There's a phrase for Labour's latest pledges - thin gruel

Share
Related Topics

Whether or not they were the right pledges, at least those made by Labour in 1997 and 2001 were specific. The voters can decide whether the fact that 1.6 per cent of classes of five-, six- and seven-year-olds still have more than 30 pupils constitutes a breach of that promise or not. We can choose to be impressed or not by the fact that more than 20,000 extra nurses and 10,000 extra doctors are employed in the health service than four years ago.

Whether or not they were the right pledges, at least those made by Labour in 1997 and 2001 were specific. The voters can decide whether the fact that 1.6 per cent of classes of five-, six- and seven-year-olds still have more than 30 pupils constitutes a breach of that promise or not. We can choose to be impressed or not by the fact that more than 20,000 extra nurses and 10,000 extra doctors are employed in the health service than four years ago.

But what is anyone expected to make of the declaration "Your country's borders protected"? It is merely a heading. Worse than that, it is a heading cobbled together at the last moment to counter Michael Howard's dishonourable playing of the race card. That is why Labour has six pledges this time instead of five.

Even the original five headings show a curiously unadventurous sense of priorities. The omission of foreign affairs is not surprising, but it is cowardly. This is the election at which, however unsatisfactorily, Tony Blair must be held to account for his decision to join the US invasion of Iraq.

The omission of any reference to the environment is less explicable. By Mr Blair's own admission, the challenge of global warming is the greatest faced by this generation. Only last week he excused his inaction by the lack of any "political consensus" for higher taxes on air travel. Well, the pledge card would have been a good place to start building one. Instead, there was not even a heading for public transport.

What we are left with is "steady as she goes" on the economy and an attempt to deflect voters' attention from an anaemic record on public services over the past eight years to some admittedly interesting ideas for the future. Three years ago Mr Blair said he would be happy to "suffer the consequences" if the NHS were not "basically fixed" by the time of the election. Now we are being asked to vote Labour to reduce waiting times that are still unacceptably long.

There is a word for this disappointing fare that is current in American politics: pabulum, "n., a thin solution of nutrients; writing or speech that is insipid, simplistic or bland". It is safe, defensive politics as practised by a governing party that is trying to sit on an opinion-poll lead and not yield hostages to fortune.

Yet behind the vacuous front-of-house show in Gateshead yesterday, and the utterly empty slogan "Britain: Forward Not Back", beats the cynical heart of an aggressive strategy run by Alan Milburn and Alastair Campbell. As we report today, they are terrified of low turnout and are happy to run a negative campaign designed to scare apathetic Labour voters with the spectre of a Tory government, while squeezing coverage of the real threat, the Liberal Democrats.

This is Charles Kennedy's opportunity to present a positive, costed and specific programme. The Liberal Democrats are riding higher in the pre-election polls than at any time since the SDP bubble two decades ago. They are perfectly placed to mobilise the many voters disappointed with Mr Blair's policy towards Iraq, many of whom will be the same people offended by the predictability of mud-slinging, low-content electioneering. Let battle be joined.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Cameron's unexpected tax pledges give the Tories home advantage

Andrew Grice
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence