This week has seen the publication of the party manifestos. I was a Labour Parliamentary Candidate in 1983 and well remember the impact of the manifesto that was produced for that election. The Party was undergoing a massive internal battle between left and right, with the decent but wholly unsuitable Michael Foot as leader. The 1983 manifesto was described by one MP as the longest suicide note in history. It called for unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the European Economic Community, abolition of the House of Lords, and the re-nationalisation of recently de-nationalised industries. I didn’t read it at the time myself since I thought it would upset me.
However that was thirty years ago and we have come a long way since then. In many respects the biggest and most significant contrast is that this week’s manifesto has appeared without a murmur of dissent from within the party. Indeed Ed Miliband’s leadership has proceeded without any serious challenge since his controversial election in 2010. The party is much better behaved and has allowed the leader to determine his own path.
The manifesto itself, as a result, is more about presentation than policy. The main emphasis is on economic competence rather than social justice. Like many others in the party I can live with it at this stage. The truth is that, at a time of coalition politics, a manifesto can only be seen as a statement of broad intent and direction and not a blueprint for government.