Labour released our manifesto today and I am very proud of the plan we set out for the country. We will balance the books—each and every one of our policies is fully costed—whilst reforming society so that it works for all working people, not just the privileged few at the top.
We will do this by ending the crisis in the NHS by properly investing in it with money raised though our mansion tax. We will raise the minimum wage to £8 per hour by the end of 2019. We will introduce a one year freeze on train fares and a two year freeze on energy bills. We will guarantee 25 hours free childcare paid for by a levy on banks. And we will raise and save money by introducing a 50% rate of tax on incomes over £150,000, by abolishing non-dom status for very rich tax avoiders, and by scrapping winter fuel payments for the richest pensioners.
I thought Ed did a brilliant job and sounded truly prime ministerial in his speech introducing the manifesto.
There is one aspect of the manifesto with which I disagree: I am strongly opposed to HS2. I have argued many times in Parliament that it is a terrible waste of money, costing upwards of £50bn and perhaps much more, while only fractionally reducing journey times.
To meet the our growing demand for rail travel there are many other cheaper and more efficient alternatives to HS2, such as improving and developing existing rail lines.
I fear that HS2 will only increase London’s dominance on the rest of the UK as research from abroad shows that high speed rail sucks more and more people into a country’s major city. Transport spending per head is already massively higher in London and the South-East than in the North. According to the think tank IPPR, it is roughly £2500 compared to just £5 in the North!
I would much rather see the £50bn or whatever figure it is spent on improving transport infrastructure in the regions and on new schools and hospitals, than on this great vanity project.