‘Victory will be short-lived unless Labour fixes broken services with proper funding and public ownership’

The country is broken. NHS waiting lists spiralling out of control. Energy bills rising so fast they’ve sparked an inflation crisis. Rivers and seas full of sewage. Letters undelivered for days. Buses and trains that never turn up. Essential public services and natural monopolies working for a handful of mostly overseas investors.

Since 2010, we’ve lost at least 200 museums, 244 courts and tribunals, 279 school playing fields, 451 homeless services, 600 police stations, 673 public toilets, 750 youth centres, 793 playgrounds, 800 libraries, 926 football pitches, 1086 swimming pools, 1416 SureStart children’s centres, 8000 bus routes and 25,000 NHS beds. And now, our councils are declaring themselves bankrupt.

Labour’s manifesto says it wants to “turn the page decisively on the Conservative ideas that have caused the chaos”. Promisingly, it suggests a “final and total rejection of the toxic idea that economic growth is gifted from the few to the many”. But then weakly it concludes that the Conservatives have failed to “face the future”.

READ MORE: ‘Labour manifesto shows a new centrism – with the state key to driving growth’

Here’s what has happened. Conservative asset stripping, which began 40 years ago, has been turbocharged in the past 14 years of criminal cuts and privatisation. They have sold off and destroyed precious public institutions, handing out crony contracts while ordinary people suffered. Austerity has killed hundreds of thousands. From backdoor PPE deals to allowing record energy profits, government stole from the people it should have served.

There has never been a better time for Labour to tell the truth and set the stage for the next few terms of government. Alongside an honest political reckoning that gives Labour political space, what is needed is serious investment.

But despite that word being mentioned 59 times in the manifesto, very little is promised to reverse drastic cuts. The promise of a National Wealth Fund is good. But zero investment for taking back assets into public ownership, which would save huge amounts of money on shareholder dividends and debt.

Labour public ownership plans almost feel like an accident

The public ownership that Labour has committed to in this manifesto feels almost like an accident.

Yes, rail franchises will be brought into public ownership as they expire. Yes, buses in public control and ownership, following successful experiments in mayoral regions. Yes, Great British Energy will be a newly created publicly owned company. Yes, the manifesto is right to point out that the Conservative party is ideologically opposed to using the role of the state. But it doesn’t offer a coherent alternative plan from Labour.

“Energy prices have risen faster here than in any other country in Western Europe,” it says.

Because of privatisation. Labour could offer fairer and cheaper bills directly to households by buying back British Gas to provide the retail wing of Great British Energy, for around £1 billion. Publicly owned supply is normal in France, Germany, Italy and the US.

“The national grid has become the single biggest obstacle to the deployment of cheap, clean power generation,” it reads.

Because of privatisation. Even this Conservative government has been forced to quietly nationalise part of National Grid for net zero planning.

“Not a single reservoir has been built in the last 30 years.”

Because of privatisation. £78bn has flowed out of England to mostly overseas investors. Labour could bring the country’s largest water company, Thames Water into public hands for free, making it cheaper and quicker to solve the sewage crisis and putting river action groups on the company board.

“Labour will also explore new business and governance models for Royal Mail.”

Good, because privatisation has failed. Buying back 500-year-old Royal Mail would cost very little for huge economic benefits.

Will Labour still embark on a once-in-a-generation insourcing drive?

The manifesto doesn’t mention “the biggest wave of insourcing in a generation”, settling instead for an attack on “wasteful competitive bidding”, management consultants and clawing back pandemic profits.

And although Labour seems to draw a dividing line between insourcing of contracts (which Labour will sometimes promise) and buying back assets (which Starmer and Reeves don’t want to do) even this distinction is not applied consistently.

94% of private contracts in the NHS come up for renewal in what would be Labour’s first term of office. Yet Wes Streeting hasn’t committed to bringing these back into the NHS, despite the wastefulness of outsourcing and Oxford University linking this policy with unnecessary patient deaths.

Streeting insists on emphasising the role of the private sector, which has itself admitted it can’t fix the problem. Britain’s largest private hospital chain treats in a whole year the same number of patients the NHS treats in just 36 hours.

READ MORE: UK general election poll tracker: Daily roundup on how polls look for Labour

Meanwhile an NHS hospital in Ilford has just opened two new operating theatres for treating only waiting list patients – Labour should promise more of this instead.

The situation is too desperate for a middle-of-the-road offering

The situation is far too desperate for a manifesto intended as a middle-of-the-road offering. If Starmer wants Tony Blair-era levels of growth, with things only getting better, it will take direct investment into the public services that make people and communities healthy. And it won’t make sense to let shareholders keep raking in profits.

If all that requires taxing people with fortunes of £10 million or more, Labour should do it. Stick with wealth creation as a goal and call it a multimillionaire tax or decamill tax.

The country is broken. We know who broke it, who benefited, at whose expense. Country first is right. The issues on the doorstep won’t be solved with regulation, timid amounts of funding and legal tweaks. They require well-funded public services, accountable to the public, working for people not profit.

Otherwise, in 2029, voters in towns like Grimsby will be pointing to the same issues — NHS waiting lists, impossible energy bills, sewage in the rivers, the desperate state of the economy. And Labour’s victory will be short lived.

Find out more through our wider  2024 Labour party manifesto coverage so far…


Manifesto launch: Highlights, reaction and analysis as it happened

Full manifesto costs breakdown – and how tax and borrowing fund it

The key manifesto policy priorities in brief

Manifesto NHS and health policies – at a glance

Manifesto housing policy – at a glance

Manifesto Palestine policy – at a glance

Manifesto immigration policies – at a glance


‘The manifesto’s not perfect, but at the launch you could feel change is coming’

 IPPR: ‘Labour’s manifesto is more ambitious than the Ming vase strategy suggests’

‘Victory will be short-lived unless Labour fixes broken services with proper funding and public ownership’

Socialist Health Association warns Labour under-funding risks NHS ‘decline’

 ‘The manifesto shows a new centrism, with the state key driving growth’

 Fabians: ‘This a substantial core offer, not the limit of Labour ambition’

 ‘No surprises, but fear not: Labour manifesto is the start, not the end’

 ‘What GB energy will do and why we desperately need it’

 ‘Labour’s health policies show a little-noticed radicalism’

 GMB calls manifesto ‘vision of hope’ but Unite says ‘not enough’

 IFS: Manifesto doesn’t raise enough cash to fund ‘genuine change’

 Watch as Starmer heckled by protestor with ‘youth deserve better’ banner


 Labour vows to protect green belt despite housebuilding drive

 Manifesto commits to Brexit and being ‘confident’ outside EU

 Labour to legislate on New Deal within 100 days – key policies breakdown 

 Labour to give 16-year-olds right to vote

 Starmer says ‘manifesto for wealth creation’ will kickstart growth


Read more of our 2024 general election coverage here.

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