OK, not every part of the Labour manifesto was Social Liberalism, that’s true, but it’s worth pointing out that while Corbyn may talk the talk of Socialism the Labour manifesto didn’t walk the walk.
Instead, the policies were largely social liberal. It was a platform that largely argued for leaving things in the hands of the free market but with careful government action to ensure demand stability, investment and sensible regulation, as well as government action on natural monopolies. Not everything was free market, obviously, capping prices is a clear example. We might well be hesitant of capping prices ourselves because that merely swaps price rises for waiting lists and doesn’t solve the underlying problem BUT, broadly speaking, the Labour manifesto wasn’t Socialism; it was Social Liberalism.
Let’s run through it:
- Austerity, Labour were against it. Social Liberals are Keynesian, we’re against it too. (While recovering from a recession that is. Labour seem to agree.)
- Any nationalisation in the manifesto was infrastructure or natural monopolies. Well that’s perfectly normal within Liberal capitalism. Socialism is about the state entering the free market. That is simply not the same as the state stepping in when a market isn’t free.
- Investment in infrastructure. Social Liberals have always been clear that the state has a strong role in investing in national infrastructure.
- Health and Education are infrastructure too. Social Liberals understand the need for strong health and education systems. We are Beverage Liberals.
- And finally, Labour even advocated a Land Value tax. Need I say more?
So where does Corbyn fall down? The Labour Manifesto didn’t do nearly enough to reverse cuts to welfare. We can and must do more to help the poorest. Both because it is decent, fair and kind but also because the free market can only function effectively when everyone has at least a little money to spend. Social Liberals understand that we can help give people more control over their lives and help the economy at the same time.
So was the image of Britain that Corbyn tried to sell popular? Very. He got 40% of the vote. A positive vision that is anti-austerity, in favour of the NHS and education, a Britain where no one goes hungry or is left without a home. It is absolutely possible to get the public on board with the idea of investing in infrastructure and our public services. That’s what Corbyn shows us.
What we need now is a Social Liberal to stand up and sell it. Because that’s where Corbyn falls down, he says he’s an old fashioned command and control socialist but his manifesto doesn’t match who he claims to be.
If someone who doesn’t really believe in it can sell the policies we want and still get 40% of the vote then imagine what we could do with someone who passionately and wholeheartedly believed in a Liberal vision for Britain.
In this election, we have learned one thing very clearly – now is the time to be bold.