In all of the Prime Minister’s babbling and bluster during the Queen’s speech debate this week, the aim of his Labour-beating rhetoric was clear. Littered with references to Lenin, Trotsky and the horrors of Soviet Russia, it is evident that the Prime Minister’s aim is to convince the minds of the electorate that Labour is the gateway to a state-run, state-owned, high-tax pandemonium. It’s the Red Scare of 1950s America, brought to Britain and devised by Dominic Cummings to terrify voters of the prospect of a Labour government.
Only, Labour’s policies are nowhere near that of the Soviet Union. They are considered plainly normal when held up to the economies of Europe. So, just how radical are Labour’s policies?
The great buzzword for Labour-bashing Tories is, and always has been, tax. “They would put up taxes!” decried the Prime Minster on Monday. In fact, 95% of taxpayers would see no income tax increase at all under Labour. Working families would not be robbed of their hard-earned income, despite what the Tories say. As for corporation tax, Labour’s corporation tax increase to 26% would still result in the UK having the second-lowest rate of corporation tax in the G7. Such a Leninist plot that the bourgeoisie will be shuddering in fear at the prospect of the UK remaining one of the best places in the G7 to do business, under a Labour government.
Another area where Labour would “drag us back to the 1970s” is the nationalisation of the railways. Of course, looking at this policy from a European perspective, having a state-run rail operator would be a step forward, not backwards. It would propel us into the 21st century mainstream of European policy on the railways.
In Germany, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn ran 94% of services on time and earned €2bn in 2015. Meanwhile in France, nationalised SNCF recorded a net profit of €567m in 2016. German and French rail nationalisation began as far back as the 1800s so, contrary to the Tories’ claims of inefficiency and low profitability, European countries have run state-owned rail franchises efficiently and profitably for over one-hundred years.
Plus, for those shouting at the screen to remind me of the inefficient and poorly ran British Rail during the years of totally nationalised rail before Thatcher, a Labour-run railway today would be entirely different. European state-owned rail runs alongside private rail companies to ensure competition and efficiency, but simultaneously, the profits they take are reinvested in improving services and infrastructure rather than providing income for shareholders.
So, renationalised railways under Labour would not simply be an ideological move, but one which could improve performance as well as efficiency by maintaining private competition alongside the state-ran service. This policy is hugely popular with voters too, as a recent poll found that 60% of voters back rail renationalisation, in addition to a majority in favour of water, energy and gas renationalisation – all Labour pledges in their 2017 election manifesto.
You may understandably ask: if these policies are so popular then why aren’t Labour winning?
My last article pointed to Labour’s dire poll numbers and image problem and quite simply, this is the problem. Labour’s policies have wide-ranging appeal and popularity- even among some Tory voters. But they are reluctant to vote Labour because they see Corbyn’s leadership, and the prospect of a Corbyn premiership, as something which they could not support. For now, I will not delve into the reasons behind this, but simply make the point that I believe Labour’s support has declined because of its leadership, not because of its policies, which actually have strong support among voters.
So, if these popular policies are derived from the extremities of the Soviet-era as the Prime Minister insists, is a wave of communism sweeping the nation? Of course not. What is clear however, is that voters back the economics behind Labour policy far more than the media let on. Furthermore, one does not have to be hard-line socialist to support them. I am not a socialist and I would not want a socialist government to be in power in Britain, but I want Labour to be in government. This support is founded on precisely the argument of this article – their policies are not extreme, radical socialist policies but are instead concurrent with the mainstream economic policies of western Europe.
Whether it’s higher taxes on corporations, rail and utilities nationalisation, shorter working hours, regional investment banks or better access to child-care, these are the policies which have been in place from Sweden to Spain for decades- with great results. So, we should not be fearful of them as if they were extremist socialist projects – they are not.
It’s time to ditch ideology in favour of practicality. Labour may be a socialist party, but their policies are not really that radical compared to the rest of Europe. That’s why I have embraced them.