Three charges against Corbyn’s party are worth consideringby Peter Kellner / May 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Members of the jury,
The Labour Party stands accused of three political crimes in relation to its draft election manifesto. You have heard the evidence. It is now my duty to sum up the evidence you have heard in relation to each of the three charges.
Charge one: that the leak of the draft manifesto shows that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party cannot be trusted to govern the country effectively. The prosecuting counsel, representing the Conservative party and a group of newspapers, says that if the party is unable to keep the manifesto under wraps until the official launch, it cannot be trusted to handle the far greater number of far more important secrets and confidences that must be kept private inside government.
To convict the party of this charge, you must assume that the process of coming to decisions in government involves as many people, with the same range of jealousies and agendas, and same absence of formal responsibility to confidentiality, as the gallery of MPs, activists, trade unionists and others involved in Labour’s “Clause V” manifesto meeting this week.
This is not plausible. Around 80 people had access to Labour’s draft manifesto. Many of them are appointed by, and responsible to, organisations independent of the party leadership. This may be a daft way to go about things, but, members of the jury, that is not what you are being asked to decide. The question is more limited: does the system of drawing up the manifesto of itself make a government led by Corbyn likely to leak more than any other government? The prosecution has failed to prove this beyond reasonable doubt. I direct you to acquit the party on this count.
Charge two: Labour’s draft manifesto is more left-wing than any other since the 1970s. A quick glance at the 1983 manifesto—“the longest suicide note in history”—shows that this is not the case. In that election, Labour promised a far more comprehensive assault on the market economy than anything in this year’s draft. It said it would reverse all the Conservative privatisations, “establish significant public stakes in electronics, pharmaceuticals, health equipment and building materials,” set up public sector corporations for aerospace, telecommunications and shipbuilding, and impose planning agreements on the larger companies that remained in the private sector. The right…