(The title is a reference to the adverts for Carling lager)
I get regular emails from the Labour Party, forwarded on from the various leadership and deputy-leadership candidates.
Last night, I received one with the link to Andy Burnham’s manifesto (PDF file).
It’s a pretty good piece of work, and I’ll be honest, it’s a manifesto that does seem to bring out some semblance of the Labour Party I wanted to vote for. The trouble is, as good as it is, it sounds like Burnham has been cribbing from Jeremy Corbyn’s speeches. I’ve looked back at the notes from the debate the BBC televised with the canidates, and while I recognise some of Burnham’s language, his priorities look like watered-down versions of what Corbyn said, on housing, health, education and so on.
This is a good thing in some ways: it means that the original objective in Corbyn’s nomination for the leadership has been met: he’s forced a debate, and moved the debate to the left, with Burnham clearly responding to the surge in support for left-wing politics that Corbyn’s campaign has awakened.
The bad parts are that Burnham rather overstates his case: “To do this, I will bring forward the most radical and far-reaching Labour vision for the country since the 1945 post-war Attlee Government. That Government civilised the last century. Mine will do the same for the 21st.” Under his healthcare proposals, he writes, “The NHS was the greatest achievement of the 1945 Labour Government. Today, Britain needs another great Labour achievement.”
Yeah. That’s a pretty big comparison to make, considering some of the manifestos the Labour Party produced in the 1950s and 60s. And more, Burnham wants even stronger comparisons with Attlee’s government, by proposing “a new Beveridge-style commission” that will address, “debt, insecurity, inequality, climate change and fear of old age.” in the way that Beveridge dealt with “squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease”.
I would suggest, Mr Burnham, that those five evils have yet to be vanquished, and victories against them have been rolled back. Your commission might want to take a fresh look at the old ones as well as the new ones.
The thing is, the Attlee government Labour Party was still a socialist party, and its vision was a genuinely socialist Britain. No one currently has that radical a vision for Britain. That’s okay. I don’t believe any radical restructuring of the political and economic power will come through elected MPs anyway. But to claim to be “the most radical and far-reaching Labour vision” since Attlee, you would at minimum have to reinstate the old Clause IV:
To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.
Andy Burnham won’t do that. I’d hazard not even Jeremy Corbyn would propose that change in all seriousness. I was only joking when I made reference to it in my reasons for joining Labour in April.
All-in-all, there’s nothing wrong with Burnham’s manifesto, and he certainly gets my second preference, but I want someone who’s been saying this all along, who won’t be swayed by this or that opinion poll or focus group, and who’ll see it through with force, conviction, and sincerity. That person is Jeremy Corbyn.
But I would love to see Mr Burnham in a Corbyn Shadow Cabinet (and in 2020, Government).
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For the record, here’s the bits I liked best:
- “I want young people who aspire to apprenticeships to have the same clarity, ambition and sense of purpose as those who aspire to go to university. So I will propose a national UCAS-style system for apprenticeships and extend access to student finance to help people to move to take up an apprenticeship.”
- “I will lift the arbitrary central government borrowing caps that prevent local authorities from building more social housing, freeing our councils to deliver good quality homes once more.”
- The rent-to-own option (although curious whether housing benefit would be possible to put towards that?)
- “I am committed to extending the NHS principle to social care – where everybody is asked to make a contribution according to their means and where everybody then has the peace of mind of knowing that all their care needs, and those of their family, are covered.”
- “When it comes to the TTIP deal under negotiation between the European Union and the USA, I will call for an exemption for all public services. I will fight proposals for private tribunals with the power to sit in judgement on national governments.”
On the other hand, I am unconvinced by the “Secondary Mandate” where one vote counts both for MP, and for a PR House of Lords. I’d rather see a separate vote for each House, and a clear explanation of the differing purposes of the two bodies or of the people elected to them (for example, my MP is supposed to be my voice in government and representing local concerns; what would an elected upper House representative do for me?)