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Editorial: The latest U-turn shows Starmer’s Labour has no change on offer

RISHI SUNAK’S unforgivably callous jibe at trans people, particularly insensitive given that the mother of murdered teenage trans woman Brianna Ghey was sitting in the Commons chamber, overshadowed the rather more substantive point the Prime Minister was, in his usual inept way, struggling to make.

That was the fact that it is impossible to believe a single word Keir Starmer says on policy, given the epic number of reversals he continues to make.

Today it was Labour’s flagship £28 billion a year green prosperity plan which was finally ditched after months of public vacillation.

It has been sacrificed on the altar of fiscal probity. Why fiscal rules trump the end of a liveable planet is a question only Rachel Reeves can answer.

Voters may now be getting dizzy with Labour’s U-turns. So here is a list of the most important pledges now junked:

Scrapping charitable status for elite private schools. And scrapping tuition fees that leave students with a lifetime of debt.

Removing the two-child benefit cap that keeps so many families in poverty. Restoring the cap on bankers’ bonuses.

Increasing income tax for the top 5 per cent of earners. Imposing a wealth tax. Offering free universal childcare.

Taking key utilities in water and energy into public ownership. Ending outsourcing in the National Health Service.

Abolishing the House of Lords. Getting rid of universal credit. Special taxation for the digital technology giants.

A compassionate immigration system. Support for Ultra-Low Emission Zones.

And now the green prosperity plan.

This is, to be clear, not a list of every reactionary position Starmer has taken. That would have to include his authoritarianism and war-mongering too.

It merely identifies issues on which he or his front-bench team promised one thing only to renege. In non-policy fields, one could add his broken pledge to unite Labour.

The whole list points in one direction — towards appeasement of the City, support for neoliberal economic orthodoxy, indifference to social needs, promotion of wider inequality, and lack of interest in really changing society at all.

Sir Keir has, in his own way, proved to be as big a liar as Boris Johnson.

As Rishi Sunak said in the Commons he “has broken every single promise he was elected on.”

That means that the remaining pledges which some may cling to, like improving workers’ rights, simply cannot be trusted.

And indeed the Financial Times reports this week that the Confederation of British Industry has high hopes of persuading Labour’s front-bench to dilute those plans too.

So it is scarcely surprising that young people, in particular, are increasingly inclined to simply sit out the next general election. No major party is offering anything different on the issues that concern them, from getting a home to tackling climate change.

Even the FT’s respected commentator Martin Wolf has acknowledged that Britain needs “substantial reforms often in contentious areas. Radical change is now urgently needed.

“The danger is that Labour feels it cannot get away with offering any of it. The party instead seems set on sticking as close as it can to government policy,” he wrote.

So today we have a government that cannot govern and an opposition that will not oppose, politicians bobbing around like corks in the stormy waters of capitalist crisis.

Only two forces can challenge this malaise. On the one hand, there is the populist right preening its feathers but advancing no solutions this week.

And on the other, are the rejuvenated trade unions, the mighty anti-war movement and other people’s campaigns for justice, which together can and must find political articulation in this time of turmoil.

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