Day one of the working week saw the first of the major party manifesto launches. Labour kicked us off with their event from Granda studios in Manchester. Image is everything these days and there was almost an American flavour to this, with President Miliband holding forth from the lectern while his united shadow team, artfully arranged, followed the choreographers instructions flawlessly as they stood synchronised to ovate at exactly the right moments.
His speech was well delivered but the content bore out my observation last week that manifestos are more about jockeying for position than anything else. With only three weeks or so to go, Labour’s emphasis has suddenly changed to stress the importance of the economy. In his last conference speech, Miliband did not mention the deficit. Now it’s : The first line of Labour’s first Budget will be: ‘This Budget cuts the deficit every year’.
The actual commitments to doing so were lightweight and nebulous. So far we have the ‘Mansion Tax’ ( Its got a lot to do! ), bank levies and the millionaires tax, all of which put together will not come close to closing the deficit gap never mind paying for NHS funding commitments and the many guarantees and promises of GP appointments etc. The bulk of the money is expected to come from an unmeasurable additional tax take from a sudden growth in high wage jobs and an expanding economy.
With the best will in the world, I cannot see how they can hope to get much more growth in the UK economy, we seem to be running at full throttle as it is. A further Labour assumption is that the country can suddenly develop more skilled and higher paid jobs. This in a country where some 40 or 50% of the workforce is in the public sector and large numbers in retail and the despised financial sector.
Some things are positive. A higher minimum wage would be a good thing if only to reduce the abuse of the working tax credit system by large companies employing lots of low paid staff. I also welcome the reduction in tuition fees but when is something going to be done about University Vice chancellors with their outrageous salaries? Read about this ex labour education minister now a vice chancellor here.
My overall impression of this Manifesto was it was seasoned with a series of measures and pledges designed to catch the floating voter with populist soundbites and, as ever, telling the gullible electorate what they want to hear. And can Labour politicians please stop telling everyone to ” Look….”
This could not be seen as a decisive moment in the campaign. I don’t expect any different from the other parties but we will wait and see.