On 10 May, a draft of the Labour Party’s new manifesto was leaked to the press. While there were apparently few surprises in the document, the pro-Tory media completely lost the plot. And none quite so much as The Daily Telegraph.
The leaked manifesto
Key promises from the draft, leaked days before the official manifesto publication date, included:
- A reversal of NHS privatisation and proper funding for the service.
- Greater investment in education, and the total abolition of university tuition fees.
- Lifting public sector pay caps and protecting pensions.
- Fairer taxation. No tax increases for 95% of workers, but a hike in both corporation tax and taxes for people earning more than £80,000 a year.
- Public ownership of railways and the creation of publicly owned energy firms in order to “deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control”.
- What The Mirror calls “the biggest social house-building programme in a generation”.
- Reversing welfare cuts and strengthening workers’ rights.
- Protecting both self-employed workers and small businesses.
- Respecting international norms in terms of foreign policy, and treating war as a last resort.
- Measures to protect the environment.
- Controlling immigration without focusing on “false promises” like the ones the Conservative government has consistently broken. And cracking down on bosses who use immigrant workers to undercut wages.
A Labour spokesperson said:
We don’t comment on leaks. Our policies will be laid out when we launch our manifesto which is a plan to transform Britain for the many, not the few.
The Telegraph‘s response
While many people praised the policies, criticised the leakers, and insisted that the manifesto was “exactly what you would expect to find in a fair and decent country”, The Telegraph‘s response was a bit different:
Tomorrow's Daily Telegraph front page today: 'Revealed: Corbyn's manifesto to take Britain back to 1970s' pic.twitter.com/PLGLN5Mvvp
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— Telegraph Breaking News (@TelegraphNews) May 10, 2017
As was The Daily Mail‘s:
THURSDAY'S FRONT PAGES | 11 MAY, 2016
— Front Pages (@frontpageuk) May 10, 2017
Both pro-Tory papers were quick to put their very similar spin on the draft manifesto. And The Telegraph in particular listed a number of what it apparently considered to be some of the most damning parts of the document. These included:
- That Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is “soft on defence” because he wants a “nuclear free world”, believes in being “extremely cautious about ordering the use of weapons of mass destruction which would result in the indiscriminate killing of millions of innocent civilians”, and will only send armed forces abroad if “all other options have been exhausted”.
- That Corbyn is allegedly sparking “concerns from some in the arms industry” because of “a vow in the manifesto to scrap weapons exports to Saudi Arabia”.
- That Labour would “fund its socialist agenda though [sic] a huge programme of increased tax and £250billion of borrowing over the next decade with more spending on education and health and big levies on business and industry”. (For scale here, remember that the UK national debt increased by over £555bn under Tory chancellor George Osborne.)
- That, according to one ‘Labour source’, “union leaders have been bought off with special pledges including promises to look again at pensions, scrap driver-less trains and offer an inquiry into the battle of Orgreave during the 1984 miner’s strike”.
- That Labour “is likely to drive away” potential supporters who voted for Brexit because it “refuses to set a target to cut immigration”. (A target like the ones the Tories have consistently set and failed to meet, for example.)
- The pledge to “protect the right to “a nomadic way of life” and support gypsies, travellers and the Roma community”.
Essentially, then, The Telegraph was taking aim at immigrants, Gypsies, trade unions, corporate taxation, and those opposed to weapons of mass destruction.
‘The commies are coming! The commies are coming!‘
The Telegraph is owned by billionaires (who the BBC once called “the tax haven twins”). Former chief political commentator Peter Oborne, meanwhile, has accused it of “placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news to [its] readers”. And it has consistently apologised for repressive dictators and human rights abusers. So it’s no surprise that the paper would react as it did to the leaked Labour manifesto. But perhaps the most hysterical part of its response was where it seemingly sought to paint the Labour leadership as a bunch of communists, saying:
Critics will also cite it as evidence that Labour plans to “soak the rich” with a huge tax raid on high earners and businesses, in a week when both Mr Corbyn and the shadow chancellor John McDonnell praised the works of Karl Marx.
This was in reference to Corbyn having said recently: “Yes, I have read some of Adam Smith, I have read some of Karl Marx.” (Note here that The Telegraph didn’t mention in the quote above that Corbyn had also read Adam Smith – the man considered to be “Capitalism’s Founding Father”. Probably because that would have weakened its argument.) McDonnell, meanwhile, had said: “I believe there’s a lot to learn from reading Kapital… and that’s been recommended not just by me but… mainstream economists as well.”
In other words, neither Corbyn nor McDonnell were singing the praises of communism. They were simply admitting to having read Karl Marx – a man who even right-wing sources recognise as one of history’s greatest economists.
‘A fairer, more democratic country? Not on our watch’
But then, The Telegraph has long shown itself to support elitist politics. So it’s no surprise that it would try to portray Labour’s moderately left-wing manifesto as some sort of insane Stalinist nightmare.
In reality, though, Labour’s plan for Britain looks set to be one of the fairest and most democratic in mainstream politics for a long time. And if it’s got establishment representatives like The Telegraph in an apparent state of panic, it must be doing something right.
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