Taken together, Labour’s manifesto package reimagines the British state, its purpose, how it operates and its relationship with the market. This is not a programme of incremental change but rather a total shift in the role of government and how the UK economy works. It is based on an analysis which argues that the current political and economic system works against the interest of ‘ordinary people’. At a high level it seeks to establish a greener and more equal economy which prioritises workers and consumers over businesses, and makes radical proposals in order to achieve this. It is striking the extent to which this manifesto focuses on addressing the climate crisis through a series of policies linked to a Green Industrial Revolution which combine a focus on social justice, jobs and the environment.
The question for business is the role that they can play in delivering this, albeit as a partner rather than taking on sole responsibility for activity that Labour believes should be delivered by the state not the market. It is clear from this manifesto that a Labour government will lead to significantly greater scrutiny and oversight of how business operates.
There are two key questions emerging from this manifesto launch. Firstly, is this package deliverable and over what timeframe? Many of these bold pledges will likely be highly complex to implement. Pledges such as nationalisation will be fraught with legal challenges and it is highly unlikely that these can all be introduced within one parliament. While some parts of the manifesto – such as the introduction of a four day week are earmarked as ambitions and are not expected to be introduced within the next parliament – it is likely that other policies will move into this category as they collide with reality.
Secondly, the current polling suggests that the likelihood of a Labour majority government is low. However, the chances of a Labour minority government supported by smaller parties potentially including the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru are much higher. The pertinent question is therefore which policies are deliverable in this scenario, and would be prioritised by the party, and which would not receive cross-party support. There will be a number of policies within this manifesto that other parties – notably the SNP and the Liberal Democrats – can support, but a whole swathe of others which they cannot.
Polling suggests that on an individual level many of these policies are highly popular amongst the public, but it remains unclear whether taken together as a package it can lead to electoral success. The key question is whether this radical manifesto will turn this election from being about delivering Brexit – turf which is favourable to the Conservatives – to instead be about domestic policy, much more fertile ground for the Labour Party. There will be careful scrutiny of opinion polls in the coming days to see whether this policy platform will cut through with the electorate and shift public views. Regardless of the electoral consequences, this manifesto reflects a shift in the party’s policy agenda, which is unlikely to be changed by a potential change in leadership. What cannot be doubted is that with this manifesto the electorate have had a clear choice between competing visions for the country.