AS LABOUR continue to obfuscate over Brexit, Sir Keir Starmer, the party’s spokesperson, says any deal struck by Theresa May will be judged by six key tests that he has party has previously set out to Parliament.
Yet, while most people would struggle to name one of these objectives, Labour still has one crucial test to pass if it is to win the confidence of voters – economic credibility.
Even though the Government is in turmoil, and in spite of populist policies intended to broaden the party’s electoral appeal, Labour still trail the Tories in the opinion polls and this dichotomy was illustrated by the conference speech delivered by Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary. Free wifi for town centres. Scrap ATM charges at cashpoint machines. Overhaul business rates, Free bus travel for the under-25s. The possibility of free parking. And so her shopping list went on.
They’re well-meaning policies at a time when the nation’s high streets are fighting for their future. But the word ‘free’ is a misnomer in politics – services and policies still have to be funded – and Ms Long-Bailey didn’t exactly make clear who will pick up the tab to maintain the ATM network or lower business rates which, presumably, is her intention in order to halt the closure of shops.
And, while Labour’s election manifesto last year was, surprisingly, more detailed than the policy prospectus put forward by a complacent Tory party, Mr Corbyn won just 262 out of 650 seats. As such, he can only expect to advance this number at the next election with a reform agenda – a political ‘retail offer’ – which is fully costed out before it is put to the country.