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British politics

Rolls-Royce promises on a Skoda budget

You may have missed it, says Robert Colvile in The Sunday Times, but Keir Starmer’s “moderate, mainstream” Labour Party has just committed to the “most ambitious nationalisation in half a century”. Specifically, the shadow health secretary Wes Streeting promised to turn GPs into salaried employees of the state. And he did so, incredibly, with no indication of how this £5bn-plus move would be funded. Meanwhile, Starmer is promising “one of the biggest expansions of the NHS workforce in history”, paid for with the £3bn his government will supposedly pocket by abolishing non-dom tax status. His “bullish” logic assumes a full 99.7% of this “highly mobile group” will meekly stay put while extra tax is whacked on their overseas earnings.

Then there’s Yvette Cooper’s pledge to hire 13,000 police officers for £360m. The shadow home secretary hasn’t revealed where that money will come from, either – and given the Tories are spending north of £1bn on hiring 20,000 extra officers, it’ll probably cost much more than she says. This is the “central tension” for the Labour Party: frontbenchers are “itching to spend”, but there’s simply no money. They’re stuck promising “Rolls-Royce services on a Skoda budget”. It could be immaterial: voters “conditioned by Johnsonian cakeism” may accept that you can simultaneously keep taxes low and splurge £28bn a year on a green industrial transformation. But Labour’s vagueness shows that the party is far from the “polished machine of the 1990s”.