PM's 23,000-word legacy note focuses on EU and public services

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Indy Politics

In 1983, Labour's left-wing manifesto was described as the "longest suicide note in history". The 23,000-word manifesto launched by Tony Blair may go down as the longest legacy note.

In 1983, Labour's left-wing manifesto was described as the "longest suicide note in history". The 23,000-word manifesto launched by Tony Blair may go down as the longest legacy note.

The Prime Minister knows that time is running out for him to secure lasting change. Two of his main goals when he came to power have stayed elusive - resolving Britain's half-in, half-out relationship with Europe and transforming public services.

With the euro off the agenda, his fate on Europe now hinges on the dangerous lottery of a referendum on the EU constitution next year. Hence the big focus in the manifesto on how to "embed" public service reforms, on which progress has been made - albeit grindingly and slowly.

If the manifesto proposals for more diversity and choice in health and education are implemented, Mr Blair believes, he will achieve a settlement as far-reaching as the creation of the welfare state and the reforms of Margaret Thatcher. In other words, they could not be reversed by a change of government - or Labour leader.

It is still a big "if". True, Gordon Brown went out of his way to be loyally supportive, intervening at Labour's press conference to stress his support for greater private-sector involvement. The man who made a "real Labour" pitch last autumn repeatedly mentioned "New Labour".

But the Chancellor, who is the runaway favourite to succeed Mr Blair, still has some reservations about the role of the market in the health service. So it is not clear if the Blair legacy would be an entirely welcome inheritance for Mr Brown. The manifesto was presented in a more conciliatory manner than in 2001, when Mr Blair picked a fight with his own party over the private sector's role in state-run services.

This time, Alan Milburn set out to be radical without being divisive, and to emphasise progressive goals such as social justice and opportunity-for-all. Labour hopes this will appeal to Labour's core vote and middle-class progressives alienated by Iraq.

If Labour retains power, how much of the prospectus would be implemented? It could depend on how long Mr Blair remains in Downing Street and that, in turn, could depend on the size of his majority next month. The voters will decide.

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