Election '97: Final draft is realisation of leader's dreams

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The Independent Online
After learning that Labour's 10 promises to the nation were scribbled down by Tony Blair in his back garden, it should come as no surprise to find that the manifesto proper was drawn up largely by the party leader.

Unlike the Tories' manifesto, which relies heavily on ideas from policy advisers rather than the party leader, senior Labour sources said theirs is mostly a crystallisation of Mr Blair's hopes and dreams.

"He wrote the introduction a long time ago and not a word has been changed," said one senior aide. "Large parts of it were written by him - including the chapter on education and the last chapter [on leadership in Europe] and everything else has gone through him. It's very much a part of him."

Based on the draft manifesto put before the Labour conference last year - and subsequently approved by 95 per cent of the membership - the 40- page, 19,000-word document passed through three tiers.

First, shadow ministers and their advisers would formulate and thrash out broad policy. Robin Cook, as chairman of Labour's policy forum, oversaw policy development with Mr Blair, John Prescott, the deputy leader and Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor. The proposals had to be submitted for costing by Alistair Darling, Labour's Treasury spokesman. There were advisers - such as Ed Balls in Mr Brown's office - but, according to aides: "The politicians were the brains."

Over several years, leading academics, interest groups and business and industrial forums were canvassed for opinions before solid ideas were adopted. Next along the process came David Milibrand, head of Labour's policy unit, Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's chief-of-staff, and Lord Irvine of Lairg, the shadow Lord Chancellor. Lord Irvine, one of Mr Blair's mentors and head of the chambers first joined by Mr Blair and his wife, Cherie, as young barristers, had a considerable input.

Finally, it passed to Mr Blair's office for approval by the leader, and his team led by Mr Prescott, Mr Brown, and Mr Cook. It was also considered by Mr Blair's campaign director, Peter Mandelson, and his press secretary, Alastair Campbell.

The aide said: "It was a gradual process. There were a few drafts, but not many, and the draft presented to conference has not changed much - the pledge on tax is new. Apart from that, it's all run smoothly. The final touches to policies on Europe and the unions were completed only about a month ago.

"In some ways, it was easier for us than the Tories. We had a clear view of what was wrong and where we wanted to go. "