Smith’s policies are Corbyn-lite

Below are the 20 policies/ideas Owen Smith announced last Wednesday. The important bit of it, not the word choice nonsense. It is not particularly different to Corbyn, more Corbyn-lite in parts. It appears Labour doesn’t have a policy problem but a personality problem. Corbyn makes policies sound more left than they are and Smith makes them sound more centre than they are. Honestly this Labour leadership contest is more about appearance and less about major policy differences (other than Trident, but that vote has already happened). But seeing as everyone has jumped into the rabbit hole we may as well continue, so the policies are as follows. Comparisons with Corbyn throughout if necessary.

1. A pledge to focus on equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.

Equality of outcome doesn’t quite follow from the speech Owen Smith gave and this could land him in hot water with small c conservatives and swing voters. Looking at the meaning of equality of outcome means everyone gets the same no matter how much effort or skill they have. As such why work hard? is an easy criticism to make. Luckily, Smith is referring to very specific outcomes, namely housing and pay for the same work. So if you are working as a receptionist for ‘Big Corp’ and another receptionist in ‘Big Corp’ is being paid more because they asked for a pay rise you would receive the same increase. Instead of the occasional situation where people are paid different amounts for the same work for asinine reasons. How this would effect teachers pay with regards to years in teaching influences pay only Smith knows but it is not some overly communist notion that every body receives the same no matter what you do. The onus is still on the individual to work and merit is the name of the game.
2. Scrapping the DWP and replacing it with a Ministry for Labour and a Department for Social Security.

This just makes PR sense. The DWP has picked up such a horrendous image that to keep it would be to seem the same as that which came before. More of making sure the public know Labour are different than actual change. Although it could be looked at in terms of aim and splitting labour from social security does make sense as they would have vastly different aims of governance.
3. Introducing modern wages councils for hotel, shop and care workers to strengthen terms and conditions.

Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor is looking to bring in a £10 minimum wage on top of an audit that every company, with more than 21 staff, would have to publish. While Smith doesn’t aim to increase the minimum wage drastically he does want Wage Councils so workers can influence how much they are paid. The ideas here aren’t mutually exclusive and aren’t really comparable.

4. Banning zero hour contracts.

Corbyn has said the exact same, the difference being Corbyn would also make it so companies had to stipulate the precise about of contracted hours and an overtime limit. Smith on the other hand said he would only get rid of zero hour contracts but nothing further so companies could just start offering one hour contracts instead and Smith would see no issue. Corbyn clearly wins here.

5. Ending the public sector pay freeze.

Both agreed and much needed across the public sector.
6. Extending the right to information and consultation to cover all workplaces with more than 50 employees.

Currently this applies only to organisations and companies with over 50 employees. The right to information and consultation means employees must be consulted about changes to working conditions, in contracts, and informed about the economic situation of the business, meetings taking place, and job prospects. Smith would be looking to expand these rights to any work place with over 50 employees.
7. Ensuring workers’ representation on remuneration committees.

Corbyn and Smith both talk of workers being on committees and influencing their places of work. Corbyn proposes Mandatory Collective Bargaining where a company must negotiate with one specific union and any changes made spread to all employees of the company whether part of the union or not. The actual workings are more complicated but sounds like there would be power in the workers hands than would be under the current Trade Union Act.
8. Repealing the Trade Union Act.

Corbyn and Smith agree.
9. Increase spending on health and social care by at least 4% in real-terms in every year of the next parliament.
The promise of 4% increase every year is fairly substantial and it would be hard to say Corbyn doesn’t support something similar he has made different proposals regarding the NHS. Mainly in making it, once again, 100% public rather than private contractors mixed in. To bail out the entire NHS of all private debt, in the billions, and is opposed to the Private Finance Initiative which is seen to be the cause of the NHS problems. Smith is promising to give the NHS more money to fix the issues while Corbyn wants to fix what he argues is the cause of the problem – private investment and loans.

