Leaked Labour script puts ‘core party issues’ above Brexit
A leaked general election script for MPs reveals that the Labour party will direct its campaign focus to core party issues, such as schools, social care and the NHS, rather than immigration, defence and Brexit.
The document sent to Labour MPs and passed to the Guardian reveals that the party’s dominant attack line will be that Theresa May’s party is for “the privileged few” and that Labour will be “for the many not the few”.
Immigration – one of the key issues for the party in its northern heartlands where constituents voted in large numbers to leave the EU – is not mentioned. MPs are told they should stress that the election “is not a re-run of the EU referendum” and that the party only objects to the Tory “reckless approach to Brexit”.
In a speech on Tuesday, the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said the party would not make controlling immigration its priority as the UK left the EU.
The script, which only mentions Jeremy Corbyn’s name once in the two-sided document, says that the general election should be seen as a chance for “a fresh start”. The position will be that the Conservatives have a “reckless approach to Brexit [which] threatens to put millions of jobs at risk”.
Labour will promise to increase spending on infrastructure and public services, the script says. Among key pledges MPs are prompted to mention Brexit is not among them, but the flagship policies are a £10 living wage, a national investment bank to create £500bn to fund capital projects and infrastructure, and a guarantee on the triple lock for pensions.
The script also says MPs should say that a Labour government “will always give the NHS the money it needs”.
On education, party MPs will say that Labour will focus on “reducing class sizes and driving up teaching standards” while the Tories “only look backwards to bring back selection, which will benefit only the lucky few”.
Spending pledges include free school meals for primary school pupils, reintroduction of the education maintenance allowance, and maintenance grants for students from low-income and middle-income backgrounds. A Labour government, the script adds, would build more than 1m homes in five years, with at least half of those in the social rent sector.
The script makes little or no mention on topics where the Conservatives are traditionally strong, including defence and the armed forces, and crime. Labour MPs are however handed an attack line, which says the Tories “broke their promise to protect the police” and that “more than 20,000 police officers and 6,000 police community support jobs have been cut since 2010”.
The party is due, by 5 May, to finish drawing up its list of candidates for all seats, following a meeting of the national executive committee on 3 May, the Guardian understands.
Newcomers could battle to replace retiring Labour MPs with relatively safe seats, including Jim Dowd, in Lewisham West and Penge, and Alan Johnson, in Hull West. Several Corbyn advisers are thought to be vying for Johnson’s seat, including his former spokesman Sam Tarry and his speechwriter, David Prescott.
Karie Murphy, head of Corbyn’s office, and Katy Clark, the former MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, and Corbyn’s political secretary, are also thought to have put their names forward as candidates for seats. The trade unionist Stephanie Peacock, former partner of Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, will compete for the Barnsley East seat vacated by Michael Dugher.
In Lewisham, there is expected to be a close contest between Ellie Reeves – former Labour NEC member, sister of Rachel Reeves, and spouse of the MP John Cryer – against Christian Wolmar, former Richmond Park candidate and transport campaigner. Ibrahim Dogus, founder of the British Kebab Awards, has also put his name forward for that south London seat.
The party’s manifesto launch has been pencilled in for 15 May, drafted by Corbyn’s adviser Andrew Fisher, previously a Public and Commercial Services union official. It will pull together ideas agreed by the party’s executive and shadow cabinet at a critical “clause V” meeting on 11 May.