with poorly-managed privatised companies providing sub-par services to consumers at extremely high prices. Nationalising these natural monopolies — as Keir Starmer promised to do in his leadership campaign — would create a more competitive economy, and lead to lower bills for both businesses and consumers.

Increasing public investment in infrastructure and decarbonisation would help to combat the UK’s deep productivity crisis, as well as create jobs and support the transition to a sustainable economy.

Local councils have been decimated by years of austerity. Labour could pledge more funding and commit to supporting the community wealth building agenda, through which councils work with other public sector bodies to use their procurement budgets to support local, ethical and sustainable businesses.

But none of these pledges made their way into the Labour Party’s manifesto.

The party has pledged to cut NHS waiting lists but, according to the Nuffield Trust, ‘there is no detail on a broader funding settlement’. The investment outlined in the manifesto would amount to a real terms increase of just 1.1 percent, which would mark an ‘unprecedented slowdown in NHS finances’.

As Novara Media revealed this week, the words ‘the NHS is not up for sale’ were deleted from the manifesto, suggesting that the Party may have plans to deepen the privatisation agenda that has already caused so much chaos in the health service.

The party has pledged to part-renationalise the railways by creating Great British Railways. But there is no mention of nationalisation for the failing water companies currently leaking sewage into our waterways.

Nor is Labour pledging to provide the kind of investment necessary to update and decarbonise our infrastructure. Analysis from the Resolution Foundation shows that its Green Prosperity plan would only reverse one-fifth of the cuts already planned for the next parliament.

The Party’s pledges on workers’ rights have been gutted, leading UNITE to withdraw their support for the manifesto at the last moment. There is no mention of community wealth building in the manifesto, despite its huge successes in areas like Preston. The manifesto has no offer for local councils whose budgets have seen more cuts than any other part of the public sector.

And marginalised groups — from migrants, to the disabled, to those living in poverty — will continue to be subjected to the brutal treatment they have experienced under the Conservatives.

All in all, Labour’s spending plans amount to an increase in public spending of around 0.2 percent of GDP. That’s less than the amount promised by both the Lib Dems (0.8 percent) and the Tories (0.6 percent). The increases in spending, concentrated in education and health and social care, mean that to meet its fiscal rule Labour will have to make £18 billion worth of cuts in other areas.

Not only is Labour failing to introduce basic social democratic reforms, it is sticking to the failed Tory austerity policies that have destroyed the UK’s economy and society.

Given the party is about to win a historic majority, why is it being so cautious?

Starmer claims that Labour is now ‘pro-business and pro-worker’, but the order of these priorities is not a coincidence. The interests of big business and the wealthy will come first under a Labour government.

The party’s priorities were made very clear in the battle over its stance on workers’ rights. The CBI successfully lobbied for Labour to strip out important policy pledges, such as a ban on zero hours contracts. And the Party sided with the interests of the business lobby over the unions that founded it.

From Rachel Reeves’ charm offensive in the City, to the army of corporate lobbyists who have been selected as Labour candidates, the Party has made it abundantly clear that it will side with capital over labour.

Business leaders seeking to switch their allegiances from the Conservative Party, given its obvious exhaustion after fourteen years in power, can now breathe a sigh of relief. Capital’s B-team is stepping up once again.