Monday, 15 May 2017

Jeremy's Shopping List

Labour's election manifesto takes me back to 1983  when I stood for Grimsby on Michael Foot's manifesto, the longest suicide note in history, desperately hoping no one would read it. This year's is shorter (slightly) and different. Back then we proposed to withdraw from the EU and abandon nuclear weapons. Now we've stood on our heads on both, but the manifesto principle is the same; multiply support by multiplying commitments.

The less confident a party is, the longer its manifesto. Our  intentions are much better than the Tories but idealism makes us more naive. Mass support is declining . People are voting as consumers not loyalists. So as conditioned loyalties get weaker we try to build a coalition of causes, pleasing the unions by keeping guards on trains, the  environmentalists by suggesting blue water conservation zones, the students by abolishing loans and no doubt the tooth paste manufacturers  by requiring regular brushing of teeth though I haven't found that bit yet.

Long lists won't work. Those left out sulk - and there's nothing for stamp collectors or bee keepers. Those in argue. One man's fracking ban is another's P45. So we don't multiply support. We divide it. Some of our proposals are surplus. We should shut up about Brexit. We're out of line on the issue and can't affect the terms. They'll be set by the EU not us. 

A few are trivial . Several are popular, like re-nationalisation of the railways, but cram in too many and people don't believe any. A hostile media gets a field day to bog the campaign down in negative criticism, creating the impression that its all impracticable. A hint to Momentum.The more you please your party members the less you please the people.

It will all be carefully costed but more promises mean a bigger bill, creating   fear among electors hung down with debt They neither understand not believe any of the calculations.Power is a two stage p[rocess. First win it and show that Labour government works and doesn't lead to mass stick ups by rampant unions, then, having won confidence go on to the tougher policies that make society better.

The Tories are smarter : commit to very little, mix in a lot of "strong and stable" and go round hinting that they'll bring HS 14 to Oswaldtwistle, or Scotland, (but nothing in writing of course) and unveil their monstrosities only when they're ensconced in power. Lying is difficult for us, but it shouldn't be beyond the wit of my clever colleagues to see that we'd do better to concentrate on, say, three basic points; saving the NHS. social care ,and schools, building public housing to rent and generating jobs with better pay.

That's enough.The people want all that. Austerity has done enormous damage and the government is weak on all three. Surely a sensible opposition should go for the jugular not build as many sand castles as possible in its four weeks holiday from fratching at Westminster.

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