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  1. Politics
1 June 2017

We ran Labour’s 2017 manifesto through a video game – and got an egalitarian miracle

Most people were happy. . . except the rich.

By Daniel Griliopoulos

We’ve already seen what happens if you run the Conservative party manifesto through politics simulator Democracy 3 – mainly assassination attempts from disgruntled bankers and bankruptcy, both moral and financial. How does the more idealistic, costed manifesto of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour hold up?

Well, the game’s designer Cliff Harris has some advice. “If you play to the hard left, your party membership should go high relative to your actual electoral support, which is a good analogy for Corbyn Labour. The problem is that the game uses proportional representation instead of first past the post [the electoral model used in UK general elections], so when you gain a voter in Democracy 3 it helps win, whereas in FPTP, gaining a voter in a safe labour seat is obviously useless. There is no real way to compensate for that.” Essentially, winning an absolute majority of voters is enough in Democracy 3 – whereas in the real world, the electoral system can amplify or mute your vote.

One final word from Harris. “I fully expect Corbyn to be assassinated by capitalists.” Even more so than Theresa May? Let’s see.

Implementing Labour’s Manifesto

Corbyn’s Labour policies are theoretically more principled than May’s. But conveniently, where May’s Conservatives had uncosted tax cuts in various forms, Corbyn has costed $50bn of tax rises on corporations and the highest earners, and made them a priority. That gives him an advantage in this game, because I can implement them first and stabilise the economy in a way I couldn’t with May, before I embark on his renationalisation programme and the increase in NHS and education funding.

So that’s what I do. I reflect the two new tax rates – of 45p and 50p – by increasing capital gains tax, a mansion tax and income tax. I also put a tax on the highest earners. That gets me a nice budget surplus almost immediately.

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I put a chunk of that into expanding free childcare and expanding free school meals. I also push some money towards state housing, to reflect the commitment to building a million more homes.

While that’s all going on, I reject the request for increased Stop and Search powers. Like the Tories, a general strike has started, which I need to head off as soon as possible. The main cause is unemployment, which is a horribly complex problem that’s also causing crime, homelessness, alcoholism and many other unpleasant issues.

The general strike ends the following quarter (unlike under the Tories, where it went on for the entire parliament.) I ignore calls to ban same sex marriage and implement another policy – increasing the number of police. Again, I pay for this by bashing higher income earners, with a general increase in capital gains tax. In line with the Labour party’s line on immigration, I quietly relax border controls.

A public call for curbing banker’s bonuses meets with my approval. The global economy has moved into recession, which is worrying, but I’ve managed to maintain a surplus (by hitting capitalists quite hard).

I fire my law and order minister, who’s been causing all sorts of problems, but am aware that I’ll need to reshuffle the entire cabinet soon. Despite that, I’ve got relatively high approval ratings compared to the disaster that the Tories had – almost 14 per cent – and no-one’s tried to assassinate me yet.

The game tells me that I’ve achieved an egalitarian miracle – essentially, equality has never been so great, now that I’ve driven the rich away. Poverty is continuously falling, crime is high but dropping . . . and GDP is low but dropping. I really need to stimulate that, so I instigate a technology and research revolution (which is sort of in the manifesto), whilst giving small businesses extra cash. I’ve managed to achieve this in just 18 months.

Next quarter, our credit rating is downgraded. This is a bit of a blow, to be honest – with all the extra taxation, I thought we were pretty safe, but the global recession is kicking our revenues. I tax the rich a bit more, just to be sure.

Big Bad Brexit

Now, it’s late 2019, so it’s time to Brexit. Looking at the Labour manifesto, it’s clear that they want to retain access to the single market, even if that requires free movement of people. Which means that they’ll compromise with Europe and get a deal as similar to Norway’s as possible. It’ll still be crappy to live through, but that means that the only industry that’s really going to suffer seems to be the London banking sector. I represent this by putting the same restrictions on high frequency trading I did for the Tories.

As with May, Brexit quickly results in an assassination attempt on Corbyn that our beefed-up police easily foil. Otherwise, things are looking good – we’re actually living in a idyllically-egalitarian society now.

Now the thing I have to do next is the thing that I’ve been putting off the longest, as it’ll kill the economy – reforming labour laws, which is a huge chunk of the Labour manifesto. Thankfully, there’s a simple labour law slider, which I push as far pro-Union as it goes. I also implement huge subsidies towards the unions and union membership.

Immediately, two negative factors kick in. A “brain drain” and a “corporate exodus” which together put our economy deeply in the doldurms. Our GDP couldn’t be lower, and our credit rating has been downgraded again (despite our budget surplus). Yet, I reckon I can still win the election in two years time, even in the depths of recession. If Corbyn can survive the repeated murder attempts from the bizarre capitalists of the Battenberg Group, that is.

I quickly reshuffle the cabinet, to be more loyal and better at campaigning, and not necessarily so experienced in government – the classic Corbyn cabinet, to be fair. That finally gives me enough political capital to finish off implementing those labour laws.

It’s the last quarter before the election. Corbyn has been wandering the country making, frankly, contradictory speeches which have been confusing everyone but wooing floating voters. (And surviving assassination attempts. The game notifies me that he should really be dead by now). GDP is finally creeping back up, thanks to our early investment in technology (to represent the mooted £250bn National Transformation Fund) and our credit rating has been upgraded again.

Even though the populace are indifferent to our party (and the new labour laws are making many groups – like doctors – actively hostile), the polls still have us winning around 70 per cent of the vote. In our new manifesto, we pledge to deal with the country’s remaining major problems – crime, unemployment and alcoholism. I have a disastrous final day of campaigning where Corbyn invites the press to accompany him around a barracks, a food bank and a cabinet meeting, all of which he screws up terribly, he gets shot at one last time, and then the people vote . . .

51 per cent! That’s practically a landslide. The only people who didn’t back Corbyn were the wealthy and capitalists, who were probably too busy paying their hired guns to bump him off ASAP. For now, though, comrade Corbyn has sailed the ship of state through the straits of Brexit, and has emerged on the other side, with a very different Britain – egalitarian, socialist and happily poor. I think he’d be alright with that.

Dan Griliopoulos has written about culture and video games for over fifteen years. His book Ten Things Video Games Can Teach You: About Life, Philosophy and Everything is out in August. He blogs at Funambulism and tweets at @griddleoctopus.

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