10. A commitment to bring NHS funding up to the European average within the first term of a Labour Government.

I presume this is a quick fix while number 9 is the long term plan. The European average is roughly 1% higher maybe 1.5% than ours. The UK spends close to 9% of its GDP, France and Germany pay 11% but don’t have single payer systems. Poland and Luxembourg spend 6% on health care. This would be a good initiative but the NHS likely has larger problems than simply a lack of funds, although that is the major symptom.
11. Greater spending on schools and libraries.

The forced academisation by the Tories has been universally criticised by Labour and other left parties and Corbyn and Smith look to tackle the issue by reversing the spending cuts to these sectors.
12. Re-instating the 50p top rate of income tax.

Both agree.
13. Reversing cuts in Corporation Tax due to take place up until 2020.

Both agree.
14. Reversing cuts to Inheritance Tax announced in the Summer Budget.

Both agree.
15. Reversing cuts to Capital Gains Tax announced in the March 2016 Budget.

Both agree.
16. Introducing a new wealth Tax on the top 1% of earners to fund increased spending on our NHS.

Both agree.
17. A British New Deal unveiling £200bn of investment over five years.

Corbyn’s policies involve £500bn of investment over five years. Half through Regional and National Investment Banks and the rest through councils and such. The difference here comes down to how to raise the funds which both have said to advocate borrowing for investment but not for day to day spending.
18. A commitment to invest tens of billions in the North of England, and to bring forward High Speed 3.

Both agree. Corbyn wants HS3 to be finished before CR2 (London). Corbyn has talked about devolution powers to the north of England for investment. Also on Corbyn’s agenda would be the re-nationalisation of the railway system. Germany and France have almost entirely state owned rail systems which are cheaper and more efficient than here in the UK.
19. A pledge to build 300,000 homes in every year of the next parliament – 1.5 million over five years.

Corbyn hasn’t stated a number but it is well known he is a major supporter of social housing and rent control which is not something seen in Smith’s policies. It is unclear what % of these 300’000 homes would be social housing nor where they would be.

20. A plan to end the scandal of fuel poverty by investing in efficient energy.

Presumably by efficient energy Smith means renewable. Corbyn is well known to be a major supporter of green energy as well better home insulation to combat fuel poverty while distrusting nuclear and would ban fracking. Smith has simply not said enough to judge yet.
Overall the difference between Smith and Corbyn is slight. Both want to increase taxation of the most wealthy, support the NHS, invest in green energy, and increase workers rights. While Corbyn is in favour of state owned sectors, such as railways, Smith seems more content with continuing public funding of privately owned rail companies. The levels of investment are greatly varied, £200bn compared to £500bn, and while the more is better a question the public will be asking is where will this come from? Massive investment is all well and good but who pays for it and will the national debt increase? Small c conservatives, many of which are swing voters, will be asking these questions and the media will encourage it.

Labour’s main issue isn’t about its policy details but its advertisement of policies. It has a PR problem not a policy problem. Marketing for the Labour party needs to be short, snappy, and memorable. The Conservatives have been masters of this for two elections and with May don’t seem to be slowing down with memorable lines such “safe pair of hands” widely known. Labour doesn’t have this central, easier to remember, message and until it does it will struggle in the mains of the electorate.

Whether you think Corbyn or Smith is better the policies aren’t outrageously different. Corbyn is more traditional Labour and Smith more New Labour and either will see a far more socially aware and people orientated country than the Conservatives are giving us. Corbyn’s policies are more appealing to me because of nationalisation of railways, massive investment in green energy, and forcing companies to negotiate with workers. However, on the points of agreement between Corbyn and Smith, such as repealing the Trade Union Act, mass investment, housing, etc, Labour can find a clear message to share to the public on why they are the next party to govern the country.
Sources (disgusting I know)

What do international comparisons say about the NHS? (Owen Smith’s speech)


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