Friday briefing: The ins and outs of Labour’s unspectacular manifesto

<span>Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer poses with Rachel Reeves and the rest of his shadow cabinet.</span><span>Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images</span>
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer poses with Rachel Reeves and the rest of his shadow cabinet.Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Good morning.

No surprises, no pantomimes, no rabbits popping out of a hat – that’s not a description of the world’s worst children’s birthday party, it’s how Keir Starmer set out Labour’s manifesto. At the Co-op headquarters in Manchester yesterday, Starmer unveiled his plans for government, three weeks before the public head to the polls. The launch was in step with the rest of the campaign: exceedingly cautious.

The 133-page manifesto put Starmer front and centre. This is not figurative: there were 33 photos of the Labour leader, including one of him shaking hands with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to remind everyone of Rishi Sunak’s embarrassing D-day saga.

For Starmer, this was another opportunity to showcase policies and ideas that the Labour party has already announced, and to hammer home that Labour is the choice for “change”, “wealth creation” and “growth” – while also reminding people not to get too excited. “We don’t have a magic wand,” Starmer said after listing some of the party’s main proposals.

For today’s newsletter, I spoke with James Smith, the research director for the Resolution Foundation, an independent thinktank, about the main takeaways of this manifesto and, crucially, what it was missing. That’s right after the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. UK news | Families bereaved by the Grenfell Tower fire, the infected blood scandal and Covid-19 have called on the next prime minister to guarantee that potentially life-saving ideas that emerge from public inquiries and emergency planning exercises are acted upon.

  2. Israel-Gaza war | Israeli tanks rolled into the western part of Rafah on Thursday as the city came under intense helicopter, drone and artillery fire in what residents described as one of the worst bombardments of the area so far. The assault on Rafah has driven out more than a million Palestinians who had been sheltering there. The UN has warned that more than a million people are expected to “face death and starvation by the middle of July”.

  3. Business | Tesla shareholders have approved a $45bn (£35.3bn) pay deal for CEO Elon Musk, following a fiercely contested referendum on his leadership. “I just want to start off by saying, hot damn, I love you guys!” a gleeful Musk said as he appeared on stage following the vote.

  4. Trade unions | The UK has seen an “explosion” in insecure, low-paid work in the past 14 years, according to a new report. The TUC said its study had found that the number of people in insecure work had reached a record high of 4.1 million, increasing by nearly 1 million between 2011 and 2023.

  5. Russia | Russian authorities have indicated that the jailed American reporter Evan Gershkovich will soon stand trial in Ekaterinburg more than a year after his arrest on espionage charges that he, his employer, and the White House have rejected as politically motivated.

In depth: ‘This feels like evolution rather than revolution’

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Taxes

What’s there: Starmer and Reeves already announced that they planned to raise an additional £8.5bn in tax a year by closing non-dom and private equity loopholes, introducing VAT on private school fees, and putting in place a larger time-limited windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies. The party also reiterated that it would not be raising taxes on “working people”, ruling out rises on income tax, national insurance, and VAT.

What’s not: Starmer said that none of the party’s plans would need any extra tax rises – but economists have found that this is not in line with the fiscal reality of public finances. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has called the denialism from both parties of the challenging decisions to come around taxes and spending cuts a “conspiracy of silence”. Labour will probably be “facing weaker growth and higher interest rates”, Smith says, but there is no real indication of “what the party would do if and when the public finances look worse than they currently look. Would they raise taxes further? Would they cut spending even more? Or would they drop their commitment to decreasing debt?” Despite insisting that their plans do not require money from more tax rises, Starmer has ultimately not ruled out putting up taxes, as it would not make sense to “write the next five years’ worth of budgets now”.

“Labour have obviously made a splash on the growth side, but there is not a huge amount on trade or regional growth,” Smith says, adding that it is not yet clear what that growth strategy might look like in reality.

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Workers’ rights

What’s there: The manifesto states that it will “strengthen the collective voice of workers” by creating a single enforcement body to ensure that new employment rights are properly protected. This will come within the first 100 days in power, after a careful consultation with businesses, to bolster the idea that the “changed Labour party” is both pro-business and pro-worker.

What’s not there: The workers’ rights package remains largely unchanged from what was expected.

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Public services

What’s there: Labour has pledged £1.6bn for more hospital appointments, new CT scanners and extra dentist appointments. The manifesto also outlines Labour’s commitment to hiring 8,500 more NHS staff to deal with the high workload. In terms of education, under a Labour government there will be a target of 6,500 more teachers, 100,000 new nursery places and free primary school breakfast clubs.

What’s not there: According to the Resolution Foundation, without any tax rises or an increase in borrowing the next government is going to have to make £18bn worth of spending cuts in unprotected departments like the Home Office, transport and Ministry of Justice – there is no mention in the manifesto of where these cuts would come, at what point and to which services.

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Welfare

What’s there: Labour says it will review universal credit, but does not commit to what it will review, when it will review it and what the goal of a review would be. The manifesto also says it will address the backlog of Access to Work claims and “give disabled people the confidence to start working without the fear of an immediate benefit reassessment if it does not work out”. There is also a promise to develop an “ambitious strategy to reduce child poverty” – though critics have noted that there is scarce detail on what the strategy would be.

What’s not there: The manifesto does not mention abolishing the Conservative party’s two-child limit on welfare support, despite significant pressure from campaign groups and Labour MPs to reverse the policy. Analysis by the Resolution Foundation found that the limit will push the majority of large families below the poverty line by the end of the decade if it is not reversed.

