Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn plunged his party into fresh chaos yesterday with a series of U-turns on his newly-minted plans to tackle high pay and deal with freedom of movement after Brexit.
In a media blitz designed to relaunch his leadership yesterday morning, Corbyn had suggested the party would implement a “maximum earnings limit”, and signalled a move towards migration reform.
Within hours, both proposals had been watered down or garbled following a barrage of criticism and ahead of a flagship speech on Brexit in the afternoon.
When asked about the reaction among the party's moderates to both the policies and the speech, a source close to Labour's top team told City A.M: “No one is taking it remotely seriously.”
In the speech, Corbyn ditched the maximum pay cap and instead talked about mandating a pay ratio for all government contractors.
The MP for Islington North said he would consult on reforming income taxes for top earners, and on introducing kite-marks or lower taxes for firms with approved ratios. He also suggested pay packages could have to get the backing of new remuneration committees on which ordinary workers were in the majority.
Former Corbyn economic adviser Danny Blanchflower dismissed the pay proposals as “innumerate”, arguing that any such reforms would be easily sidestepped by firms, for example by setting up sub-companies, or paying senior staff in share options.
“That's why there's not a single politician in the Labour party backing him up. And it’s why these plans were already adjusted – they clearly had not been put past anybody who knows anything,” Blanchflower told City A.M.
Corbyn's speech also sowed further confusion over his party's unclear stance on immigration.
After a day of frantic scrambling by advisors, the speech contained the baffling statement: “Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle, but I don’t want that to be misinterpreted, nor do we rule it out.”
One Labour MP told City A.M. that they remained none the wiser on where the party stood on the key issue of migration, and had received no further detail from the leader’s office upon inquiry.
It comes as the party continues to languish in the polls. A survey published by ICM this week put support for Corbyn's party at 28 per cent, meaning Labour trail Theresa May's Conservatives by 14 points. Of more than 100 polls conducted since Corbyn was first elected leader in September 2015, Labour has led in just three, and never by more than three points.