On 21 November, in midst of a UK election dominated by Brexit the opposition Labour Party unveiled one of the most radical policy manifestos put forward by a centre-left party in living memory. The plan would fundamentally amend the rules of the UK economy, granting the government taking centre stage in ensuring quality public services, employment, wages and a robust fight against climate change. The manifesto implies that the private sector has failed to build on its initial successes since the deregulatory Thatcherite revolution of the 1980s and can no longer be trusted to steward the common interest.
The reorganisation is sweeping. The UK’s six major energy companies, the main water and railway franchises, the royal mail service and the broadband infrastructure arm of British Telecom would be nationalised. Employees would be given a key role on the boards of publicly listed companies. One third of positions would be reserved for them, and 10% of company shares would be shifted to managed funds for employees. Major investments in the public health service, education and local authorities, would be paid for with a 7% rise of corporation tax and wealth taxes on higher earners. Altogether, the share of public spending would rise from 37.8% of GDP to 44.0%: the biggest rise since the end of the second world war.
Since the financial crisis, observers have grown accustomed to populist messaging on the right, but the centre left is now undergoing its own transformation following its inadequate responses to the long term decline of the working and middle classes. This trend is not confined to Europe. Comparably radical left-wing policy solutions have begun to take centre-stage in America’s 2020 election as the Democrats adopt plans for universal medical care and mull the Green New Deal which calls for a huge programme of social reform and public works to fight climate change.
The manifesto implies that the private sector has failed to build on its initial successes since the deregulatory Thatcherite revolution of the 1980s and can no longer be trusted to steward the common interest.