Keir Starmer gets his betrayals in early

07 March 2024

By R Banks

KEIR STARMER has finally announced what many had been predicting, the abandonment of Labour’s much vaunted £28bn per year additional spending on green investment, which was promised by the Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves during the 2021 Labour conference. The climbdown came on the same day as the announcement that global warming has exceeded the 1.5C target across an entire year for the first time.

Although Labour sources have insisted that the plans are not being dropped altogether, they have confirmed that they will no longer commit £28bn a year to such policies. However, the Financial Times was quick to point out, Labour’s new plans amount to £4.7bn a year, one-sixth of the original investment.
While the original plan was always sketchy, we can see that the £8.3bn to set up GB Energy and £7.8bn for the green investment bank have been saved. These are both effectively subsidies for polluting private companies to convert to green production. Tata Steel has shown that workers’ jobs will not be safeguarded by such public-private initiatives.

However, plans to provide grants to insulate households have already been heavily cut from £6bn a year to just £1.3bn. The Resolution Foundation says 20% of UK homes have no roof insulation and 40% no wall insulation, while 14% of all UK emissions come from domestic energy usage. This cut will not only eliminate any chance of Britain reaching its climaate goals, it will also burden working class families for years to come with high energy bills.

The abandonment of this pledge continues the pattern of Labour attempts to reign in expectations on the party’s green spending plans. In June last year, Reeves made clear that the £28bn figure was not a commitment to be met in Labour’s first year in office, but a more long term goal which would only be reached by 2027, at the earliest. Subsequently, it was further ‘clarified’ that the figure already factored in the £8bn currently being invested by the government on green projects.

The excuses for each successive dilution of this pledge have centred around the need for ‘fiscal responsibility’, blaming the Tories’ mishandling of the economy, and in particular the economic damage caused by Liz Truss’ short tenure. Out of fear of offending the capitalist class by making the positive case for raising taxes on wealth and profits, Starmer and Reeves have boxed themselves in and exposed the hollow nature of Labour’s pledge to ‘put the Green New Deal at the heart of everything we do’.

Bonfire of promises
This is only the latest in a string of betrayals by Starmer and his clique. During the 2020 Labour leader elections Starmer presented his famous ‘10 pledges’ trying to appeal to the mass Corbyn movement which formed the bulk of Labour’s support at the time. Ever since, Starmer has hacked away at many of the policies (and the membership) with increasing vigour.

As early as September 2021, during the height of the energy crisis, Starmer backtracked on one of his key popular pledges, nationalisation of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies. Starmer watered down his position from ‘public services should be in public hands’ to stating that a ‘pragmatic’ approach to common ownership would be necessary.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has stressed that she won’t be raising any of the major taxes, including the highly regressive capital gains tax. In a sold out conference of 400 business executives, she confirmed that Labour would not increase corporation tax, and would maintain Jeremy Hunt’s tax breaks for businesses.

Under Labour, said Reeves, businesses and the Government would work together ‘like never before’ insisting that ‘the next Labour government will make the pro-business choice and the pro-growth choice… And should our competitiveness come under threat, if necessary, we will act’, implying further reforms would be ditched.

Instead she intends to raise more funds by closing ‘tax loopholes’, in particular ending non-dom status and ending certain tax perks afforded to private schools, although she has categorically ruled out revoking their charitable status. Such policies will not raise the funds needed to tackle the UK’s litany of economic woes. If Labour continue on this trajectory, it is clear that additional public spending will be severely limited.

Starmer continues to pay lip service to ‘securing’ and ‘protecting’ the NHS, but has already confirmed the Party ‘will likely have to continue with’ some level of privatisation. Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has gone further, referring to the NHS as a ‘leaky bucket’ that needs reform and proudly confirming that he will hold the door ‘wide open’ for the private sector. The only extra funding for the NHS is £1.1bn to ‘cut NHS waiting lists’ by paying medics to provide out of hours appointments, piling further pressure on overworked and underpaid nurses.

The New Deal for Working People has been diluted. The pledge to create a ‘single status’ for employees so precarious workers can be legally protected has gone. So too has the promise to boost sick pay for the least protected. The TUC is anxious that other promises, like the scrapping of the 2016 and 2023 anti-union acts, do not also fall victim to Starmer’s policy purge.

Starmer also promised to ‘defend free movement’ as we left the EU. But, in 2022 he about-turned, saying that accepting freedom of movement for EU citizens would be crossing the ‘red line’. Another cornerstone of Corbyn’s manifesto was the abolision of tuition fees. Starmer first watered this down to ‘support for the abolition of tuition fees’, then ditched it altogether. Instead the Party would try to reduce graduates’ monthly repayments.

Starmer also pledged to abolish the unelected House of Lords, a key democratic demand. While he maintained this pledge up until 2023, in predictable fashion this promise has also been dumped, with Thangam Debbonaire confirming the plan would ‘take a back seat’ on the justification that ‘constitutional change takes time and energy’.

Starmer promised ‘no more illegal wars’ and to ‘put human rights at the heart foreign policy’ during his leadership campaign. Yet he confirmed on LBC radio that it was ‘appropriate’ for Israel to cut off food, water and energy supplies to Gaza. Despite belatedly calling for a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’, his Shadow Defence Minister has confirmed that under Labour, the UK would continue to provide both economic and military support to the genocidal Zionist state.

The 10 pledges have now been entirely removed from Labour’s website, replaced by a shallow statement from Starmer highlighting Britain’s ‘extraordinary potential’ and putting forward a plan to ‘give Britain its future back’ and reiterating ‘Labour’s five missions for government’, with the only concrete promise being that they will be ‘fully funded’. Given Labour’s unwillingness to raise taxes any funds to deliver on these ‘missions’ will be thin on the ground.

Make unions fight
So far only Unite has publicly criticised Starmer’s ditching of key policies. Socialists and workers must insist all the unions condemn these about-turns and insist that Labour fights on the key pledges made in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos, up to and including using their veto in Clause V meetings and witholding funds for any general election campaign that reneges on them.

We must disrupt Reeve’s ‘smoked salmon and scrambled eggs’ offensive with our own offensive. Union and Labour Party members should convene meetings and pass resolutions demanding the restoration of the pledges and commiting themselves to publicly campaign against Starmer’s sellout.

Instead we should demand the ditching of the fiscal rule, replacing it with a huge tax increase on the bourgeoisie’s wealth and corporate profits. In the final analysis, if British capitalism cannot afford decent living standards and a clean environment, then it should be expropriated and replaced with a democratic workers’ plan of production.

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