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Great Britain

Jeremy Corbyn urges public to vote for 'his manifesto of hope'

Jeremy Corbyn has urged the public to vote for his “manifesto of hope” as he unveiled plans for the most dramatic increase in tax and spending in more than half a century if Labour wins power next month’s general election.

In an upbeat launch event at Birmingham City University, the Labour leader said he welcomed the hostility of the billionaires, bad bosses and dodgy landlords who would lose out from his policies.

Experts were taken aback by the scale of Labour’s spending plans, which dwarfed the substantial increase in the size of the state envisaged in the party’s 2017 manifesto.

“See this [2019] manifesto and vote for the person who’s struggling who you don’t even know,” Corbyn urged the public, adding: “How can any government claim it cares about our country when it cares so little about the people who live here?”

With Labour still trailing significantly behind the Conservatives in the polls, party strategists hope the manifesto will help to tempt wavering voters. Corbyn said it was “full of popular policies that the political establishment has blocked for a generation”.

The slim red volume, titled It’s Time for Real Change, included a number of fresh announcements, in addition to the policies announced earlier in the campaign. Key plans include:

Corbyn promised an “investment blitz”, which he said would leave no part of the country untouched, and suggested the deindustrialisation that begun in the 1980s would be reversed. “Margaret Thatcher’s government wiped out huge swathes of Britain’s industry. We will rebuild it, as green industry,” he said.

Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said: “This spending increase would be comparable to the first Wilson government and would mean the UK having a bigger state than Germany.”

Corbyn acknowledged his plans were radical, saying they would transform society, but he insisted there would be no increase in income tax, national insurance or VAT for 95% of taxpayers, with only those paid more than £80,000 a year paying the price.

“You really can have this plan for real change because you don’t need money to buy it. You just need a vote, and your vote can be more powerful than all their wealth,” he said.

But with the plans requiring an extra £82bn a year in tax revenue by the end of the next parliament, some analysts said the changes envisaged, including a significant increase in corporation tax, would be likely to have knock-on effects lower down the income scale.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, a leading economics thinktank, said: “The truth is of course that in the end corporation tax is paid by workers, customers or shareholders so would affect many in the population.”

He added: “If you want to transform the scale and scope of the state then you need to be clear that the tax increases required to do that will need to be widely shared rather than pretending that everything can be paid for by companies and the rich.”

Ryan Shorthouse, the founder of Bright Blue, a liberal conservatism thinktank, said Labour’s plans would amount to “a significant and unprecedented expansion of state expenditure and control. They envisage a super-spending, suffocating state.”

One of the most eye-catching tax rises is an £11bn windfall levy on oil and gas companies, which Labour said would pay for a “just transition fund” to lessen the impact on jobs and communities of the move towards a net zero carbon economy.

It said the new tax would be levied according to the companies’ historical contribution to climate change and that some of the proceeds would go towards retraining workers from the oil and gas industries declines, and creating new green jobs.

As expected, the policy on immigration was somewhat less liberal than the pro-open borders motion passed at Labour party conference in Brighton.

The manifesto said: “If we remain in the EU, freedom of movement will continue. If we leave, it will be subject to negotiations, but we recognise the social and economic benefits that free movement has brought both in terms of EU citizens here and UK citizens abroad - and we will seek to protect those rights.”

Most of Corbyn’s speech focused on his promises for domestic policy. But he also sought to take the fight to Boris Johnson over the UK leaving the EU, attacking the prime minister’s promise to “get Brexit done” as “a fraud on the British people”.

“His sellout deal will be just the beginning of years of drawn-out, bogged-down negotiations and broken promises … and his toxic deal with Donald Trump will take even longer,” the Labour leader said.

As Corbyn warned of the risk a bilateral trade deal with the US could leave the NHS exposed to “rapacious American corporations”, the audience of activists broke out into a chant of “Not for sale. Not for sale”.

The Conservatives have dismissed Labour’s claims about the risk of privatisation of the health service as scaremongering, but Tory candidates say the idea has resonating with voters and has beginning to crop up spontaneously during canvassing.

Many policies in the Labour manifesto were also in the 2017 document, including the abolition of student tuition fees. However, there was no sign of a plan to alleviate the burden of existing student debt, which the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, had hinted at earlier this week.

Answering questions after his speech, Corbyn said that student debt was something the party was considering. “We are looking at ways in which we can stabilise it; in which we can bring about some relief,” he said.

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