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Does Labour’s manifesto add up? Here’s a ConHome series to investigate – named, of course, in homage to the Shadow Home Secretary’s policing plan.

The Policy: Write off £30 billion in student debt

We can’t even point you to the manifesto for this one, as it appears to have been introduced after the fact. Yesterday’s Daily Mail reports that Jeremy Corbyn plans to write off some £30 billion in student debt, especially that owed by those paying the new, higher fees of £9,000 a year.

The Problem: It will be very expensive and Labour don’t know how they’ll pay for it

On a purely electoral level, this is a smart move. Different estimations of youth turnout make up almost the entire gap between those pollsters still showing healthy Tory leads and those with Labour within a few points of a tie. It may be storing up yet another betrayal should Labour ever actually have to implement it, but even now that looks unlikely.

But it does rather make a nonsense of launching what purports to be a carefully-balanced tax and spending plan (our old friend Funding Britain’s Future) if Corbyn is going to keep coming up with new spending plans right up until polling day. Suffice to say, dropping student debt – a move the Institute for Fiscal Studies describes as “extremely costly” – is nowhere accounted for in Labour’s figures.

Just like scrapping tuition fees, if done this would be a rather regressive and anti-redistributionary move: as it stands, debt repayments are linked to earnings and only paid off by those who can afford to pay it. That’s on top of the way ‘free’ higher education tends to squeeze out the worse-off.

But the real tragedy is that Labour are also running very hard against Theresa May’s social care policy, which was if nothing else a bold first step towards actually trying to close the dizzying generational income and public spending gulf which ticks like a time bomb beneath British public services.

Instead, young voters may flock to the polls to reward Labour’s plan to bail out the better-off of their peers, ‘protect’ the wealth and perks of older voters, and impose a tax and spending plan which the Resolution Foundation estimates will hit Millenials harder than the Tories’ one.

4 comments for: Abbott’s Arithmetic 5) The uncounted costs of free tuition

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