Owen Smith has detailed his policy proposals for the Labour leadership, but critics point out that many have already been advocated by Jeremy Corbyn. Policies such as investing in homes, education and infrastructure along with equal pay, repealing tax cuts and protecting trade union rights have long been called for by the incumbent.
But there are a few groundbreaking policies that Smith hasn’t yet picked up on for his own campaign. Here are three of them:
1) A fund to help low earners become Labour MPs
Corbyn has called for a diversity fund to ensure those who are on a low income can have their voices heard in parliament, arguing:
If the party is to win back the five million predominantly working-class voters lost since 1997, then we must reflect those we seek to represent. It is not enough to be for working people – we have to be of working people as well.
It is therefore only right that the party helps collectively to shoulder some of the financial burden of members on more modest incomes during the candidate selection process so that we remain the people’s party.
Around 12% of Labour MPs went to private school. Such a fund would enable those who had actually faced the brunt of austerity to make their case in parliament.
2) Breaking up media monopolies
Recognising that an informed electorate is the foundation of any meaningful democracy, the Labour leader has said:
We are developing a media policy which would be about breaking up single ownership of too many sources of information, so that we have a multiplicity of sources.
Monopoly control of information is a big problem in the UK. Rupert Murdoch’s News UK controls one third of our national newspapers – 70% of which are owned by just three companies. Correspondingly, a YouGov study found earlier this year that British people perceive their press to be the most right-wing in Europe.
Such a lack of plurality contributes to the UK sitting in 38th place in the 2016 world press freedom index, lower than Ghana, Tonga and Belize.
A new report published by the London School of Economics and Political Science, meanwhile, has confirmed the media’s bias against Corbyn himself, claiming the press has turned into an “attackdog” against the opposition leader.
Breaking up big media groups is vital for British democracy to function.
3) Expanding worker cooperatives
The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has expressed a commitment to expanding worker cooperatives. He has said:
A future Labour government will end the current programme of spending cuts. We will protect what has already been won.
But we must look beyond this point. We should be seizing the opportunity to create a fairer, more democratic society.
In an uncertain world where a laissez faire market approach continues to fail, co-operation is an idea whose time has come again. This is the start of developing a new, positive economic alternative for Labour.
McDonnell’s proposal to allow people the right to buy the firms they work at would serve to deconstruct the neoliberal economic orthodoxy.
The difference between Smith and Corbyn
While Smith will maintain that it’s his ‘electability’ that sets him apart from Corbyn, Labour supporters will question why he took part in a coup against his democratically elected leader only to offer a huge number of the same policies.
As the Independent notes, Smith’s policy of a Ministry of Labour to replace the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was proposed during the 2015 contest by Corbyn, and reiterated by McDonnell this year.
A spokesperson for Corbyn said:
We welcome Owen’s focus on equality of outcome, reindustrialisation and workers’ rights – and his support for policies announced in recent months by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
But for Corbyn’s supporters, it’s not only the aforementioned groundbreaking policies that set him apart from Smith. One supporter said in an interview:
His credentials are there for everybody to see for the past 30-40 years. Whether it’s LGBT rights, whether it’s apartheid in South Africa – him getting arrested, he’s always been there in the grassroots of people and what real people are worried about.
It’s the consistency of his record throughout his political career that appears to resonate with people. After Blair was carried to victory on numerous lies, such as halting the privatisation of public services, Labour supporters became very wary.
Enabling working class people to enter parliament through a diversity fund, breaking up media monopolies, and expanding worker cooperatives are all policies that would mark a fundamental shift away from the economic orthodoxy. As Smith appears to try and take credit for so many of Corbyn’s suggestions, these three corkers remain unique to the incumbent.
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