What's in Labour's manifesto - and will it help them win?

Click to follow
Indy Politics

ECONOMY

ECONOMY

The economy forms chapter one of the Labour manifesto, which relies heavily on the party's record of economic management. It insists "our economic record has laid to rest the view that Labour could not be trusted with the economy".

The party repeats its 1997 and 2001 pledges not to increase the basic or top rates or tax, or extend VAT. It promises "targeted tax cuts" for families and action to support work. Labour pledges to increase the minimum wage to £5.05 from October and to £5.35 from October next year. On efficiency, Labour reiterates its pledge to carry out the Gershon review of the civil service, saving £21bn to be redirected to the public services.

Analysis Labour has repeated its tax pledges, but pointedly refused to rule out increases in National Insurance. Gordon Brown insists his spending commitments are fully funded, but the tax question will be one of the defining arguments of the campaign.

Ben Russell

CHILDREN & FAMILIES

Labour promises "not a nanny state but a family-friendly government".

The party will open 3,500 Children's Centres for the under fives and pledges that by 2010 all parents of three and four-year-olds will have access to 15 hours of free child care, extending to 20 hours in the longer term. Children up to 14 will be offered an extended school day from 8am to 6pm. It also promises to extended tax credit for childcare.

Maternity leave would be extended to nine months by 2007 and up to a year by the end of the next Parliament. Labour promises to "consult" on plans to let fathers share paid parental leave.

Analysis A family-friendly set of proposals designed to win over key middle England voters. The Sure Start family centres have been popular and extended school child care would make a highly visible difference to working people.

Ben Russell

CRIME

Labour trumpets falls in crime volume since 1997 and greater numbers of police officers. But it acknowledges a national sense of insecurity fuelled by organised crime, drug-related offences and anti-social behaviour.

Its remedy is more local policing, with each neighbourhood getting its own mini-force and raising the number of community support officers. Parish council wardens will be able to issue penalty notices for anti-social behaviour, while council and police will get stronger powers to deal with "neighbours from hell".

A fresh drive against binge-drinking will include extra policing around pubs and clubs. Convicted sex offenders will face lie detector tests, while electronic tagging will be increased for prisoners on early release. The centrepiece is a promise to cut crime by 15 per cent over the five years ending in 2008.

Analysis The manifesto amounts to a partial recognition that the Government has failed to tackle the fear of crime or anti-social behaviour. Keeping a lid on prison numbers is a clear difference with the Tories.

Nigel Morris

IMMIGRATION

A "points" system for migrants and tougher asylum controls are at the heart of Labour's promise of "strong and secure" borders.

Most of the measures are punitive, designed to cut numbers of economic migrants and of asylum-seekers. The manifesto insists: "Immigration has been good for Britain. We want to keep it that way." Workers from countries with a history of abusing the system would pay a "bond" guaranteeing their return home and employers could be fined up to £2,000 for each illegal worker. Failed asylum-seekers will be electronically tagged and Labour promises to detain more and remove them more quickly.

The manifesto makes heavy play of the importance of ID in securing national frontiers, as well as clamping down on "illegal working and fraudulent use of public services" at home.

Analysis Labour talks tough on securing borders, but its insistence that asylum is under control is likely to be greeted sceptically. Whether ID cards are a vote winner is also debatable.

Nigel Morris

EDUCATION

Education is still the party's top priority - with a bigger slice of the public service cake over the next few years.

Many of the pledges have been tweaked to give more emphasis to parent power. For instance, parents will have the final say the fate of failing schools.

The manifesto promises to stretch the brightest children with harder A-levels, and help for those who struggle with the basics.

On top-up fees, it promises not to raise the £3,000 a year ceiling in the next Parliament.

Analysis The pledge to keep the top-up fees ceiling in place next term does not rule out an increase being fixed for a later date.

Teachers will welcome the extra cash, but will oppose academies, fearing a two-tier system.

Richard Garner

HEALTH

The focus is on cutting waiting lists and increasing patient choice.

No one will wait more than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment by 2008. Having driven long waiting times down Labour are on course to achieve their 2005 target of having no one waiting longer than six months (on hospital lists) by the end of the year. But the 2008 target will be tougher to meet.

Patients needing surgery will be able to choose any hospital, NHS or private, that can provide the operation at the NHS cost by the end of 2008. By 2009 women will be able to choose where and how they have their baby and what pain relief to use.

The extension of choice is designed to ensure the NHS becomes a customer-focused service.

But the market strategy could de-stabilise the service and lead to closures.

The biggest omission is any mention of future NHS funding beyond 2008.

