Britain’s opposition Labour Party launched a “radical and responsible” election manifesto on Tuesday, showing a shift to the left to try to capitalise on voters’ concerns over education and health before next month’s vote.
In what its leader Jeremy Corbyn called “a blueprint of what Britain could be”, Labour promised to renationalise rail and mail services and water utilities and take some of the energy sector into public hands to better control prices.
Labour also said if it wins the election on June 8 it would increase taxes on Britain’s highest earners, introduce a levy on financial transactions and impose an “excessive pay levy” on companies with staff earning more than £330,000.
Critics say the move leftwards stirs memories of the party’s 1983 manifesto, described then by a Labour lawmaker as “the longest suicide note in history” for helping the Conservatives, and some have questioned how the party can fund its programme.
Corbyn said his manifesto, which also included scrapping university tuition fees and ending cuts to the much-loved National Health Service, was fully costed and would reverse what he called “a Britain run for the rich, the elite and the vested interests” under Prime Minister Theresa May.
“This manifesto is the first draft of a better future for the people of our country. A blueprint of what Britain could be and a pledge of the difference a Labour government can make,” he told party supporters at a university in northern England.
“Our country will only work for the many not the few if opportunity is in the hands of the many. So our manifesto is a plan for everyone to have a fair chance to get on in life, because our country will only succeed when everyone succeeds.”
The governing Conservatives, which have a runaway lead in opinion polls, called the manifesto “a shambles”, again attacking veteran peace campaigner, Corbyn.
“His economic ideas are nonsensical, his views on national security indefensible and he’d make a total mess of the Brexit negotiations,” chief secretary to the finance ministry, David Gauke, said in a statement.
“It’s ordinary working people who will pay for the chaos of Corbyn. Jeremy Corbyn has made so many unfunded spending commitments it is clear that Labour would have to raise taxes dramatically because his sums don’t add up.”
By moving to the left, Labour has cleared the way for May to put her stamp on the centre ground of British politics and appeal for traditional supporters of the opposition party who backed leaving the European Union.
But Labour officials hope that by targeting measures to boost spending on the National Health Service – the issue voters care most about according to a recent poll – and in schools it can revive its fortunes.
“For seven years the Conservatives have been holding Britain back,” Corbyn said. “Labour’s mission, over the next five years, is to change all that.”