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The ten worst ideas in Labour’s manifesto

21 November 2019

4:00 PM

21 November 2019

4:00 PM

It is quite a challenge to boil down the Labour manifesto to its 10 silliest ideas, but here are my nominations:

1. ‘Within a decade we will reduce average full-time weekly working hours to 32 across the economy, with no loss of pay, funded by productivity’ – as well as introducing four new bank holidays on national saints’ days and establishing a Working Time Commission to advise on raising holiday entitlements. How we are going to find the time to build Corbyn’s new Jerusalem I haven’t a clue, but it is greatly going to add to the cost of the NHS and other public services

2. ‘Introducing a legal right to collective consultation on the implementation of new technology in workplaces.’ Having claimed that it is going to pay for a 32 hour working week through productivity gains, Labour now wants a Luddite clause to enable workers to block labour-saving technology

3. A promise to end driver-only operation of trains by putting a guard on every train. So how is that supposed to improve productivity on the railways? This is a prime example of how unions will block new technology, damaging productivity. Ending driver-only operation would go back on reforms introduced by British Rail in 1982.   

4. Abolish zero-hour contracts. Only 2.8 per cent of workers in ‘zero hours Britain’ are employed on zero hours contracts, and of these only a third want to work extra hours, according to the ONS. Eliminating this form of work would not just drive up costs for business, it would hurt people who appreciate flexible working arrangements and the freedom to work only when they want to.

5. ‘We will start to roll out sectoral collective bargaining across the economy’. Back to the 1970s, in other words. We’ll finally trample the likes of Grunwick for good. 

6. Build 150,000 council and other social housing units a year. What it doesn’t say is how it helps to achieve this without diminishing private housebuilding. Unless it can find a way of massively expanding the industry, with workers who don’t currently exist, it will be even harder for frustrated homebuyers to get on the housing ladder

7. The threat to produce generic versions of drugs unless pharmaceutical companies agree to sell them at ‘fair’ prices. Labour also says it wants to increase the number of pharmaceutical jobs in Britain – but how, given that it is threatening to undermine the industry’s ability to earn back the billions it costs to develop new drugs? 

8. Build 7,000 offshore turbines, 2,000 onshore turbines (approximately doubling current capacity) and 22,000 football pitches’ worth of solar panels. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea if Labour could tell us how it was going to store the electricity from these intermittent energy sources. All it says is that it will ‘expand power storage’ but giving no explanation of how.   

9. Set up public inquiries into blacklisting and Orgreave. For goodness sake, why not one into the Charge of the Light Brigade while we are at it?

10. Oh, hang on. Labour also wants to ‘conduct an audit of impact of Britain’s colonial heritage to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity across regions previously under British colonial rule’. Any acknowledgement of spreading democracy and the rule of law? What did the Brits ever do for us, eh?


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