This week the Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP have set our their stalls for the upcoming general election by releasing whole forests-worth of warm and fuzzy political promises to convince you and me that they have our best interests at heart.
Labour and Conservatives, the only two parties that have the potential to get their man into No.10, have attempted to depart from the negative stereotypes that plague Britain’s two biggest parties. The result, as the BBC’s Nick Robinson put it was, “political cross-dressing” with the Tories endeavoring to be the friend of “working people” (the spin version of working-class) and Labour insisting they were now the party of economic responsibility.
What message can we take from the manifestos if we read between the lines?
Labour leader, Ed Miliband headlined his speech by promising a “triple lock of responsibility”. This is not an incredibly dull WWE wrestling move, but is a guarantee to detail how every policy will be paid for and outlines how he will cut the deficit every year. Miliband’s intention is to douse the flames of the Tory attack line that ‘Labour are fiscally irresponsible’ while at the same time drawing attention to the Tories reluctance to publish where their cuts will fall.
The meat of the manifesto is old Labour and is filled with Robin Hood tax raises on the rich such as reintroducing the 50p top rate of tax, a ‘mansion tax’ on properties worth over £2million and a populist tax on those nasty bankers’ bonuses. Yet, they are still seen as anti-business and 100 of Britain’s top business leaders have openly slammed their policies. They have also committed to making further public spending cuts much to the embarrassment of the Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, who said no cuts would be made in Scotland only to find himself contradicted by party leaders south of the border.
In short Labour seem to be trying to please everyone and failing to create a strong identity. Ed Miliband wants to lurch his party back to the left but knows he must be seen to be tackling the deficit. There is at least now, enough distance between the Conservatives and Labour parties to separate one from t’other and Miliband has done too well quash the notion that they are “Red Tories”.
Key message: We’re better with money now…honest!
The Tories meanwhile are desperately trying to break from their image of being the party for the rich and the public sector hatchet men. David Cameron insisted they would offer the “good life for all”. Just like the 80s….
The PM argued the Tories were the party of the “working people”, the “age of austerity” was over and that we were all on the brink of “something special”. He didn’t say this “something special” could be a further £30billion of public spending cuts, but that’s a minor detail! The sugary language may be a long way from the harsh words of the Tories 2010 manifesto where we were told “difficult decisions” would have to be made, and the future of Britain seemed bleaker than a North East mining town in the Thatcher days.
The Conservatives have put health and families at the core of their 2015 manifesto or..so they say. Their policies sound great for “working people”, for example, they will pour £8billion above inflation into the NHS before 2020 giving the health service the funds it so desperately needs. Excellent, except they have not made it clear what will have to be cut to cover these costs. It certainly won’t be through tax rises of which there are none (yet). The Tories plan to legislate so that those on minimum wage do not pay tax which also sounds great. Until you read the details and discover, it’s only for those on minimum wage working less than 30 hours a week. Why not just increase our feeble minimum wage instead?
The Tories don’t want to and don’t need to change course. They are banking on people trusting them to be better managers of our country than Labour. And many do.
Key Message: We’re not heartless bastards..honest!
Ah the Lib Dems, soon to be proof that nice guys really do finish last. Or perhaps not. The junior coalition partners are still expected to win 14 to 35 seats in the next parliament and could yet again play a key role in deciding who will govern the country for the next five years, and they know it.
Party leader, Nick Clegg spoke confidently and with passion declaring his party had a “brain and heart” (courage still to be located). The perfect counter balance to any Labour or Conservative Prime Minister he proclaimed. The Lib Dems say they are the ones to stop those mad Tories slashing and burning our NHS, or they can keep a firm hand on the nation’s credit card to stop Labour running wild.
The party has printed a ridiculous 158 page manifesto detailing how they would run the country. Why bother!? The best they can hope for is to be water carriers again for a Labour or Conservative government. Sure, they will squeeze some policies in during coalition negotiations but that’s the best they can hope for. Clegg knows the thought of the bland Lib Dems in power once again is much more palatable to most than seeing divisive figures like Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage involved in government. The Lib Dems (unlike the SNP) have real bargaining power as have not ruled out doing a deal with either of the main parties. Clegg may stake claim to the moral high ground of government, but he’s fooling nobody, he’d go into coalition with Robert Mugabe if it would keep him in power.
Key Message: What do you want to hear? We’ll promise it all for a spot at the top table.
Nigel Farage has promised to recapture India, retake the American colonies and will place naval mines in the channel to ‘keep those ruddy Euros out’.
What else is there to say? UKIP are pretty clear they want out of the EU and “will implement new border control technology solutions”. One can only imagine what that is…
Key Message: Get out! Now!