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Labour leader Corbyn launches populist manifesto with attack on billionaires

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Jeremy Corbyn waves to cheering students at the Labour manifesto launch
Jeremy Corbyn waves to cheering students at the Labour manifesto launch -
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British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn launched the Labour party election manifesto on Thursday with an unashamedly populist pitch of huge public spending at the expense of “tax dodgers, bad bosses and polluters”.

“Labour is on your side,” he told a cheering crowd of students in Birmingham, promising to scrap university tuition fees and the much-derided ‘universal credit’ welfare system.

But while the party's radical domestic agenda is likely to appeal to voters, there is little in the manifesto on the dominant issue in December's snap election: Brexit.

Corbyn was enthusiastically applauded through a string of spending commitments including the nationalisation of water, mail, railways and energy; public sector pay rises; a minimum wage of at least £10 [€11.69] an hour; the biggest council-house building programme since the 1960s; and rent caps.

The oil and gas industry would “shoulder the burden” of increased spending through a “transition tax”, he announced.

“We are going to give you the very fastest full-fibre broadband for free,” Corbyn said. “That is real change. You can trust us to do all this because we’re opposed to vested interests.”

The policy document also promises a War Powers Act to limit the ability of prime ministers to commit to military action without parliamentary approval, and to conduct "an audit of the impact of Britain's colonial legacy".

Labour’s manifesto is “full of hope,” Corbyn said.

“Ignore the wealthy and powerful that tell you that it’s not possible,” he warned, saying that “bankers, billionaires and the establishment” oppose Labour’s policies “because they know we mean what we say.”

“One-third of Britain’s billionaires have donated to the Conservative party,” Corbyn said. “That’s why the billionaire-owned media makes things up about us. The system is rigged in their favour … but it’s not working for you.”

A Labour government would tackle “the tax dodgers, the bad bosses, the polluters,” he promised.

He also insisted that Labour’s spending plans would not mean higher taxes “for 95% of taxpayers.” There would be “no increase in VAT or income tax for anyone earning less than £80,000 per year,” he pledged.

However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that promise was “simply not credible” and that the spending pledges would need £80bn [€93.5bn] of tax revenue.

Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, said: “You cannot raise that kind of money in our tax system without affecting individuals.”

“It’s impossible to overstate just how extraordinary this manifesto in terms of the sheer scale of money being spent and raised through the tax system.”

After the launch, Corbyn was asked why the party had adopted such a radical manifesto.

"Yes it is a radical manifesto," he replied. "But when you travel around this country and talk to people, radical answers are necessary."

Labour's promise of a 5% pay rise for public sector workers would mean an extra £1,200 [€1,403] for nurses and an average increase of £1,600 [€1,870], the BBC reported.

The Conservatives claimed Labour's plans would cost voters £2,400 [€2,806] a year increased taxes.

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