Is Labour ready to win over taxpayers?

By Joe Ventre, digital campaign manager 


It’s been a topsy-turvy week. ITV’s iconic daytime duo - former best buddies Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield - have imploded in a flurry of controversy and bitter recriminations. Rishi Sunak appeared on their show to say he thought immigration was too high, before suggesting it was nothing to do with him, guv. Our hardline home secretary has been revealed to have been done for speeding. And Boris Johnson’s own defence lawyers, advising him on an inquiry around covid rules breaches, reported him for further alleged covid rules breaches. 


Perhaps more importantly than any of that though, strange things are happening on the political left. Labour leader Keir Starmer finally admitted the NHS needed reform, not just more cash. And his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves unapologetically told an audience in the USA that “the free market does what only it can do – innovating, competing, creating wealth.” With the world apparently being turned on its head, is this a sign that the Labour Party is starting to take taxpayers’ concerns seriously? 


Some of the signs are encouraging. Regardless of your political stripes, it’s clear to everyone that pouring cash into the health service is no longer delivering results. The Labour shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting MP, has already said that the NHS faces problems with its “culture and structure” which lie deeper than funding levels. After all, the government spent £220 billion on healthcare in 2020-2021. In 2010, that figure was £159 billion. Prior to the pandemic, the UK was spending 9.9 per cent of GDP on healthcare, which rose to 12 per cent in 2020 and doesn’t look set to shift back down. Yet few taxpayers would say they feel the impact of those sums on services. 


With his speech on Monday - despite plenty of ridiculous references to Tory plots to scupper the NHS and “put it in the ground” (perhaps buried under the piles of cash they’ve thrown at it?) - Starmer did acknowledge that “if all we do in the Labour Party is place the NHS on a pedestal and leave it there, that’s not good enough either.” If our politicians are ever going to get real, move healthcare into the 21st century and be realistic about the options on the table (like the Australian public health insurance system, supported by the Australian Labor Party), Starmer has made a step in the right direction - albeit a small one.


The same goes for Reeves. Her acknowledgement of a “dynamic open market, where the state does what a government does best” seems a world away from the Marxist dogma of John McDonnell, and the promises to “remove the barriers that too often stop investment, like Britain’s ludicrous planning system” threaten to steal a march on Tory MPs wedded to short-sighted regulations on new housing and developments


Taxpayers will need to hear a lot more to be convinced that either party really cares about cutting the record tax burden, rolling back red tape, helping out struggling firms and stopping the endless wasting of cash on unreformed and unsustainable parts of the public sector. With the world seemingly turning on its head, perhaps Labour are finally ready to pick up that mantle. 

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