Sean O'Grady: £4bn? That's a drop in the ocean

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The Independent Online

The Labour manifesto is the most interventionist since 1992. It has ditched New Labour's addiction to privatisation – as in the pledge on the Royal Mail – and is promising the sort of action advocated by Labour in the more distant past. "UK Finance for Growth", for example, is aimed at "bringing £4bn together to provide capital for growing businesses, investing in the growth sectors of the future". With a few other schemes, it is designed to achieve Labour's startling new promise to "put an end to long-term unemployment".

It is all very well, but that £4bn is tiny when set against the loss of investment in British business in the recession – £30bn to £40bn, and greater still when the double dip arrives. This loss of productive power will damage growth, productivity, living standards and jobs for decades.

Whether Mr Brown realised it or not, Birmingham, where the manifesto was launched, has four of the 10 constituencies with the highest unemployment in the country. In the Ladywood area, one in eight people is on Jobseekers Allowance, a testament to Labour's neglect of manufacturing, as when it let MG Rover collapse in 2005.

So Labour's latest efforts look unequal to the task and timid compared to the ambitions of the past, although the new manifesto cover recalls the "sunrise" posters of a famous victory in 1945. Today of all days we should recall Labour's manifesto that year:

"The Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain – free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organised in the service of the British people."

Imagine if Brown, Mandelson and the Milibands had declared that yesterday....

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