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Andrew Feinstein: what’s wrong with the Labour manifesto

From muzzling Palestinian rights to embracing austerity and outsourcing the NHS, Labour's ‘tough choices’ always seem to hurt normal people while sparing wealthy donors — that’s why I am running to unseat Keir Starmer on July 4

TODAY, the Labour Party launched its election manifesto — a dispiriting Thatcherite promise to continue endless austerity, soaring inequality and forever wars.

I announced my bid to become the independent MP for Holborn and St Pancras three weeks ago. Then, I was convinced that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party would offer little to improve the lives of this constituency’s amazing and diverse communities, or meaningfully restrain Israel’s genocide of Gaza. Having read this manifesto, I am more convinced than ever.
 
Starmer’s election campaign has traded on a series of stock phrases, all of which are profoundly misleading. Starmer promises to bring about “change,” but repeats tired economic shibboleths of the George Osborne variety.
 
He also claims to have remade the party “in the service of the working people.” In fact, the party is financially reliant on donations from big business and billionaires and its MPs rake in donations from the private-sector companies who circle the NHS.

The party’s long-feted New Deal for Working People is so disappointing that the party’s largest affiliated union, Unite, has refused to endorse the Labour Party manifesto.
 
But the most galling of all of the current Starmerisms is his invocation of “tough choices.” Starmer deploys the line to explain why the country cannot afford to pull half a million children out of poverty by ending the two-child benefit cap: a decision now confirmed by the manifesto.

Liz Truss’s mini-Budget, Starmer sadly explains, has made it impossible for the sixth-richest country in human history to lift children out of poverty at a cost little under £2 billion a year, a relatively measly sum in a country with a GDP of £2,274 trillion.
 
As the Labour Party manifesto makes clear, there have been plenty of hard choices made by the party — but all of them to the detriment of the poor and to the benefit of the mega-rich and big business.

Starmer makes the “tough choice” not to substantially increase funding the NHS, to end child poverty or reverse the swingeing cuts of the last decade; but only because he fails to make the “tough choice” to tax billionaires marginally more, even though the 10 richest people in the country are now richer than they have ever been.

A one-off wealth tax of 10 per cent on the 10 wealthiest people in Britain would raise £18bn, enough to lift the two-child cap for a decade.
 
Close readers might notice that Labour’s manifesto mentions inequality once across its near 140 pages. The words redistribution or socialism do not appear at all.

While 6.4 million people access universal credit as of January 2024, the manifesto doesn’t mention it by name; although it does threaten that “people who can work, should work” and that “there will be consequences for those who do not fulfil their obligations.”

 The words “billionaire” and “millionaire” are also absent, despite Britain’s richest 350 billionaires and hundred millionaires controlling close to £1 trillion in wealth — none of which will face any tax increase under Labour’s manifesto.
 
Let’s be clear. These are not tough choices. It is not a tough choice for Wes Streeting to accept £175,000 in donations from people connected to private healthcare.

It is not a tough choice for the party to promise to use private-sector capacity in the NHS — and, as the manifesto clarifies, to give no time limit as to when private profiteering on health will end.

None of this is tough; it is the grubby choice to take the path of least resistance in the interest of business.
 
I have spent the last two decades writing and campaigning about the rapacious and corrupt defence sector.
 
So I’m especially angry that the Labour Party, like the Tories, has promised to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP: a real-term £7bn a year increase by 2029. This is almost double the entire £4.7bn a year the party intends to spend on its Green Prosperity Plan to tackle the imminent existential threat of climate change.

What sort of security does this really buy? The party’s offer on Palestine is, frankly, an outrage; the manifesto speaking out of both sides of its mouth. So while it recognises that “Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people,” it then makes Palestinian statehood contingent on a meaningless word salad.

“We are committed to recognising a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign state.”

So much for an inalienable right, which requires Israel to feel “safe” before Palestinians get statehood — just as Israeli leaders claim that Israel will only feel safe when Gaza is cleansed of its citizens because there are “no uninvolved.”

This offer significantly dilutes the party’s previous commitment to recognising Palestinian statehood on the first day of government — something first brought in by Ed Miliband, appearing in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos. If there was any hope that Labour would be any better than the Tories on Gaza once in power, this should dispel it once and for all.
 
Both the Lib Dems and the Green Party, by comparison, have committed to immediately recognising Palestine. The Labour Party now joins the ignominious company of the Tories and Reform in refusing to do so.
 
The party’s “tough choices” fall on Britain’s diverse migrant communities too, who will no doubt look on in horror as the party embraces the rhetoric of the hostile environment.

As has long been suspected, the party now tries to outflank the Tories on the right on immigration, which it promises to slash at the same time as it imperils the safety of legitimate asylum-seekers by adopting a war-on-drugs style counter-terrorist policy to small boats.
 
Strikingly, the manifesto pledges to deliver 1.5 million new houses — but fails to indicate that any substantial portion of this will be social housing built by the state. In fact, it appears to believe that it will be delivered almost entirely by the private sector — a sector that, as I see in my own constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, demands exorbitant rents and house prices for shoddy and unliveable housing.

None of this will solve the urgent housing crisis facing the residents of Holborn and St Pancras, or the country as a whole. The idea that this housing boom will provide the economic growth to finally reverse austerity is a fever dream.
 
It is no secret that Britain and the world face mounting crises: climate change, student debt, an ageing population and hard-up families, ruinous forever wars, a degrading public sphere and genocide in Gaza.
 
The Labour Party manifesto offers no solutions to these crises. In fact, it provides answers that have brought these crises into being, and which will only make these worse — even as it makes the party’s assorted business and billionaire backers fabulously rich.

Starmer claimed his manifesto would help the people of Somers Town, while all it does is guarantee nothing will change for them. Both the country and Holborn and St Pancras deserve politicians who fight for proper, meaningful and radical change.

If the residents of Holborn and St Pancras were to honour me with their vote, I promise to fight this zombie revival of neoliberalism tooth-and-nail; to argue and push for a tax regime that taxes the wealthiest to help those most in need; to back climate policies that are commensurate with the size of the problem; to make the moral and economic argument for a social housing system in which everybody has the right to live in dignified accommodation, and to reject, totally, the outdated and dangerous approach to national security that makes all of us poorer and less safe, and which continues to permit the genocide of the civilians of Gaza.

Andrew Feinstein is the independent parliamentary candidate for Holborn and St Pancras — follow him on X  @andrewfeinstein.

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