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.

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  • I completely agree with the article and the comments. I think what we are looking at is not a Labour manifesto which is ultimately ‘hard left’ (as Rufus says it’s not too dissimilar to the Liberal manifesto of 83), but elements within the Labour Party that are hard left and willing to support any socialist revolution irrespective of human welfare issues. Bolivia is a classic case where the Corbyistas give their backing to Evo Morales, even though laws have been passed by his government to make child labour legal.

    I think the difference here between a true social-liberal angle and that of the Labour Corbynistas would be to applaud the progressive achievements of the Morales regime but to also be very critical of its less than democratic principles. The same goes for other international affairs which the trendy left attach themselves to without looking at the wider picture.

    Regarding the EU, Labour has definitely betrayed the people in rolling over before the Brexit bulldozer. Admittedly I was never the biggest fan of the bureaucratic and centralised structure of the EU, yet surrendering membership of the customs union is likely to prove disastrous for the country. If we are to leave the EU (which looks inevitable) there has to be a liberal exit. If we remain we need to position ourselves to campaign with others for massive reform. Either way the case has to be put forward for a co-operative Europe. If we are honest, the result of the referendum was so close it showed a very divided country. In addition to this I believe it also showed a country that wanted a relationship with Europe, but not to be dominated by Europe. At present no party is really accepting this and offering this approach.
  • Agree with nearly all of Stephen’s article and do like beverages. However, what kills any regard I might have for Corbyn is his handling of the referendum and Brexit. His performance in the referendum was lacklustre and many think he wanted to leave, regarding the EU as a capitalist plot. Before the Article 50 debates in parliament he announced that Labour would not block it BEFORE any amendments had even been tabled. This killed off any chance of Tory MPs rebelling and reduced any support for Labour amendments which inevitably were all rejected. He repeated the surrender before the battle in the Lords where there was more chance of successful amendment. The Labour manifesto says “Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.” OK, pass over this contradiction in terms. Following the general election there is a real chance that opposition parties working together and with Tory remainers and even the DUP could keep the UK in the Single Market but see Corbyn on Marr and McDonnell on Peston where they reject the opportunity claiming that voters would see Single Market membership as the same as EU membership !