Lord Mandelson attacks Labour's left-wing economic plans but admits voters could be won over

Tony Blair’s former close ally ridicules 'lots of free offers' but acknowledges they could deliver No 10 – if Jeremy Corbyn is ditched

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 27 October 2019 23:10
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Lord Mandelson says he’s felt 'morally compromised' staying in a party that has given such abuse to its own MPs

Peter Mandelson has attacked Labour’s left-wing economic programme as “lots of free offers” that will fail to transform the country – but admitted it could work with voters.

In a pamphlet, the New Labour founder criticised John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, for “simply telling the movement what they want to hear”, rather than offering “new ideas”.

Lord Mandelson warned that power taken from “globalised capitalism” would be handed to “ill-equipped civil servants and a new generation of trade union barons” – instead of to citizens.

And he accused Mr McDonnell of “positioning Labour against Tony Blair”, rather than offering a programme to rival Clement Attlee’s post-war government for its radicalism.

However, Mr Blair’s former close ally also acknowledged Labour could yet win power with its left-wing manifesto – but only if it dumped the unpopular Jeremy Corbyn.

“Were it not for Jeremy Corbyn’s extremely poor personal ratings – they make a majority Labour government an impossibility while he remains – Labour’s prospects would be far stronger than the party’s detractors imagine,” Lord Mandelson wrote.

“There are few if any of Labour’s flagship policies that do not score good opinion poll ratings – until Corbyn is identified as their author.”

Writing for the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, he argued Boris Johnson’s rejection of austerity would “make it harder for the Conservatives to attack McDonnellomics in the coming election”.

Both parties would be competing for “economic worriers who favour security, law and order”.

“Brexit has skewed them towards the Conservatives but, if you remove this factor, they share many Labour instincts and are drawn to many of the ‘populist’ elements of Labour’s ‘re-balancing’ agenda,” Lord Mandelson said.

“These voters back higher spending on healthcare, education, policing and defence, which is why the Conservatives, while condemning Labour’s tax and spend policies, are nonetheless turning on spending taps of their own.”

The verdict comes in a pamphlet entitled McDonnellomics: How Labour’s economic agenda would transform the UK, which argues Labour would deliver the “biggest shift in UK economic policy since the advent of Thatcherism”.

The party is pledging to hike taxes on corporations and the highest earners, introduce a financial services tax to tame the City of London and hand 10 per cent of every company’s shares to its workers.

As well as overturning austerity, Labour would abolish tuition fees, provide free prescriptions and social care and nationalise the railways and utilities.

But Lord Mandelson said: “Instead of moving Britain forward, with new ideas and utilising the opportunities that digital technology and AI, for example, offer us to transform the economy and public services, a Corbyn-McDonnell government wants to reassert the statist mindset that New Labour disavowed.”

And he added: “We have to ask ourselves whether lots of free offers are going to help develop the well-funded modern public services that address today’s needs in health, education and everyday living.”

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