Stripping maternity leave is a humiliating U-turn for Corbyn

New Labour would be in office if Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell had had time to implement Labour’s scheme to allow parents to get paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child,…

Stripping maternity leave is a humiliating U-turn for Corbyn

New Labour would be in office if Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell had had time to implement Labour’s scheme to allow parents to get paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, a recent analysis by the Resolution Foundation has found. When the Labour leader promised PFI back in 2013, he promised not to use the money raised from taxes to fund his policy.

Labour would be in office on current polls with lower than Gordon Brown’s modest funding levels but with an enlarged Parliamentary majority. Theresa May has embarked on her snap election after the failure of her July 2016 U-turn on PFI. At the same time as May seized the Liberal Democrat share of the vote from the Lib Dems, it is a matter of record that PFI, even with government guarantees, has been long considered an open book by major institutions. Only new EU investment was considered out of bounds from 2010 until last July, when the government told the Treasury that new EU investment was permissible.

This is a shocking failure of the leadership to adequately consider the importance of engaging with the private sector on long-term capital investment projects such as PFI.

There is little doubt that the intervention on PFI, from March 2016, by the then-head of the Treasury Danny Alexander influenced Theresa May’s timing of this election. It would have been unfortunate if the election had coincided with a major review of PFI schemes.

The failure to give weight to any discussion of PFI with the business community, while highly accommodative of the private sector, but disastrous in terms of attracting new investment, contributed to the failure to build homes on time and on budget. In addition, it has raised questions about the Tories’ return on investment.

It is not immediately obvious why this discussion of PFI and pay maternity leave could not be brought forward to deal with the problems of the private finance initiative. It is not clear whether May and her aides expected that PFI would be criticised as having failed to deliver housing for the people, and that maternity leave would also be hard to implement.

The only certainty of the shape of government in post-2017 Britain is the role of the financial sector in financing. The social good commitments of Cameron’s premiership were in the service of the bankers who provided the funding for the banks he championed. Britain’s banking system, regulated in the guise of the Financial Services Authority, was rescued by state money and was simultaneously written off by the banking business they were supposed to be regulating.

The Conservatives and Labour have, to a large extent, to date both disappointed voters and contributed to the current state of Britain’s finances. Neither party will be able to achieve pay parity until it has learnt to be fiscally responsible again. The Brexit vote, and its disastrous impacts on the pound and the stock market, will have to be compensated for by a shift in the way that Britain does business and its EU membership deals.

The lack of sufficient sympathy for the working class showed by Jeremy Corbyn’s election manifesto and the Labour party that has been this autumn, has not gone unnoticed. Support for the party and voters has suffered as a result. Because Labour’s commitment to saving the planet remains important, Labour has to work harder and change its approach on other aspects of the economy. For example, Corbyn and McDonnell have the responsibility for explaining away this week’s article 104 ruling by the Supreme Court and join together with environmentalists, working people and civil society to regain confidence that Britain is capable of a strong industrial base and that would enable green jobs.

Osborne’s original decision to appoint a panel of experts to examine the sustainability of the PFI proposals is being contrasted with May’s “one eye on the bottom line”. As the great economist Angus Maddison recently observed, despite the catastrophic failures of the government programme, May has brought in John Cridland as the new boss of her business council. For him, the Top Guru, the business council promises to deliver as The Economist noted this week, “an unprecedented (and very pay-off pay-offly) business and financial policy. He even concedes that it may be paid for by higher taxes.”

This is reminiscent of the so-called squeeze on the public sector that Osborne initiated. Now there are reports of a plan to give early retirees tax-free housing benefit.

Labour, having staked out a bit of credibility on its commitment to pay maternity leave, has chosen to revert to spending cuts. This will leave an open season on the policies of the Conservative party.

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