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UK Election 2019 Series - Labour

08.11.2019

This is the second post in my series on UK political parties during the lead-up to the 2019 UK General Election, which will look at the Labour Party.

Like previously, I split this post into a few different parts:

Labour's record as the opposition

With 83% (as of today) of the MP's in parliament being part of either the Labour party or the Conservative party, it's fair to say that the UK has a two-party system. Unfortunately for Labour, with great electoral success comes great national responsibility; they have to form the backbone of the opposition to the Government.

Sadly this means that much of the criticism about Conservative Party policy from my previous post can be mirrored back at Labour. The thinking is that the Conservative party wouldn't have been able to make some of those mistakes if Labour had provided an effective opposition in government. Instead, the Labour party has been almost as inward looking and unstable as the Tories have, especially in the last few years.

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy

Jeremy Corbyn is a hugely divisive figure both inside Labour and out; he's seen as the saviour that the UK needs by his supporters within the party, but also as a dangerously socialist firebrand by others (including many center/center-left voters that Labour would like need to win over to get a majority). I think the reality is somewhere in the middle; while he has some great policy goals (greening the economy, reducing inequality, reducing poverty, etc), his somewhat ranty speeches are often hard to relate to (at least for me), and the actual policy mechanisms aren't always well communicated, or are explained in a very idealistic way that seem to require a lot of faith to be convincing.

Labour's website is similar to the Conservative one in the sense that both parties have lots of full page pictures about their leader, though Labour has far more information about their actual policies (and there are a lot of them, more on that later).

Peak Corbyn; the People's Preacher?

Though Labour tries to portray Jeremy Corbyn as a strong leader, under his tenure, it hasn't successfully or cleanly dealt with many of its own internal issues. There's been a slowly bubbling scandal around antisemitism for quite some time, and infrequent-but-persistent infighting, with Momentum often mentioned as causative culprits. The effects of this internal disorganisation and lack of discipline are plain to see on a day-to-day level, and there have been many divergences between what Jeremy Corbyn says is Labour policy, and what his shadow ministers will say. If I'm not convinced that he can competently run his party and heal it's internal division, then it's hard to be convinced that he can competently win an election campaign and go on to run the country, and heal it in the post-Brexit period.

It should be noted that the same issues exist within the Conservative party too; it has a problem with islamophobia (maybe xenophobia and jingoism too), and the ERG is a divisive party-within-a-party just like Momentum is.

Brexit

Speaking of Brexit, Labour has dithered and dathered on what their policy actually is. If there's one thing that's obvious about Brexit, it's that many people and businesses in the UK (and outside of it) would massively benefit from certainty... yet Labour has flip-flopped between various stances, none of which have been definitive and easy to grasp.

While I appreciate that the debate is nuanced (something the Tories missed when they decided to run a yes/no referendum), Labour's indecisiveness to settle on a position has meant that they haven't provided a cohesive alternative to the Tory government, which has contributed to them failing to provide an effective opposition which can hold the government to account. I mentioned this above too, but it's been especially apparent and important throughout the Brexit crisis.

Their current policy is to have a referendum on any deal that the UK Government does negotiate. I like the idea of a referendum, but only because I hope that it would stop Brexit altogether. I think the process of yet another referendum (presumably after the election?) would be hugely tiring and divisive.

Other policies

As of a few days ago, the Labour party was still actively taking submissions for what should go in it's 2019 manifesto, which isn't exactly encouraging considering that it's already November, and the election takes place in about a month.

Apart from that though, their website has lots of policies that sound good; Labour wants to strike a Green New Deal (essentially upgrading the country to run sustainably, bringing lots of investment and jobs), increase the National Living Wage to £10 an hour and ban fracking. It's also worth noting that a Labour Government would also put more money into basically all public facing government services. Of course, this includes the police service like the Tories want to fund, and their website implies that they'll invest a similar amount into it too (though Jeremy doesn't bluster about that anywhere near as much as Boris does).