Notes from the front of 30-5-17
Better off with Labour, for the many not the few – Labour’s positive agenda
The Labour Party has significantly advanced in opinion polls since the General Election was called because it is setting out a series of policies to protect people’s living standards.
On 18 April, when Theresa May called this snap election, the Tories had a 21-point lead over Labour according to YouGov and Labour was on 23 per cent. After six weeks of campaigning Labour has significantly closed that lead.
In the Survation Poll for Good Morning Britain, published today (30 May), the Tory lead is just 6 per cent and Labour is on 37 per cent. In the two most recent YouGov polls the Tory lead was 5 per cent and then 7 per cent and Labour was on 38 per cent and 36 per cent.
Labour’s polling advance, of more than 10 points, is due to the agenda that Labour has been setting on defending living standards.
As a result of last June’s EU Referendum vote inflation is forcing the population to cut its consumption. It is starting to become clearer that what is at stake in Brexit is people’s living standards. UK real wages are already falling and official forecasts predict they will be still be lower in 2021 than they were in 2008. The Resolution Foundation think-tank points out that ‘this decade is set to be the worst in over 200 years for pay packets’.
As Brexit undermines the British economy the Tories are determined to protect capital from the harm that will be inflicted. This will require a significant reduction in the living standards of the working class and poor. So the Tories are planning a huge attack on the welfare state; with greater austerity, further cuts to real wages and benefits, tax and NI rises and shrinking public services.
The Tory announcement of a ‘dementia tax’ to pay for social care at home, which they hope people will believe they have retracted because of its unpopularity, clarified the Tories’ plans for attacking the population. That they have not retracted the policy, but only promised to discuss a cap on individual contributions to social care, confirms the scale of attack being planned.
The most fundamental issue in this election is whether people are going to be better or worse off. That is more immediate to people than whether Britain is in or out of the EU. Many people who voted for Brexit wrongly thought leaving the EU can make them better off, because it will stop immigration. The General Election campaign is revealing the Tories’ plans to cut living standards. Irrespective of different views on immigration and the EU, there is growing concern about these plans to make people worse off.
It is Corbyn’s Labour manifesto and his opposition to the Tories’ proposed attacks that is responsible for Labour’s advance in the campaign. Corbyn has been totally correct to focus Labour’s manifesto on the economic issues and on how people will be better off. Unlike the 2015 campaign, which was not able to increase Labour support, this current campaign is demonstrating what can be achieved when Labour’s agenda is about defending living standards. Plus there has been no repeat of the reactionary mistake of 2015, when Labour campaigned on a pledge to cut immigration.
This is also why Corbyn clearly won yesterday evening’s (29 May) Sky/Channel 4 debate versus May. Labour is setting a positive agenda, and Paxman adopted the ridiculous tactic of attacking Corbyn for what was absent from the Labour manifesto. May was heckled and laughed at by the audience, the price of growing popular awareness about the scale of the attack on living standards that the Tories are threatening.
Last week’s tragedy in Manchester, when a terrorist killed 22 people and injured many others, shifted the terrain of the election discussion on to issues of security and law and order. The Tories would like to keep it there, or shift towards a more extreme anti-foreigner, anti-EU nationalism, anything but the fall in living standards to come if they are re-elected.
With just over one week to go till Polling Day, Labour has every interest in returning to the most fundamental issue which is at stake – it is only Corbyn’s Labour that will protect living standards. Every socialist should be playing their part in helping Labour maximise its vote on 8 June.
The economic and political logic of a united Ireland is becoming more widely apparent as the threat of Brexit hangs over Irish society. The threat is so grave that it is touching all areas of Irish politics.
In the North on 8 June, the nationalist parties will be hoping to build on the watershed Assembly elections earlier this year. The pernicious influence of a permanent Unionist majority was destroyed, and Sinn Féin effectively drew level with the DUP.
In the South, the ruling Fine Gael has a leadership contest following the resignation of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Remarkably, the two contenders for the leadership have been trying to outdo each other in their verbal support for a united Ireland, which the entire party has opposed since Partition and was formerly a taboo subject.
These latest developments are driven by the serious risks posed by Brexit. 56 per cent of the population on the North voted to Remain and popular opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of EU membership south of the border. The negative consequences of Brexit are widely understood. If the UK as a whole leaves the EU and Single Market, the imposition of ‘hard border’ to enforce customs checks, tariffs on goods and prevent free movement of labour between the EU and the UK will be unavoidable.
Virtually all politicians, including DUP leader Arlene Foster say they oppose a hard border, given the disastrous impact on trade, investment and jobs. But only one party, Sinn Féin has a political alternative. It argues for a special designated status for the North to remain in the EU and Single Market and automatic full membership in the event of a reunification of Ireland.
This would mean no new customs checks or barriers to trade. It could also mean fundamental economic forces propelling the North into reunification, as the disparity in growth and living standards North and South becomes more apparent.
Gerry Adams points out that the Dublin government has never even raised the question of special designated status. They seem willing to meekly accept whatever chaos the British Government creates, or hope the EU will come to their rescue. But the overwhelming majority of people across Ireland oppose Brexit, and this will continue to determine political developments across the island over the next period.