May 10, 2017 / 9:40 PM / 2 years ago

Moving left, UK's Labour manifesto promises renationalization

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s main opposition Labour Party will promise to renationalize rail and mail services and take some of the energy sector into public hands, betting that a shift to the left will win over voters before next month’s election.

Campaigners stand during the unveiling of an election poster for Britain's opposition Labour Party in London, Britain May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

According to a leaked copy of its draft manifesto, Labour, under its leader Jeremy Corbyn, will return to policies echoing those of three decades ago, promising to hike taxes on Britain’s highest earners and companies to fund education and health.

“It gives us an opportunity to point to a vision of a different kind of Britain, a fairer Britain, a more equal Britain, a Britain on the side of the many, not the few,” Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s campaign chief, told Sky News.

The draft was leaked to newspapers, a sign of the divisions that have deepened in the party under Corbyn, whose backers have driven the move leftwards against the wishes of many lawmakers.

Speaking after a meeting of his top team and the party’s national executive on Thursday to finalize the document, Corbyn did not comment on the leak but told reporters the manifesto would be published in the next few days.

“We have just unanimously agreed the contents of it. We have amended a draft document that was put forward,” he said.

“Our manifesto will be an offer, and we believe the policies in it are very popular, an offer that will transform the lives of many people in our society.”

By moving to the left, Labour has cleared the way for Prime Minister Theresa May to take control of the center ground of British politics and appeal to traditional Labour supporters who backed leaving the European Union, a strategy that has handed her ruling Conservatives a runaway lead in the opinion polls.

Corbyn backers said the manifesto was “transformative” and the policies in it widely supported.

But it was mocked by Conservative supporters for echoing Labour’s left-wing 1983 election manifesto, described at the time by one Labour lawmaker as “the longest suicide note in history” for helping the Conservatives to victory.

May’s decision to call an early election for next month caught not only most of her own party by surprise, but has forced Labour and other parties to scramble to devise policies and campaigns almost overnight.

In the draft manifesto, Labour said it would reform corporate governance, rein in “boardroom excess” by setting a 20:1 limit on the ratio between the lowest and highest paid in companies with government contracts and protect small businesses.

It also said it would not accept a “no deal” from the EU, criticizing May’s stance that “no deal was better than a bad deal” at the end of Brexit negotiations.

Gwynne said the public sector had run railways well before and that cooperatives could run new regional state-owned energy companies. “Let’s have some ambition in British politics,” he added.

Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Lough and Toby Chopra

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