Politics

Our political editor answers your questions about Labour's manifesto


As part of a new series you can ask our politics team any questions you have about the general election, and they will post their responses on the politics live blog between 12.30pm and 1.30pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until polling week.

On Wednesday, the Guardian’s political editor, Heather Stewart, answered your questions about the Labour manifesto, campaign and the party’s policies. Here are some of your questions and her answers.

One of the most popular ideas in the Labour manifesto is free education for all. Where would the money to back up the abolition of tuition fees for undergraduate and postgraduate courses come from? And how would that affect the economy given the astronomical fees that students currently pay/get a loan for?

Carina Nicu, 27, research technician at the University of Manchester

Hi Carina, you’re right that abolishing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants is the single most costly measure in the manifesto, at £13.6bn a year by the end of the parliament.

Labour says almost half of that, £6.4bn, will be offset by the savings from getting rid of the current system (it’s costly to administer, and many students have their fees written off anyway). They would also argue that ensuring kids from lower-income households are not deterred from going to university would have wider social/economic benefits – though of course it wouldn’t just be these students who would benefit.

Labour hasn’t earmarked specific taxes to pay for each spending measure, but its biggest money-raiser is increasing corporation tax, which is expected to bring in a whopping £23.7bn a year within five years. The impact of that on the wider economy is contested; Labour says it’s just taking it back to 2010 levels, and the 26% rate still won’t be high by international standards.

Critics say it will deter foreign investment – and that part of the cost will ultimately be passed on to customers and workers, as well as wealthy executives and shareholders.

Are there any concrete measures for EU nationals living in the UK (in the context of Brexit) in the Labour manifesto?

Sabrina

Hi Sabrina, yes: the Labour manifesto reiterates the party’s longstanding commitment to uphold the rights of EU citizens already in the UK to remain here.

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And it goes a bit further, saying a Labour government would get rid of the legal requirement to register under the EU settlement scheme. It would instead become a “declaratory system”, under which EU citizens could register if they wished, but it wouldn’t be a requirement for continuing to live and work here. (The manifesto doesn’t say how that would work for employers wondering if a particular individual has the right to be here). Labour would also expand the right of all migrants to bring their families to the UK.

As for freedom of movement, that would depend on what happens with Brexit.

I have teenage grandchildren, one hoping to start higher education next year. Please can you clarify the Labour position on student grants – both for maintenance and tuition fees. Will there be means testing? If Labour forms a government after the election when would any new arrangements for student finances be introduced?

Muriel, Preston

Hello Muriel, Labour has said it will abolish tuition fees for all students – beginning immediately, so for those starting university in autumn 2020 – and bring back maintenance grants for the children of families on lower incomes.

Labour has often hinted at electoral reform. Is there any commitment to scrapping the first past the post system for general elections?

Daniel, 46, geologist, Leamington Spa

I’m afraid, not, Daniel. Labour’s manifesto says it will “take urgent steps to refresh our democracy”, and commits to a series of specific changes, including abolishing the hereditary principle in the House of Lords and lowering the voting age to 16, but there is no mention of voting reform.

It does say the reboot of democracy will be guided by a UK-wide constitutional convention, led by a citizens’ assembly. It appears to be mainly focused on the balance of power between Westminster and the rest of the UK; but perhaps voting reform might emerge as a recommendation? That’s as close as the manifesto comes on the issue.

What does the nationalisation of Openreach mean for the thousands of people currently working for Openreach’s competitors? There seems to have been no mention of this, with the implication being that given there will be no need for competitors of British Broadband, that their job losses will be the price to pay for “free” broadband.

Sam, West Midlands

Good question Sam. My colleague Peter Walker actually asked about the fate of those companies at the launch event for the broadband policy. The answer he was given was that they could continue to provide add-on services, such as subscription TV packages. But you’re right, the expectation would be that their broadband operations would wither away (while BT Openreach – renamed British Broadband – would expand its operations significantly, presumably).

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Just how radical is the Labour party manifesto – when compared to both traditional British politics, and to other European countries?

Tom Bacon, freelance journalist in the entertainment sector, Ormskirk

Hi Tom, Jeremy Corbyn was right when he told my colleague Kate Proctor earlier this week that his plans wouldn’t put the UK significantly out of line with other European countries, in terms of tax and spending and the size of the state.

But it’s the speed of the transformation that is so striking: the manifesto envisages a radical transformation of the economy and the role of government, in just five years. As director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson put it, “this would be the biggest set of spending increases, and the biggest set of tax increases, and the biggest set of borrowing increases we’ve seen in peacetime history.”

I’m aware that Labour are planning to decriminalise abortion – which I am wholly supportive of. However, I’m not clear on whether this also changes the law on the latest a woman can legally terminate? Many Tory supporters I know are posting pro-life website claims that abortion will be made legal at any point during pregnancy even when the baby is fully developed. I do not believe this to be true but I’m struggling to find the details on the changes Labour intend to make to abortion law and would like clarification.

Nicole, Hertfordshire

Hi Nicole, I’m really interested (and concerned) to hear that that’s out there, because it’s not true. The only reference to abortion policy in the manifesto says: “we will uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions.” There is no reference to any plan to review the current policy. Thanks for asking that one.

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Has Labour made any indication that it would have a gender-balanced cabinet?

Eric Ekong, 28, software engineer, London

So, I haven’t seen Jeremy Corbyn make that commitment explicitly, Eric, but he has repeatedly highlighted the gender balance in his shadow cabinet, and contrasted that with the Conservatives more male-dominated top team. So while he hasn’t committed to keeping everyone in the same jobs if he got into Downing Street, I think it’s highly likely he would maintain a balance.

Have Labour published any deeper details on what the £1bn public health investment might break down into? Health inequalities presumably need to be a focus.

Joel, 30, working in the charity sector, Essex

Hi Joel, so yes, the manifesto says a Labour government would make reducing health inequalities a clear target of public policy.

The £1bn planned increase in public health funding is part of that, and Labour says it would recruit 4,500 more health visitors and school nurses – and take a series of other steps on everything from increasing breastfeeding support for new mums, to widening the scope of the sugar tax to tackle obesity.

To try and make the target stick, the party also says it would would introduce a new Future Generations Wellbeing Act – a law aimed at forcing the government to check the impact of all new policy on health inequality – and a new obligation on NHS agencies to cooperate with directors of public health.

Share your questions

Next up will be the Guardian’s in-house election psephologist, Dan Sabbagh who is also the defence and security editor. He has plenty of experience of political journalism, having previously worked as a lobby reporter during the Theresa May phase of the Brexit crisis. Prior to that he was home editor, helping run the Guardian’s domestic coverage, including its politics team, from the news desk over two other elections and two referendums.

He will be answering any questions you may have about polling at 12.30pm on Friday. You can ask your question via our form here.



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