This busy Labour week kicked off with a court ruling that went in the party’s favour, at least on the face of it. The judge in Oldknow v Evans dismissed the disclosure order application of former senior party staffer Emilie Oldknow, who was named in the controversial leaked report last year and was trying to force the Labour Party to reveal the identities of the alleged leakers. Justice Tipples decided it was a “fishing expedition”. The bid failed for a number of reasons, an important one being that the party said it had come to a view of who leaked the report but had “no smoking gun” (such as an email) showing beyond doubt that any particular person was responsible.
Labour’s lawyer in one hearing described the party as being in a “piggy-in-the-middle position”. It denies responsibility for the leak, yet naming those it suspects would mean being vulnerable to legal action by those individuals. Not naming those suspected of leaking, on the other hand, makes it more likely that Oldknow and others named in the report will sue Labour instead of the individuals – but, as the judge pointed out, perhaps they would have done so anyway. This left Labour agreeing with Oldknow that she had been wronged, and that the leak should not have happened, while ultimately being on the side of the alleged leakers. More details can be found in my write-up.
What kind of Budget is Labour demanding of Rishi Sunak this week? Opposition to the council tax rise being effectively forced on local authorities is one big focus. It links into the leadership’s favoured theme of protecting families and supporting local government (by highlighting the case for more funding). And it goes some way to explaining Labour’s position on other tax rises, i.e. opposition across the board. Such a broad brush approach should have lent itself to one clear message, but rumoured plans that the pro-business low-tax Tory Chancellor will reverse George Osborne’s corporation tax cuts has led to a week-long will-they-won’t-they story about Labour indecision.
Commentators have highlighted shifts in emphasis, but Labour sources say the stance is the same as ever: this is not the time for tax rises; Labour would look at proposals to put up corporation tax over the course of the parliament (rather than immediately). As for freezing income tax thresholds, Labour would also look at such a move carefully, pointing out both that raising the personal allowance has benefited the well-off and that the timing is poor when so many will face council tax hikes. I’ll also be looking out for whether Sunak punishes the self-employed, as he suggested doing last year, despite their Covid support being more limited and full of gaping holes.
Darren Jones MP, chair of the Commons business committee, has explained on LabourList why he thinks the Budget will be a disappointment and offer an open goal for Labour. Left MPs led by Richard Burgon warned Keir Starmer that the party risks being “outflanked” by the Tories and demanded a “People’s Budget”. Len McCluskey has a punchy piece on what Unite would like to see announced tomorrow. (It compares Sunak to someone appearing on The Masked Singer.) Frances O’Grady has a LabourList article on why we need a “Workers’ Budget” ahead of the TUC rally tonight at 7.30pm.
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