Analysis Ambitious but risky. Labour has pulled its punches on public health.

Jeremy Laurance

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Tony Blair insisted yesterday that he did not duck "tough choices" such as the decision to go to war in Iraq.

He appealed to critics to separate the war from the decision on who governs Britain. The document says: "We mourn the loss of life of innocent civilians and coalition forces in the war and the subsequent terrorism. But the butchery of Saddam is over and across Iraq 8 million people risked their lives to vote earlier this year."

It adds: "Many people disagreed with the action we took in Iraq. We respect and understand their views. But we should all now unite to support the fledgling democracy in Iraq."

The manifesto emphasises Britain's lead on aid to Africa, promises to fight for arms trade restrictions and a new international trade treaty to help lift a billion people out of poverty.

Analysis Mr Blair was moderate in tone over Iraq, trying to persuade opponents of the war to look beyond that single issue.

The manifesto attempts to acknowledge disagreements about Iraq and emphasise instead Labour's wider foreign policy, concentrating on third-world aid and trade.

Ben Russell

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM

Labour pledges to reform the powers and practices of the House of Lords and give a free vote to MPs on a partly elected second chamber.

The manifesto promises a review by a joint committee of MPs and peers and says Labour will legislate to limit the time peers can spend debating Bills - imposing a 60-day guillotine.

Analysis Mr Blair is keen to curb the powers of the Lords. The proposed measures open the door to a bitter new row with little agreement between the peers and MPs on the future of the upper house.

Ben Russell

WELFARE & PENSIONS

Labour claims to have "laid the foundations for the pensions system of tomorrow" with legislation to introduce protection for company schemes and action to let people who work beyond retirement age to defer their pensions.

The manifesto promises of "forge a national consensus" on pensions and points to the report later this year of Adair Turner's commission on the future of pensions. However, the Chancellor made clear there would be no compulsory pensions until after the election after next.

The party promises "target tax cuts" to help families and promote work. But the party promises to reform incapacity benefit, forcing people with "manageable" conditions to attend interviews and prepare for work.

Analysis Labour has warm words, but no firm proposals for dealing with future pensions problems, despite intense pressure from union leaders to develop a clear pensions policy.

Mr Brown made it clear that a dramatic move to compulsory pension contributions would be years away even if the Turner Commission recommends it.

Ben Russell

TRANSPORT

A wholesale move to road charging instead of car tax is floated as one solution to Britain's congestion problems. Labour's manifesto talks about examining the idea as part of seeking "political consensus on tackling congestion". The party will introduce "pool-car" lanes on motorways and says ministers will consider a new road "expressway" alongside the M6.

On the railways, Labour is committed to back the London Crossrail project and will "look at the feasibility" of a new North-South high-speed rail link. The party also proposes increasing capacity on the railways.

The over-60s will get free off peak bus travel, while in London Labour will back the extension of the East London Line.

Analysis The words are tentative, but even floating the idea of a national road pricing scheme is highly controversial. There are major transport schemes proposed, but few firm commitments to do more than think about building them.

Ben Russell

Great British Elections: 1835

Manifestos matter, and one reason why they do is the early and powerful precedent set by Sir Robert Peel, prime minister and leader of the Tories, in his Tamworth Manifesto of December 1834, issued prior to the election a month later.

It was, arguably, the first serious attempt by a British politician to reach a wider electorate. In it Peel, like Tony Blair today, acknowledges the importance of trust and suggests that this is why he needs to make a "frank exposition of general principles and views" in a manifesto: "You are entitled to this, from the nature of the trust which I again solicit."

The 1835 election could be said to be the first modern contest, coming so soon after the bitterly contested Great Reform Bill of 1832. That measure outlawed some of the worst excesses of rotten boroughs and paid-for seats. Peel, even as Tory leader, pledged to uphold its reforms even though his approach was "the maintenance of our settled institutions in Church and State".

But British politics was still a far from democratic affair. Under the 1832 Act the electorate rose from 435,000 to 652,000 or from 3.1 per cent of the population to 4.7 per cent, limited by various property ownership qualifications. Women were not to receive equal voting for almost another century.

Nonetheless Peel's leadership of his party sought to gain the widest possible measure of support and his party leadership was marked by a willingness to attract talent from all wings of opinion such as the young Disraeli and Gladstone. He appealed to both the "right" and to moderate opinion, and won the election.

After Peel's resignation in April 1835, the diarist Charles Greville wrote: "He has raised his reputation to such a height during this session ... He is indispensable to the country." How many will say that of Mr Blair?

Sean O'Grady

Comments