Today, Labour published its General Election manifesto. Cicero Elections has analysed the document and every Labour policy can be found in the official Cicero Elections Manifesto Hub.
Our analysis of the document and what it means for the tightest election campaign in decades is below:
Labour Manifesto Overview
This morning Labour published ‘Britain can be better’ their 2015 General Election Manifesto. In his launch speech in Manchester, Ed Miliband offered his vision of change for the country on the basis that, “It is only when working people succeed that Britain succeeds”.
The manifesto contained almost no new policy announcements but did set out a Budget Responsibility Lock. Miliband said that “it is the basis for all our plans in the manifesto because it is by securing our national finances that we are able to secure the family finances of the working people of Britain”.
Featuring on the first page of the manifesto, it guarantees that every policy in the manifesto will be paid for without requiring additional borrowing and that the Office for Budget Responsibility will independently audit election manifestos in the future. The lock also commits a Labour Government to cut the deficit every year getting national debt falling and “a surplus on the current budget as soon as possible in the next parliament”
The manifesto contained a number of previously announced policies which would have significant impact on financial services and business sectors. These include: an energy price freeze; the creation of a British Investment Bank; a market share test in retail banking with the creation of at least two new challenger banks; the creation of a National Infrastructure Commission; and ruling out a European referendum unless there is significant transfer of powers from Britain to the European Union.
If enacted, these policies would have a dramatic impact on the business and consumer landscape across the United Kingdom, and Miliband’s strong performance at the lectern indicated that he truly believes he is the man to implement them.
The Labour Angle
Like a long distance runner who has timed his burst of pace for just the right moment, Ed Miliband appears to be hitting his stride in the crucial final stretch of the election campaign. His speech at the launch of Labour’s manifesto in Manchester today was confident and impassioned. He looks like a man who truly believes he can be Prime Minister in just over three weeks’ time.
In terms of the content of the manifesto, there were few real surprises, though some announcements – such as on childcare and the minimum wage – went further than we have heard before. However the relative lack of new material was not unexpected, as Labour has been drip-feeding new policies for well over a year now.
Perhaps the boldest move made by Miliband today was also the most cautious: placing the party’s ‘Budget Responsibility Lock’ literally on page one of the manifesto. This was a clear acknowledgement that, although Miliband is buoyed by his strong start to the campaign, he remains acutely aware of the frailties of his and his party’s position – chiefly, their perceived recklessness on the economy. Many Labour supporters may have preferred to see a more radical centrepiece for the manifesto, but the party leadership knows that being seen as fiscally responsible is vital to their chances in key marginal seats.
Beneath that umbrella of fiscal prudence are some genuinely radical proposals: from fundamental reform of the energy and banking sectors to paving the way for bringing the railways back into public ownership; from putting employees on remuneration committees to drastic devolution of economic power to English cities and regions.
Undoubtedly some will view this manifesto as not going far enough in its radicalism; others will paint it as dangerously leftwing. For Ed Miliband, that will sound just right.
The Opposition Angle
Claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility allowed Labour’s opponents to deliver a broadside against Miliband. And as the Labour Leader took the stage, CCHQ gave the signal and social media was flooded with images of Liam Byrne’s last memo as a Treasury Minister, informing his successor that there was no money left. Why would Labour focus on an area they’re supposedly so weak on?
Prevailing Conservative strategy has been centred around the idea that we are now in an era of ‘valence politics’, where voters no longer vote on the basis of their self-interest or ideological beliefs, but for parties that they believe to be the most competent. The Conservatives have been dominant on economic competence since 2010 and Labour’s attempt to chase them off this high ground was uncharacteristically audacious of Miliband’s troops.
It is understood that this tactic was only agreed upon at the end of last week, when there was a feeling in the Westminster bubble that Labour had had a good few days on the campaign trail following the positive reception of their non-dom status abolition policy. It is also understood that last week, the Conservatives realised that their ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ narrative wasn’t shifting the polls as planned and announced two expensive policies.
This played straight into Labour’s hands: they had the opportunity to paint the Tories as the fiscally irresponsible party, and this morning, Ed seized it.
Labour’s opponents will point to the IFS’ verdict that Labour’s manifesto promises are too vague, but they will know that Ed performed well this morning. The Guardian poll this afternoon, giving the Tories a six point lead, will put a dampener on tonight’s coverage of the Labour manifest launch, but the Conservatives know that the launch of their own manifesto tomorrow may be crucial in re-asserting themselves in this campaign race.