In less than three weeks, Labour has made at least five major retreats from its meagre pledges of change if it becomes the next government. The betrayals underline that Keir Starmer’s only strategy to enter Number 10 is to hope the Tories stay unpopular.
He hopes that sections of the ruling class will embrace Labour as a better bet for corporate and imperialist interests.
At the centre of the hope-squashing process is the party leaders’ determination to maintain its “fiscal rule.
This means Labour plans to curb government spending to ensure state debt falls as a share of national income by the end of the first Labour term in government.
On 9 June shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves crushed the party’s major spending items, including its commitment to spend £28 billion a year on green investment until 2030 from the first year after coming to office.
She said the spending would be postponed to later in the government, if at all. Reeves feared that the financial markets might revolt, so she caved in.
And another green pledge went up in smoke as Starmer, Reeves and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar jettisoned the commitment to block new North Sea oil and gas projects.
The fossil fuel firms—and some union leaders—didn’t like it, so all of Labour’s top players lined up to say drilling would continue “for decades to come”.
Sarwar said this included the giant Rosebank field. Its oil and gas production is expected to generate CO2 emissions equivalent to what is produced annually by the 28 lowest-income nations combined.
Every Labour shadow chancellor, including John McDonnell, has bowed down to business interests in the run-up to general elections.
Instead of confronting the profiteers and parasites, Labour seeks to appease them.
Rather than go into battle against a hostile media, Labour wants to bring them onboard, even if that means binning policies that might upset the powerful.
That’s why Starmer, Reeves, and London mayor Sadiq Khan were at media boss Rupert Murdoch’s summer party.
Reeves and Starmer are taking this process of compromise to the limit. They are endangering election success by being so big business that they demoralise their own supporters.
Reeves has said, ‘When I became shadow chancellor, I identified four challenges that Labour had on the economy. The first was to be trusted with the public finances.
“Second was to be seen as a party of wealth creation. The third was to be in touch with people’s everyday concerns, and the fourth was to have something to excite people and motivate people to go and vote. But they were in that order of importance.”
Giving working class people a reason to vote Labour comes well behind holding down taxes for the rich and squeezing public services.
Labour could and should have made the £28 billion green guarantee into concrete policies—and detailed how they would improve home insulation, transport, power generation and more.
And it should have stated that the development of greener industries could have created jobs with good pay and conditions.
Instead it has folded, and Reeves tried to use a worsening economic outlook as cover.
But if that’s really true it invites more criticism from the financial overlords that Labour puts first.
When a recession comes, or inflation persists, then bankers will demand Labour reins in its spending even more. And Reeves will obey. That includes cutting wages in real terms.
Asked last week if Labour would implement the—below-inflation—rises recommended by pay review bodies, Reeves refused to side with workers. “No, we haven’t even seen the recommendations of the pay review bodies, so I’m not going to preempt that,” she said.
“And I’ve also always been very clear that Labour’s fiscal rules are absolutely non-negotiable.”
Such views permeate every area of policy.
When the Bank of England raised interest rates recently, it was designed to crash the economy and scare workers into being too worried for their jobs to ask for pay rises.
Labour’s shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Pat McFadden, said the bank had Labour’s full support.
And Starmer runs away from anything he thinks might upset the right wing media.
When a false story circulated about school students identifying as cats appeared, Starmer did not denounce the claim and its agenda of attacking trans people. He responded, “I think children should be told to identify as children.”
It’s not just about Starmer and his acolytes. This is what Labourism looks like—obsessed only with electoral calculation, centred on parliament and looking to change within the system.
The banks and the capitalist media are powerful. But no serious socialist strategy can succeed by appeasing them.
The aim has to be to take them on by mobilisation outside parliament.
The rent control promises were too much for landlords
Lisa Nandy, who on Thursday of last week, was still shadow levelling-up secretary, signalled another U-turn last week by opposing rent controls.
Nandy said last September she was “personally very interested and attracted” by the idea of giving metro mayors and local authorities powers to freeze rents. “I think doing nothing is not an option,” she added in a speech to the party’s annual conference.
Encouraged by the cue from the top, London mayor Sadiq Khan, along with his counterparts in Manchester, Andy Burnham, and Liverpool, Steve Rotheram, signed a letter backing a rent freeze.
