LEAKING Labour’s draft manifesto to an unsympathetic media immediately prior to the Clause V meeting of trade union and party leaders was intended to embarrass Jeremy Corbyn.
It was a reminder that, for a tiny minority of Labour’s membership, causing problems for Corbyn takes precedence over defeating the Tories.
This provided ever-eager commentators in the Tory media with the opportunity they sought to bang on about Labour being a “shambles” and engaged in civil war.
But this negative response was rapidly overtaken on both social media and radio phone-ins with Labour supporters highlighting the political alternative propounded by Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and their team that puts working people first.
Labour’s leadership has responded to years of demands, especially by existing and potential Labour voters, to back policies that challenge neoliberal orthodoxy.
Public ownership of railways, Royal Mail and energy companies, extra funding for health and social care, enhanced workplace rights, an end to zero-hours contracts, abolition of student tuition fees, free school meals for primary pupils, a maximum class size of 30, scrapping the hated bedroom tax, reinstating housing benefit for under-21s and ending welfare sanctions are widely backed in society but less so on parliamentary front benches.
Being popular with working people is apparently synonymous with wrong, muddle-headed and unaffordable for the political Establishment and mass media.
Tories, Liberal Democrats and Blairites coalesce around encouraging big business through tax breaks, state grants and various incentives while expecting workers to respond best by hitting them with frozen pay, reduced pension entitlement and depleted employment rights.
Theresa May cannot take issue with the policies advocated by Labour, so she resorts to generalised abuse about her opponents being shambolic and living in the past.
Tory mouthpieces the Mail and Daily Telegraph ran the same headline about Labour going back to the 1970s as though there was something innately horrific about a period when Harold Wilson led Labour to its fourth general election victory in 12 years, trade unionists took successful action to defeat anti-union legislation, 70 per cent of the workforce was covered by sectoral pay bargaining and housing was affordable.
But, in reality, the manifesto backed unanimously at Labour’s Clause V meeting doesn’t hark after a vanished golden age. It prepares for a modernised, more equal and just society.
It rejects the concept of first and second class citizens, with a tiny minority living in luxury while many live hand to mouth, in a country reputed to have the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world.
The gap between rich and poor has yawned more widely in Britain over the past three decades than at any time since the Victorian era, yet Labour’s modest proposals to counter that process are derided by the champions of those who have cornered the country’s wealth.
It is not simply a matter of income disparity but also accumulated wealth in the hands of a tiny rich elite.
Those most virulently opposed to Labour’s manifesto for social justice are precisely the people who cannot bear contributing a tiny portion of their wealth and income to help redress an increasingly grotesquely skewed society — or those paid to make the wealthy minority’s case for them.
New Labour bowed the knee to the elite, but Corbynled Labour will not do so.
The leaked manifesto has already piqued public interest.
The final version, complete with costings, will do likewise next week when the battle of ideas really takes off.