Labour’s nationalisation plans were today slammed as ‘bad for customers, the environment and the economy’ after John McDonnell said the party would launch its state takeover of key industries within weeks of taking power.
Mr McDonnell used a speech in central London to tell voters that starting the process of taking ownership of water, energy, rail and even broadband would be a key priority in Labour’s first 100 days in office.
He also announced that if the party is victorious at the ballot box on Thursday he would hold his first budget as chancellor on February 5, setting out plans to ‘save the NHS’ and end austerity ‘once and for all’.
Nationalising a selection of key industries is a major plank of Labour’s election offering to voters but the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank said it would cost at least ‘many tens of billions of pounds’.
Meanwhile, there are growing concerns the shift from private to public ownership could cause massive disruption and some businesses fear a return to the chaos of the 1970s.
Water UK, the trade association which represents the UK’s major water companies, said Labour’s nationalisation proposal ‘flies in the face of all the evidence against it’.
Chief executive Michael Roberts said: ‘When you consider all of the evidence, the nationalisation of the water industry in England would be bad for customers, bad for the environment and bad for the economy.’
The row over nationalisation came as Labour desperately tried to overhaul the Tories’ poll advantage with just three days to go until the election.
Boris Johnson today warned that the outcome on Thursday is closer than it looks – and Conservatives should take ‘nothing for granted’.
John McDonnell today used a speech in London to pledge that kicking off the party’s huge plans for the state to take ownership of water, energy, rail and even broadband would be a key priority in Labour’s first 100 days
Mr McDonnell revealed that if he becomes chancellor on Friday he will hold his first budget on February 5
Boris Johnson, pictured chatting with workers at Grimsby fish market this morning, has warned that the election result is closer than it looks in opinion polls which give the Tories a sizeable lead over Labour
Dominic Cummings, pictured arriving in Downing Street today, warned earlier in the election campaign that things were ‘much tighter’ between the Tories and Labour than the polls suggest
What would be in Labour’s first budget?
John McDonnell announced today that his first Budget as chancellor would take place on February 5.
That is the moment when Mr McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn would fully commit to Labour’s eye-wateringly expensive spending plans which the Tories claim could bankrupt Britain.
Here are the headline items which Mr McDonnell said would be included:
Put more money into an emergency package of reforms to Universal Credit while Labour designs a replacement welfare system at a cost of billions of pounds.
Introduce a Real Living Wage of £10 per hour for all workers over the age of 16 – a move businesses fear could lead to job losses.
Provide funding for a five per cent pay rise for all public sector workers.
Enacting the department spending plans promised in Labour’s ‘Grey Book’, putting billions more into schools, hospitals and social care amid concerns about where the party would find the money.
As well as nationalisation, Labour has offered voters a series of giveaways including scrapping tuition fees.
It has insisted it can pay for its manifesto promises without putting up taxes on the vast majority of earners.
The party has also promised a £58billion handout for women pensioners born in the 1950s – a vow that was not included in the manifesto and would be funded from unspecified sources.
Mr McDonnell said this morning that the first priority of a Labour government would be ending austerity.
He stressed the importance of ‘getting money moving out of Whitehall and the City’ in order to deliver the party’s hard-Left goals, with a National Transformation Unit established before Christmas.
Negotiations on a new Brexit deal with the EU would also be started before the New Year.
But Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not back his own theoretical package in the second referendum the party wants to hold, with the leader adamant he would remain neutral.
The shadow chancellor said Labour had ‘already started our meetings with the Treasury’ to make sure officials are ready to implement the party’s plans on Friday if Mr Corbyn wins a majority.
Mr McDonnell claimed the ‘publicly-owned and democratically run utilities’ the party is proposing would become ‘institutions that we will come to cherish and rely on, like the NHS’.
He also revealed that the party’s state-ownership plans would give ordinary people a say in how industries are run through the creation of so-called ‘People’s Assemblies’.
Labour’s chilling vision for a return to the Seventies’ ‘Winter of Discontent’
Leicester Square was filled with rubbish during the Winter of Discontent as workers went on strike
Labour’s massive spending plans and hard-left manifesto have sparked fears in the business community of a return to the 1970s and a potential repeat of the so-called Winter of Discontent.
In 1978/79, rubbish was left piled high in the streets and rats ran around in Leicester Square as dustbin men and other public sector workers went on strike to support a pay rise demand.
Hospitals were in chaos because cleaners and other ancillary staff joined the most widespread withdrawal of labour since the General Strike of 1926.
Parts of the country were left without an ambulance service for 24 hours as the army was drafted in to provide a skeleton service.
Patients went untreated and even the dead were left unburied, as council grave-diggers took ‘industrial action’.
Jim Callaghan’s Labour government refused demands of increases of 30 per cent and more for public workers.
He said: ‘When Labour puts money in your pockets, we will also put power back in your hands.
‘You rely on and work in these services, you know them. But you’ve been ripped off and shut out from how they’re run, to protect vested interests and profits for the wealthy.
‘Labour will put real power in your hands every day. Together we will improve services and bring down fares and bills because we believe in democracy and we believe in you.
‘In our first hundred days we will start the process of bringing water and energy into public ownership.
‘We’ll set up boards to run them made up of you, the customer, and you, the worker, as well as representatives from local councils, metro mayors and others.
‘We’ll make sure decisions are taken locally by those who understand the services – those who use them and deliver them.
‘Meetings will be public and streamed online with new transparency regulations set higher than ever before so you can see if your road is being dug up, why, and for how long.
‘And we’ll create new People’s Assemblies to give everyone the option of participating in how their utilities are run.’
The IFS said the overall cost of Labour’s nationalisation plans is ‘uncertain’ but added ‘it would certainly come, at the very least, to many tens of billions of pounds’.
Mr McDonnell today insisted Labour was not putting forward a ‘blank cheque’ to take industries into public ownership and that ‘Parliament will determine the price’.
Mr McDonnell said his first budget would include a massive cash boost for the NHS and plans to increase the living wage to £10 per hour
Mr Johnson, pictured at a tyre warehouse in Sunderland, today took the election fight to Labour’s Leave-voting heartlands
Elsewhere, Nicola Sturgeon urged voters to help the SNP ‘lock Boris out’ of Number 10 as she campaigned in Coatbridge in Scotland
Nigel Farage also targeted Labour’s heartlands today as he visited Barnsley to try to win over Leave voters
Mr McDonnell said Jeremy Corbyn, pictured in north-west Wales yesterday, would start Brexit negotiations with Brussels on a new deal immediately after the election if he wins power
He also claimed there would be a ‘smooth transfer’ from private to public despite the IFS having warned the nationalisation plans potentially risked ‘years of disruption’.
Mr McDonnell used his address to set out his belief that in ‘too many parts of the country we have been wasting people’s potential’.
‘That’s down to successive governments sitting back and leaving the fate of whole communities at the mercy of market forces,’ he said.
‘Good jobs and whole industries that were once the pride of our country have been lost and replaced with dreary, exploitative, insecure and low paid jobs. Or in some cases no jobs at all.
‘No wonder people feel disillusioned in politicians. As our manifesto makes clear, turning these two things around will be our number one priority in government.’
The shadow chancellor said that Labour’s promised Green Industrial Revolution would not only help to ‘avert climate catastrophe’ but also ‘put British industry back on the map’.
Mr McDonnell dismissed Tory claims that there would be a run on the pound if Labour wins the election as he said: ‘My fear is that the pound will start going up because of our investment plans.’