Labour admits it couldn’t wipe students debt away.
We’ve recently seen a flurry of denials of Labour’s pre-election promise to eradicate student debt. It was a promise that dominated headlines, and saw young people flock to Corbyn’s cause in huge numbers, swayed by the promise of educational milk and honey. John McDonnell first let slip on July 16th that this promise to wipe student debt was not, in fact, a promise the Labour party meant. Since then, numerous Labour politicians and spokespeople have come out to claim that this is not something the party is working on, and not something the party ever promised to achieve, from (amongst others) the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner and party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn promised outright before the election, on several occasions, that he will “deal with” the problem of student debt. But in a recent interview with Andrew Marr, he backtracked shamelessly, claiming the manifesto was cobbled together in a rush for a snap election that took the party completely by surprise. He flatly and clearly claimed the party never promised to eradicate the debt, and never intended to do so.
Sharon Hodgson MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health, Tweets from before and after the General Election
This is a U-turn that has wide-reaching connotations. Many voted for Corbyn’s party because they believed he offered economic and social equality not found elsewhere. They saw his promises on education, on big business, and health as aspirational. The Labour manifesto faced heavy criticism for being an uncosted document, Corbyn’s revelation that he did not realise how much student debt there was when making such sweeping promises, suggests the criticism levied at the manifesto may not have been unfair. Student debt is an example of electioneering leading to false promises in order to win votes.
The word ‘lie’ is rarely used in politics. The game played between opposing sides of the political spectrum dances around the word, speaking of ‘broken promises’, ‘u-turns’ and ‘backtracking’. But in this instance it is certainly fair to say the Labour party lied to the student and graduate voters for whom finances are a massive concern. These younger voters were misled by the Labour leadership throughout this election process. Indeed the 2017 manifesto clearly states the party promise on the issue. The manifesto says in black and white they oppose the debt with which students are saddled, and for current students “will abolish university tuition fees.” The Labour party has lied to the electorate.
But is this not characteristic of a leadership that has danced around the truth and shown itself to be deceptive in the past? Current rumblings about the creation of a second deputy leader position within the Labour party, one that would undermine the current deputy leader, Tom Watson, are symptomatic of a party being slowly taken over by Corbyn’s faction.
Corbyn outperformed critics in the recent General Election, and as such remains in control of the Labour party and in a stronger position than he was several months ago. He has shown himself to be a strong leader, one who can command a turbulent and divided party, and deliver what was an impressive election night result. But such blatant electioneering from a man who wishes to become our future Prime Minister should concern us. The Labour leadership lied to the electorate about student debts, and when one considers the extravagant and bold claims of their manifesto in the recent election, we ought to wonder what else about this party is not quite as it seems.