Britain's Labour Party unveils 'radical' election manifesto | 2017-05-16 |

Britain's Labour Party unveils 'radical' election manifesto

AFP     16th May, 2017 08:17:59 printer

Britain's Labour Party unveils 'radical' election manifesto

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday unveiled a "radical and responsible" manifesto as the party hopes to close the gap against the ruling Conservatives before next month's election.


Corbyn, who is flagging badly in the opinion polls, promised to "change our country" with a raft of proposals including raising taxes on the well-off and renationalising key industries.


Presenting the manifesto in Bradford, northwest England, the Labour leader said the country had been run "for the rich, the elite and the vested interests" in seven years of Conservative government.


"It will lead us through Brexit while putting the preservation of jobs first," he said of the manifesto, appearing in front of Labour's election slogan: "For the many, not the few."


Corbyn promised a Labour government would immediately guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain and reject the threat of walking away from Brexit talks.


The manifesto included a tax increase from 40 percent to 45 percent for salaries of between £80,000 (94,000 euros, $103,000) and £123,0000 a year, above which there will be a new 50 percent top rate of income tax.


The current 40 percent tax rate applies to people earning between £45,000 and £150,000.


Labour has said the rise would fund increased investment in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) and would only affect five percent of earners.


The party also plans a levy on businesses with staff earning large salaries over £330,000.


Labour promised to renationalise the railways, water companies and part of the energy sector in what critics said was a throwback to an era of far greater state intervention in the economy in the 1970s.


Corbyn promised to scrap university tuition fees, a pledge met with huge cheers from supporters gathered to hear him speak at Bradford University.


Labour has also promised it will increase corporation tax to 26 percent by 2020.


Such changes are among the measures to boost the state coffers by the £48.6 billion needed to meet the commitments outlined in the Labour manifesto.


- 'Programme of hope' –


"It's a programme that will reverse our national priorities to put the interests of the many first," Corbyn said.


"This is a programme of hope. The Tory campaign, by contrast, is built on one word: fear."


Other pledges in the Labour manifesto include building one million new homes and adding four national holidays to the calendar.


Local Labour campaigner Joe Ashton, 29, said the manifesto set the party apart from others.


"I think it's radical without being extreme. Sensible, costed and when tested, our policies are highly popular with the public," he told AFP.


Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party have a double-digit lead over Labour in opinion polls.


But writer Barnaby Neale, a Labour volunteer, said the "inspiring" manifesto would sway voters.


"I wouldn't be fighting so hard if I didn't believe Labour has a chance to win, and a very good one," said the 39-year-old.


The Conservatives immediately slammed the plan as "nonsensical" and not properly costed.


"It's ordinary working people who will pay for the chaos of Corbyn," Treasury Chief Secretary David Gauke said in a statement.


But Labour member Catherine Gomersall said cuts rolled out by the government since the 2015 national election would push people to vote for the opposition.


"People are desperate, especially in Bradford, for a change," the yoga teacher told AFP.


The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, said Labour's tax changes would mark a significant shift.


"Tax burden already heading upwards. If Labour could raise the £49bn it claims we would have highest tax burden in 70 years," he wrote on Twitter.


The TaxPayers' Alliance criticised Labour for "a toxic mix of nationalisations, interventions and monumental tax hikes", calling instead for tax cuts.