Much of the press - especially the right-leaning part of it - is devoting a lot of time to studying a leaked copy of the Labour manifesto for next month’s General Election. As the decision has already been taken by Tory-backing papers to compare Jeremy Corbyn unfavourably to Michael Foot, the manifesto was always going to be compared to what Labour put before the electorate in 1983.
So we are informed by the Mail, whose legendarily foul mouthed editor has been displaying an embarrassing schoolboy crush for Theresa May, that “The 43-page manifesto is the most radical since Michael Foot's in 1983, which was dubbed 'the longest suicide note in history’”. The Murdoch Sun’s report could have been written by the same author: “The 43-page document has already been dubbed 'the NEW longest suicide note in history', after drawing comparisons with former leader Michael Foot's disastrous far-left 1983 manifesto”. So just how suicidal are some of the policies it contains?
Let’s pick one policy, and one way in which policies would be paid for, just to show that the right-wing press are not interested in what may serve the public better, but rather are going to cheerlead for the Tories, whatever Labour does.
So policies … rail nationalisation. This is being spun by the Tory press as a “back to the 1970s” idea. It’s true that the rail network, and almost everything that ran on it, was nationalised back then. But Network Rail - the body that owns and runs the tracks - is also nationalised already. The Government underwrites lease payments for trains. Train operating companies run a timetable specified by Government.
There is already not much about the passenger carrying railway that is not either owned by the Government, or controlled by it. Could Labour’s idea lower fares? Not by very much: train operating companies typically get a margin of only 3% for their trouble. So perhaps a 3% fares cut. And only once. Would the railway be so different? Doubtful.
The world would not end if Britain’s passenger carrying railway was fully in public hands. But it would be far more difficult to blame Richard Branson when trains ran late.
So much for a typical policy, how about paying for stuff? There is a proposal to increase Corporation Tax from the present 19% to 26%. Tory fans in the press have decreed that this would mean companies upping sticks and relocating abroad (rather than doing so as a result of Brexit). Would they, then, relocate to France or Germany?
Er, not really, if the rate of Corporation Tax were the sole determinant: even with a 26% rate, Britain would still have the lowest Corporation Tax rate in the G7. So no relocation to France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada or the USA. The thought also enters that if Germany can manage to attract firms, even with a tax rate of between 30% and 33%, and we claim to be in the same ballpark, 26% should be no big deal.
And that is “hard left”? Whatever. The Tory backing press will back the Tories, even to the extent of telling readers that relatively modest measures are going to cause the fabric of society to disintegrate. Never mind though - only another four weeks of this to go.