Voters give Blair a low rating on trust

Labour strategy: Advisers step up work on election manifesto after leaked document reveals fears over party's weaknesses
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Indy Politics
Labour is stepping up work on its election manifesto because Tony Blair's advisers are worried about the vagueness of Labour policy, according to a leaked copy of the party's confidential "attack strategy".

Yesterday's speech by Mr Blair covered health policy, the transport policy unveiled by Clare Short and an employment policy paper to be published today, all of which will form part of the draft manifesto to be launched in a fortnight's time.

The leaked document makes the strikingly blunt admission: "A problem for Labour is that of trust. This is Tony Blair's weakest rating and it seems to be more to do with a lack of clarity about what Labour will actually do rather than a real fear of Labour." It admits Labour is vulnerable on economic issues and immigration.

The document, dated 6 March, is believed to have been written by Margaret McDonagh, in charge of the Labour campaign for 90 target seats. It summarises the findings of the party's private polling and reveals the fears of strategists about Labour's weaknesses.

According to the polls, among the "salient" issues that could sway the key group of floating voters are Labour's strong but unspecific points - "best for the whole country", "getting Britain going again" and "leadership", - and its vulnerable but specific interests - "taxes/inflation/interest rates" and "immigration". Trust has been one of the topics occupying the Road to the Manifesto process that has dominated party activity for the past three months.

The launch of the draft manifesto is due on 4 July. A version drafted by Mr Blair and Robin Cook, shadow Foreign Secretary, is being amended in consultation with John Prescott, deputy Labour leader, Gordon Brown, shadow Chancellor, and shadow Cabinet ministers. It is expected to be approved by a meeting of the Labour National Executive on 2 July.

The leaked document sets out the "policy lines" designed to protect against Labour's vulnerable points. For the economy, these include the "Tory tax hike", Labour's target of a 10p-in-the-pound starting rate of income tax, and cutting the taxpayers' burden of welfare benefits. On "trust", it looks at "Tony in control", "won't promise what we can't deliver", "partnership with the people", and "trade unions - no favours".

Some of the detail behind the employment section of the draft is set out in today's policy paper - Building Prosperity: Flexibility, Efficiency and Fairness at Work - which stresses that employees' security is best guaranteed by acquired skills, not by "detailed regulations notionally to protect their positions".

It also warns the leadership against adopting a negative campaign and attacking the Tories in the run-up to the election. It says: "The level of hatred and feelings of betrayal towards them are reducing. Too much negative imagery has the effect of depressing people, when Labour's (specifically Tony Blair's) greatest strength is positive vision."