Labour is meeting today to finalise its manifesto. The only sticking point? A draft manifesto has already been leaked. The party’s plans to woo voters are splashed across the Daily Telegraph and the Mirror. They’ve also been leaked to the BBC. Make no mistake: this is a huge embarrassment for the party and does nothing to dispel the Tory attack line that Labour would be at the forefront of a coalition of chaos if it wins come June 9th. After all, if it can’t get its manifesto launch right, how can Labour be trusted to govern?
So what does the manifesto say? There are few surprises. But for Corbyn’s supporters, this is a Christmas and birthday wishlist rolled into one. For those in the centre ground, there’s much less on offer to win their vote.
Labour says it will renationalise the railways – an argument Corbyn has been making for decades. For fed-up commuters, this isn’t a bad policy in itself. But alongside Labour’s expensive plan to bring the Royal Mail back under state control the big question, as ever with Labour, is cost: how will Labour afford to do both?
Plans to scrap tuition fees – which would also set the government back billions – are another big-budget pledge which pops up in the manifesto. Labour says, too, that it would partly renationalise some of the energy market and cap dual-fill household bills at £1,000. Theresa May’s drift to the left on an energy price cap appears to have pushed Corbyn even further along the spectrum.
On Brexit, Labour has said it will not press ahead with a ‘no deal’ departure from the EU. This won’t do much to attract Labour voters who backed Brexit – particularly given Corbyn’s wavering on the subject earlier this week when he refused to say that a Labour government would definitely take Britain out of the EU. It also makes it difficult to see how the EU would not use this refusal to walk away against Britain during negotiations. After all, that’s exactly what happened to David Cameron in his doomed bid to renegotiate in the run-up to the referendum.
For those worried about immigration, there is little in the way of reassurance, with the party saying there will be no target to reduce the numbers of those coming to Britain. Diane Abbott said last year that Labour would not ‘adopt a more hostile stance in relation to immigration’. The shadow home secretary appears to have won her argument if this manifesto is anything to go on.
On defence, Labour says it remains ‘extremely cautious’ on using nuclear weapons and will also send in troops only once ‘all other options have been exhausted’. Taken in isolation, these are sensible points to make. But worryingly for Labour they fit snugly into the Tories’ argument that the party is soft on defence. The defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon is already making this very point – calling Corbyn ‘essentially a pacifist’ on the Today programme this morning.
Labour’s close ties to the trade unions also appear to be having an impact. The party says it will be repealing the trade union bill introduced by David Cameron. Labour say this will give workers more rights; the Tories will have a field day painting the picture of a party in the grip of the unions.
While the leak of a party’s manifesto is a big blow to Labour, there are, admittedly, few blockbuster announcements we didn’t already know about. Tax increases for those earning over £80,000 – already widely talked about earlier this week – are included. Zero hour contracts will also be out under a Labour government (Corbyn made this point to a rally in York yesterday) and the party says it will be pressing ahead with plans to enforce a 20:1 pay cap on firms awarded government contracts. It goes without saying that this will make it difficult for many contractors – particularly those in defence – to continue to work on projects for the government if these plans ever see the light of day.
Labour also appears to be promising to rule out a second independence referendum in Scotland as well as pressing ahead with Leveson. This won’t help Labour win over hostile newspapers but given that much of the press is unlikely to jump onto the Corbyn bandwagon the party won’t care much about that.
Another difficulty for Labour in this leaked manifesto coming to light is that it will inevitably overshadow the party’s manifesto launch next week. The party has also been trailing policies each day in a bid to win headlines and steal the narrative away from the Tories. This has worked well, particularly given the Tories’ reticence on revealing their actual plan for the next five years. Now that Labour’s manifesto draft is already out there, it’s difficult to see what the party has to go on over the coming weeks if it is to continue to win peoples’ attention.