RAZZ wants to encourage students to engage with politics to stay as informed as possible. We understand though that most political discourse is designed to exclude young people. Therefore, we’ve read the manifestos of the main political parties for the 2019 General Election and reduced them down to what we feel most affects and interests students. Here is a breakdown and brief evaluation of the Labour Party manifesto. Remember, register to vote by the end of today (26 November)!
In the foreword of the Labour Party’s Manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn explains that “Some people say this is the Brexit election. But it’s also the climate election, the investment election, the NHS election, the living standards election, the education election, the poverty election, the fair taxes election. Above all, it’s the change election.” The manifesto details these changes, and is accompanied by the ‘Grey book’ (Funding Real Change) which breaks down exactly how much these changes will cost and how they will pay for them.
Higher Education/Tuition Fees
Labour promises to end the failed free-market experiment in higher education, abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants. They argue that, under the Tories, universities are treated as private businesses, “left at the mercy of market forces,” while top salaries soar and students pay more for less. Due to rising tuition fees and scrapped maintenance grants, the poorest graduates now leave university with an average debt of £57,000.
Labour also say they will develop a new funding formula for higher education that:
- Ensures all public Higher Education institutions have adequate funding for teaching and research.
- Widens access to higher education and reverses the decline of part-time learning.
- Ends the casualisation of staff.
You will be well aware that many staff are striking at the moment and that is due, in part, to casualised contracts and inadequate pay, among many other reasons. You will also, unless you are very lucky, be one of those students leaving with this debt. These policies affect you and the experiences of other students after you.
Labour judge that abolishing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants for full-time and part-time students will cost £13.6bn, but will be offset by savings of £6.4bn on the existing tuition fee system, which means it will have a net cost of £7.2bn. This will be paid for by a portion garnered from their revenue raising measures which include:
- Gradually reversing cuts to corporation tax (raising a total of £23.7bn)
- Equitable and efficient taxation of income from wealth, i.e. only those who earn over £80,000 a year (£14.bn)
- Tackling tax evasion (£6.2bn)
Green Industrial Revolution: Nationalise the Railways
Labour’s plans for their Green Industrial Revolution are manifold, but one important policy that will affect you is their plan to take our railways back into public ownership, as well as improve services for rail passengers. They promise to steer network planning and investments: coordinating mainline upgrades, resignalling and implementing a full, rolling programme of electrification. They will introduce a long-term investment plan including delivering Crossrail for the North as part of improved connectivity across northern regions and seek to reopen local branch lines.
Bringing railways into public ownership should allow them to:
- Make fares simpler and more affordable.
- Rebuild the fragmented railways as a nationally integrated public service.
- Cut the wastage of private profit.
- Improve accessibility for disabled people.
- Ensure safe staffing levels and end driver-only operation.
Making public transport cheaper and more accessible is vital to the fight against the climate crisis (and for getting to and from home and university!). Labour explain that taking companies into public ownership is fiscally neutral by international accounting standards when bonds are exchanged for shares, but the maintenance of such a policy would be funded by their National Transformation Fund. This is their programme of capital expenditure (money spent to acquire or maintain fixed assets) to tackle the climate emergency and the need for investment to repair physical infrastructure across the country. It is made up of borrowed money: £250bn over ten years for the Green Transformation Fund and £150bn over five years for the Social Transformation Fund. They argue that borrowing is vital for long-term productive projects like this as not all commitments can be funded by immediate taxation, but as long as money is properly invested it is sustainable.
Labour promises to deliver full fibre broadband to everyone in the UK by 2030. They will bring the broadband-relevant parts of BT into public ownership, with a jobs guarantee for all existing workers.
As students you will understand how vital access to full working WI-FI is to your education, but also to every other aspect of everyday life for working people and those at all stages of education. It is no longer a luxury but something that is essential if you are to make a Skype interview or submit government forms.
This plan adds an extra £15bn to the government’s existing £5bn broadband strategy, paid for by the party’s Green Transformation Fund. The running and maintenance of the network is to be covered by the new tax on big companies like Apple and Google.
NHS: Mental Health
As well as a general commitment to halt and reverse the privatisation of the NHS, Labour will provide an additional £1.6bn a year to ensure new standards for mental health are enshrined in the NHS constitution, ensuring access to treatments is on a par with that for physical health conditions. They plan to invest £2bn to modernise hospital facilities and end the use of inappropriate, out-of-area placements.
They also plan to invest more in eating disorder services, ensure NICE guidelines on eating disorders are implemented, and double the annual spending on children and adolescent mental health services. On top of this, they promise to abolish prescription charges. With mental health issues so prevalent among university students in particular, it is more than likely that these changes will in some way affect you.
These, again, will be funded by things like raising taxes on the highest earners (only those earning above £80,000 a year) and reversing corporation tax cuts.
As young people, we know how bleak the prospect of one day owning our own house is with the current state of the housing market. Labour plan to build more low-cost homes reserved for first-time buyers in every area, including their new discount homes with prices linked to local incomes. They say they will reform Help to Buy to focus it on first-time buyers on ordinary incomes. They argue that the only way to deliver on everyone’s right to a good home is to build publicly funded social housing, with a new social housebuilding programme of more than a million homes over a decade.
It may not just be the ‘Brexit election,’ but Labour are not ignoring how important it is to resolve the issue that is dividing the country so dramatically. Their plan is to secure a new Brexit deal – one that protects jobs, rights, and the environment, avoids a hard border in Northern Ireland, and protects the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process. After doing so, they will put the new deal to a legally binding referendum alongside the option of remaining in the EU. They say that this will all take place within the first six months of a Labour government.
They insist that this referendum will not be a re-run of 2016 and instead will be legally binding. Many have criticised Jeremy Corbyn for not saying which side he will campaign for, but he has since said that he will remain neutral, much like Harold Wilson (Labour Prime Minister at the time of the first EU referendum in 1975), in order to “credibly carry out the result” and “to bring the communities and country together rather than continuing an endless debate about the EU and Brexit.”
Whatever you think of these plans and promises, make sure to vote on 12 December!