UK Labour’s 2010 manifesto boasts a distinctly nostalgic art-deco style cover – a little like the political documents of that era, but the similarities end on the first page.
In the Ed Miliband-drafted 75-page document (pdf available by clicking the image) the all-party rigmarole of promising to be all things to all people is maintained. So we have the usual schtick about education standards being ‘raised’; clamping down on poverty; improving healthcare; law and order; community regeneration; immigration and the obligatory nod to green issues at the end. Of course, the fact that this manifesto appears in the wake of both a major recession and the biggest politicians expenses stink of the modern era, means that it has had to make yet another commitment to ridding politics of ‘sleaze’ and of those with their hands wandering unauthorised into the the public purse to fund their private leisure activities.
We’ve been here before: several times in fact. It was sleaze and dirty cash deals associated with publicly shamed ex-MP Neil Hamilton, that helped topple the John Major-led Tories in 1997 and the New Labour government promised ‘change’; which was never going to happen with the likes of freebooters like Geoff Hoon being trusted with power. As Hamilton fades into obscurity some people seem to have forgotten that the Tories were the original masters of UK political sleaze and the Cameron-led Tories now appear to some as ‘honest blokes’ – a trick once pulled by Tony Blair when he took office in ’97…so short is political memory.
Now that New Labour has fully given itself over to the market as the ‘engine of wealth’ (which they clearly allowed to run around without a driver until it was running on fumes), it really is difficult to see where the parties really differ outside of the piddling micro-policies. It’s just tiny slices of legislation with everyone claiming to be for the small man, for “fairness” and empty promises to make sure that the super-rich are not too greedy without actually implementing any policy that will “harm growth” and innovation and “job creation” and all the rest of the blah-di-blah.
Of course, some ideological traces remain; it’s still possible to ask whether the Tories would have nationalised Northern Rock and spaded money into the banking industry had they been the government of the day – the answer is probably yes, with perhaps an even bigger role for the private sector to cream-off any goodies in the process. And the same sort of tax-policy that puts an extra pound a week in Tom, Dick and Harry’s pockets, while those in “The City” still get away with tiny taxes, are never far from the minds of Tory policy agendas. Their ‘toff’ image has not been erased as much as they’d like.
The Labour Party now no longer knows what it is, but there are still the faint gestures to the working class (or the middle class) and the claims of not being a party for the rich, which is by now barely-believable.
As a historical contrast here is Labour’s manifesto from 1945 (click the image to download pdf). A message aimed at a more united post-war population in a different era. Some of the language and phraseology is actually quite recognisable (especially the word future) except that here they weren’t afraid to refer to themselves as socialists.