THE launch today of Labour’s election manifesto promises to be the game-changer which, although it had its moments, Tuesday’s TV debate was not.
The post-broadcast ITV Twitter poll gave Jeremy Corbyn a substantial lead, the YouGov poll, of a much smaller sample, made it more or less even.
If Labour is to head a majority administration it needs to do much better — for Boris Johnson to be confident of staying in office, the Tories must do much better.
Johnson’s showing was entirely related to the continuing resonance of his slogan to “Get Brexit done,” although his blustering and complete neglect of other substantive issues devalued this.
Corbyn had the clear advantage on policy across a whole gamut of issues. His famous tranquillity deserted him only occasionally, and to his advantage, when compared with Johnson’s boorish behaviour.
Corbyn stuck steadfastly to his script on Labour’s retreat from its original pledge to respect the referendum result.
Because both the Tory/Brexit Party alliance and the equally unprincipled Lib Dem/Plaid Cymru/Green alliance have sought to make Brexit the main issue — and in doing so have potentially antagonised those parts of their traditional voting bases who take a different view — Labour’s offer of a second referendum has acquired a marginal utility.
But Brexit still dogs Labour’s efforts to make its broader policy appeal the centre piece of the campaign.
The manifesto can provide a powerful launch pad for a renewed effort to change the tone and content of the national conversation.
Maintaining message discipline while mobilising Labour’s ground troops and playing its social media advantage are critical components of a winning strategy, but policy is the key.
In this respect winning wide acceptance that Labour’s economic policy package is both necessary and credible is essential.
The main elements of its approach are shared by a substantial majority of the people.
Taxing the rich to finance essential services while nationalising utilities and public transport are so much part of the core thinking on the left that we sometimes forget just how popular they are and how much they resonate with a common sense understanding of the world held by millions of our compatriots.
The Liberal Democrats think they have spotted something of an opening on this issue and see some advantage in appealing to a reactionary fragment of the electorate which the Tories only appear to have abandoned in their bid to match Labour’s appeal on public spending.
Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Ed Davey says that in government they would run a 1 per cent surplus on current spending and that an independent watchdog would police borrowing for capital expenditure which would only be permitted if it was to generate more for the public purse than it would cost.
This is not only the application of Thatcher’s economically illiterate comparison between public finances and the house husband’s weekly budget but, taken with the rest of their policies, means an unlimited extension of the austerity to which they were wedded in their infamous coalition government with the Tories.
In the event of a rerun of the 2008 crash or any other factor driving a reduction in revenues, this would drive the British economy into a spiral of recession and public expenditure cuts.
Our ruling class of bankers, big business and state bureaucrats currently have little confidence that the Lib Dems possess the social weight or political credibility to form a viable government, but you cannot fault David Cameron’s little helpers for their efforts to court favour.
Labour's manifesto will appeal not to these elevated circles but to the vast majority of working people.
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