But last week Nandy parroted every right winger by saying any restriction on landlords’ ability to fleece tenants could lead to evictions.
She even dared to say that tenants who benefited from rent curbs would be turfing out others. “Controls that cut rents for some, will almost certainly leave others homeless,” said Nandy.
The National Residential Landlords Association welcomed the move. It turns out that for Nandy “doing nothing” was an option when landlords make demands.
There’s no extra tax for the tech giants
Keir Starmer’s party has abandoned a proposal to tax tech firms 10 percent which would have generated £3 billion. This would have been part of a “fairer tax system” that Labour repetitively called for.
Tech companies have produced some of the world’s wealthiest people. Tesla and Space X’s Elon Musk sits on £177.3 billion, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg is worth £81 billion, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has £120.3 billion.
These obscene piles of hoarded wealth need larger taxation rates to better the lives of their employees and other working class people. This is something the Labour Party pledged until backtracking recently.
A Labour spokesperson reportedly said the tax “would not have been a great start for Labour’s relationship with the Biden administration.”
An additional £3 billion in tax would have barely made a dent in these firms’ astronomical profits.
In 2020 Amazon alone made £19.4 billion in sales to customers in Britain and Northern Ireland, a 50 percent rise on the previous year.
And for too long tech firms have been escaping punishment for underpaying an already low tax rate. Tax Watch UK says that the eight global tech giants underpay their taxes by £1.5 billion annually. The now lost potential of £3 billion would have been enough money to pay for Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm, Seagreen Wind Farm, to be built in public ownership.
That would have made a dent in the enormous personal cost of energy bills that have pushed tens of thousands into poverty.
Parents betrayed over childcare costs
Labour told parents they’d be a safe pair of hands and would roll out free universal childcare for over nine months old.
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson described it as comparable to “the change that we saw post-1945 with the creation of the NHS.”
But this promise has been broken to bolster Labour’s credibility amongst the mega wealthy. In their words, the backtrack is part of a “fiscal credibility drive”.
Parents in Britain spend as much as 80 percent of their income on childcare—it’s one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world.
A recent survey by campaign group, Pregnant Then Screwed showed 32 percent of parents who use formal childcare say they had to rely on some form of debt to cover childcare costs. And a massive 76 percent who pay for childcare say it no longer makes financial sense for them to work.
Currently most working families where both parents collectively earn below £100,000 qualify for 30 hours of free childcare a week in England. But this is only valid for 38 weeks of the year and reduces as your child ages.
Instead of fixing the broken system by offering free childcare, Labour tamely says it is looking at giving more support to poorer families while tapering it off for those on higher incomes.
Women with young children feel let down by the Government. According to Pregnant Then Screwed, 98 percent of women using childcare think the government is not doing enough to support them.
And Labour’s limited, new approach to childcare—if implemented—will barely make a dent in these statistics.
Free school meals snatched from children
Labour has backtracked on its pledge to give free school meals to every child in primary school.
The party made this pledge following a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford to provide children with free school meals in 2020.
He convinced Boris Johnson’s government to provide food vouchers for 1.3 million children in England who received free school meals in the summer holidays.
The Labour Party—pressured by Rashford and campaigners—said they’d go one step further but have now abandoned that pledge.
It is a shameful move, as an estimated 4 million children in Britain suffer food poverty, according to the Food Foundation think tank.
But of these, 800,000 don’t qualify for free school meals.
Primary school teacher Sarah, who works in Staffordshire, told Socialist Worker, “Each term when new children start in reception, there are more and more who qualify for free school meals.
“There’s also some whose parents, I know, don’t get paid well or are out of work because of they are disabiled people, redundancy or whatever. They don’t get free meals.”
Sarah’s school offers a breakfast club. She said, “When I first worked here it was more for the children whose parents started work earlier than most or couldn’t get early morning child care.
“Now that still happens, but the majority go because it’s free.”
Starmer should face an internal row over this move as a poll of Labour members showed 81 percent support offering free school meals to all primary school children.
No child should or needs to go hungry.
The fight for free school meals can not rely on Starmer or Sunak, who are happy to sit idle as children starve.Original post