Predictable but pragmatic: Reviewing the Labour manifesto

As a protester heckled Sir Keir Starmer at the Labour Party’s Manifesto launch in Manchester, the Leader of the Opposition quipped that he was now leading a party of power, not protest.

The shift in the Labour Party’s position since the last General Election has been marked. A new leader vowing to return to the centre ground of British politics, unveiling a Labour Manifesto majoring on it being the party of “wealth creation” could not be further from what we witnessed in 2019.

For Starmer, this was the opportunity for him to outline the Labour Party’s vision for power, which if the polls are to be realised, will be the case in a matter of a few weeks’ time. His message of ‘Change’ and ‘Growth’ positioned Labour against the Government’s urge for voters to stick with the plan and the status quo, regardless of the current set of social and economic circumstances the public finds itself in.

Starmer was quick to establish that this manifesto would not be packed full of surprises and retail announcements, instead focusing on a pragmatic and costed plan for what a Labour government would do in power.

This led to a manifesto launch event that reiterated largely what we already knew the Labour Party had planned for the country. His plan to “turn the page decisively” on years of “Conservative chaos” would focus on cutting NHS waiting lists, reducing immigration levels, establishing GB Energy, building more houses and hiring more teachers.

His cautious (and to many critics uninspiring) manifesto is emblematic of where British politics is at present. A sizeable lead in the polls, coupled with Reform UK being neck and neck with the Conservative Party has led to a position whereby Sir Keir Starmer is looking to do anything to avoid controversy or compromising his somewhat inevitable path to Downing Street.

Acknowledging the fiscal challenges the Labour Party would face in Government is something we will hear plenty of from Sir Keir Starmer and his Shadow Cabinet in the remaining weeks of the election campaign. The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ analysis that public spending increases are “trivial” seems salient, and unless unexpected levels of growth emerge in the second half of this year, would leave a Labour government with real difficulties.

The communications strategy, however, is simple but seemingly effective. Reinforcing the Labour Party’s “sensible” and “carefully thought through” proposals are guardrails against traditional Conservative attack lines that the party promises unfunded spending pledges, which would inevitably lead to higher taxes.

A lack of retail promises and major spending pledges removes the perceived veracity of claims that Labour would take the UK into recession and plunge the UK into a deeper cost of living crisis.

Despite this, we can still expect to hear the Conservative Party campaign on a message that a Labour Government would mean an increase in individuals’ tax bills but whether this is sufficiently cutting through remains to be seen.

For businesses, the Labour manifesto may have come across as light on detail and many will be left wondering what the legislative landscape looks like for them, should Labour be in Government following the election.

This Manifesto is fundamentally a tool to continue the trajectory of the Labour campaign. Should Labour and Sir Keir Starmer not make any catastrophic mistakes or errors, the keys to Number 10 sit firmly in their hands.

It may be cautious, it may be uninspired, but the Labour Party will view this as a major hurdle they have overcome and with three weeks to go will be buoyed by the wave of momentum it continues to ride.

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