This article originally appeared in our Elevenses newsletter.
Labour is set to row back on plans to abolish the House of Lords in its first term in order to “bombproof” the party’s manifesto from Tory attacks. Proposals to scrap the upper house have been pushed aside with limited reforms to the Lords now favoured. Cuts to hereditary peers and the introduction of a new appointments process are believed to be among them, which is the very definition of tinkering around the edges.
The move by Labour reverses a pledge included in a draft manifesto drawn up last year and comes hot on the heels of a widely reported reversal in the £28bn-a-year ‘green prosperity plan’ which had been the jewel in their crown up until very recently. Insiders believe Sir Keir Starmer will use the Budget on March 6 – where tax cuts by chancellor Jeremy Hunt could leave the public finances in a tighter state – as an excuse to ditch the target, which has been repeatedly watered down in recent months. Even if Mr Hunt takes a more considered route, one can expect that Rachel Reeves is no longer destined to become the ‘green chancellor’ that she once self-styled herself as.
More likely is that we will see Jeremy Hunt’s shadow over The Treasury for some time if Labour gets in at the next election. News that bankers will be allowed to continue earning unlimited bonuses if Reeves picks up the keys to Number 11 should come as no surprise, nor should her attempts to woo top firms and London executives with commitments to “campaign as a pro-business party and govern as a pro-business party”.
And why? It’s not because these are policies that Labour necessarily believe in, it’s because they are policies that the Conservatives can’t criticise. Labour has, in fact, become rather adept at going hard on soft policies of late. Commitments to clamp down on knife crime, for example, are not as impressive as they might seem. I for one would expect any government to restrict the supply of lethal zombie-style knives which formed the headline-grabbing part of new proposals unveiled by Sir Keir Starmer, and am somewhat horrified that the current administration hasn’t thought to look at that already. But a vote-winning policy? I think not. Plans to make children healthier, too, would be better filed in the ‘things you should be doing’ folder.
What all this points to is that voters are taking an ABTC – anyone but The Conservatives – approach to the election, and Labour knows it. So rather than taking time to listen to the two-thirds of voters who want a closer relationship with Europe, the millions of hard-up families struggling to get by or the countless number of scientists warning about the existential threat of climate change, they have decided to bunker down in the hope that the vultures won’t get them, leaving voters in the dark as a consequence.
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