New Hope for Britain

1983-manifestoOwen Hatherley at n+1:

OPINION POLLS HAD LONG SHOWN that left-leaning economic policies were popular in principle. The problem was that there were very few opportunities to vote for them in actual elections. What 2017 shares with 1983 is an unusually deep commitment to these policies, to tangible and plausible things. This approach failed against Margaret Thatcher, whose appeal defied rationality, but proved inspired against Theresa May, a poor speaker and thinker who tried to use the election as a personal plebiscite. This insistence on specific policy was the exact opposite of the approach taken in the 1997 manifesto, New Labour—Because Britain Deserves Better. I don’t have a copy of it—both my parents had left the Party by then (one due to despair, one for the far-left fringe, though under Corbyn they have rejoined, and tried to, respectively)—so I had to find it online. The document is written in a peculiar technocratic language, obsessed with things like “welfare reform,” “choice,” and “the individual.” There will be “zero tolerance of underperformance” in schools, there will be “no return to the 1970s” on trade union rights,2 there will be “personal prosperity,” more “public-private partnerships,” the end of “penal tax rates,” and the end of higher education funding through taxation, rather than tuition. There are some commonalities, such as free access to the “information superhighway” in schools, but what looms largest is the avoidance of tactile promises and actual policies. There are only little fixes that Blair’s Labour could be sure of “delivering.” The concrete policies of the sort advocated in 1983 and 2017 are limited to five “pledges,” which are listed at the end of the document:

  • cutting class sizes in schools
  • “fast-tracking punishment for young offenders”
  • cutting NHS waiting lists
  • getting 250,000 under-25s “off benefits and into work”
  • no rise in income tax

more here.