“This is a manifesto that will affect the way people work and how we get our energy but it’s not going to feel like a radically different world,” Smith says. “Based on the policies that are in here, this feels like evolution rather than revolution.”

What else we’ve been reading

  • While corporations continue to plaster rainbows across their marketing this month, Adam Almeida has a neat reality check, writing about the swathe of queer venues like Heaven (above) being forced to shut their doors due to the greed of landlords and asset managers. Toby Moses, head of newsletters

  • Celebrities are just like the rest of us after all (albeit with more money, more power and, usually, more talent), as Stuart Heritage writes in response to a series of viral vox-pops where interviewers spoke to famous people on the street without twigging who they were. “Watch any of these videos and you’ll see something quite sweet,” he writes. “Nobody … minds a jot that they haven’t been recognised.” Nimo

  • Our writers’ predictions for Euro 2024 are sure to be entertaining, if only so that you can dangle their colossal errors over their head for years to come afterwards. Ben Fisher, I’m looking at you: Olivier Giroud may be about as dashing a striker as you’ll ever see, but top scorer? Toby

  • This myth-busting exercise by Jillian Ambrose on heat pumps is incredibly helpful and comprehensive. Nimo

  • Olive oil is such a staple part of the British diet now that a surge in price feels pretty disastrous – but fear not, Mina Holland has some neat, budget alternatives for this “liquid gold”. Toby

Sport

Football | Sam Kerr has signed a contract extension at Chelsea with the new deal keeping her at the club until 2026. The Australia forward’s contract was running out this summer and there had been speculation that she would leave west London after four-and-a-half years.

Tennis | Emma Raducanu defeated Ukraine’s Daria Snigur to reach her first WTA Tour quarter-final on grass at the Rothesay Open in Nottingham. The former US Open champion produced a solid display in cool, windy conditions to triumph 6-2 6-2, with 11 aces proving very useful.

Golf | Rory McIlroy shares the lead with Patrick Cantlay after shooting 65 in the first round of the US Open at Pinehurst.

The front pages

The Guardian leads with “I’ll fix Britain, vows Starmer, amid doubts over how he will pay for it”. “What is Labour NOT telling us about tax hikes?” asks the Daily Mail and the Daily Express says “Don’t fall for Labour’s hidden £8.5bn ‘tax trap’”. “‘Conspiracy of silence’ on cuts and higher taxes” adds the Times. The Financial Times says “Starmer unveils £8.6bn tax hit in bid to revive growth and end Tory chaos”. The Daily Mirror gets behind the Labour leader’s manifesto with “We’ll give nation hope”. “Reform overtakes Tories for the first time” – that’s the Daily Telegraph. A poll-driven splash in the i: “Labour overtakes Tories on defence – but gets reality check on growing UK economy”.

Something for the weekend

Our critics’ roundup of the best things to watch, read and listen to right now

TV
Copa 71: The Lost Lionesses (BBC iPlayer)
This fantastically fun Storyville film (pictured above) – which had a theatrical release in March – makes a strong case that the first Women’s World Cup took place in 1971, in Mexico. The unofficial tournament attracted huge crowds and dared to suggest – cruelly, prematurely – that, after decades underground, women’s football had finally arrived. Within and away from the football, the drama is spectacular. Rebecca Nicholson

Music
Normani – Dopamine
After a manufactured pop band, identity struggles are par for the course. But for former Fifth Harmony member Normani there were extra issues at play: when both of her parents were diagnosed with cancer, music rightfully took a back seat for a while, before clarity emerged. After years of placating other people’s musical whims, Dopamine – an expertly curated deep dive into R&B – feels like a statement of intent. Michael Cragg

Film
Sasquatch Sunset
The Zellner brothers, David and Nathan, take their absurdism and futurism to the next level with a brilliant and radical comedy about the secret life of the legendary Sasquatch, AKA Bigfoot. This is a film to compare with Planet of the Apes, or Watership Down, or even the days of silent cinema. It’s a plaintive, echoing wail of fear – of climate catastrophe, or humanity’s own extinction. Peter Bradshaw

Podcast
The Weekly Show with Jon Stewart
Widely available, episodes every Thursday
US satirist Jon Stewart unleashes his newsy podcast in time for all the US election shenanigans, starting with an episode on corruption – where, unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s name comes up. Stewart has well-informed guests, as well as thoughtful monologues on democratic dysfunction, economic reform and challenging conventional wisdom. Hannah Verdier

Today in Focus

The phone-free, 12-hour school-day experiment

A school in west London is trying to give children their childhood back – by extending its hours from 7am to 7pm. Will it work? Helen Pidd reports

Cartoon of the day | Ben Jennings

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

Emma Beddington has written a delightful guide for those looking to swap their doomscrolling habits for something more productive/joyous/different (delete as appropriate). Snooping on a long-lost pal? Why not reach out and say hi. Dr Gillian Sandstrom, from the University of Sussex, says: “People who pushed past their hesitation and reached out to an old friend reported feeling happier, and past research tells us that old friends appreciate it, even more than you expect.”

Taking a deep dive into a stranger’s social media? Why not talk to someone new IRL. And if endless ASMR videos are more your speed, why not just cut out the middleman and get your own bubble-wrap, Beddington suggests.

Sign up here for a weekly roundup of The Upside, sent to you every Sunday

Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s puzzles are here to keep you entertained throughout the day. Until tomorrow.