We’ve heard it all before. We’ve had thirteen years of Labour’s broken promises and nothing changes.
What Britain needs is change – and only the Conservative Party has the energy, leadership and values to bring about that change and:
Labour’s Manifesto contains a confused set of ideas that will not bring the change our country needs.
1. Five promises they don’t know how to pay for
In his foreword, Gordon Brown says ‘There are no big new spending commitments’ (p.2). But the details show he is making a number of pledges he can’t afford:
· We will create a new settlement in our country on how we care for the elderly through the creation of a National Care Service (0:5). Could cost up to £21 billion a year.
· Advanced apprenticeships will be radically expanded, creating up to 70,000 places a year (3:6-7). Could cost up to £490 million a year.
· An expansion of free nursery places for two year olds and 15 hours a week of flexible, free nursery education for three and four year olds (11:2). Could cost around £300 million a year.
· A new Toddler Tax Credit (11:3). Could cost up to £180 million a year.
· Transform the Post Office into a People’s Bank (2:6). Could cost up to £180 million a year.
2. Five promises they won’t be able to deliver
Gordon Brown says, ‘this is a Manifesto that is idealistic about what is possible but realistic about how to achieve it’ (0:2). But there are several policies that we know he will be unable to deliver:
· ‘We will seek to reduce the costs of regulation by more than £6 billion by 2015’ (1:6). The Government’s Forward Regulatory Programme shows that the average annual cost of new regulatory measures coming into force between October 2009 to December 2012 will be up to £27.89 billion (DBIS, The Government’s Forward Regulatory Programme, 15 October 2009).
· ‘We believe that the funding of political parties must be reformed if the public is to regain trust in politics’ (9:4). Labour’s dependency on the unions has prevented any reform of party funding, and wrecked the Hayden Phillips talks: central to a comprehensive package of reform would have been an across-the-board cap on donations, covering individuals, companies and trade unions. As Peter Watt, Labour General Secretary, Labour’s representative on the inter-party talks: ‘My primary emotion during the process was intense frustration, because my own party was the biggest block to reform’ (Peter Watt, Inside Out, p.115).
· ‘MPs who are found responsible for financial misconduct will be subject to a right of recall if Parliament itself has failed to act against them’ (9:2). The caveat ‘if Parliament itself has failed to act’ means that this so-called right of recall would be unworkable: in reality, no MP is likely to escape minor disciplinary action such as suspension if they have been ‘found responsible for financial misconduct’.
· ‘Because we know people want faster action on [anti-social behaviour], we will guarantee an initial response to any complaint within 24 hours’ (5:4). Ed Miliband has already admitted that this is a gimmick. Local authorities will be required to give people a named case worker who will report back on progress, and escalate action if the problem persists. But when on 12 April, he was asked on GMTV whether the ‘response within 24 hours ... might be a council worker turning up and saying ‘I’m really sorry,’ Ed Miliband replied: ‘It might be that.’
· ‘We are building a clean energy system which will reduce Britain’s dependence on imported oil and gas’ (8:3). Labour’s own figures show that this is nonsense. Under their plans the UK’s dependence on imported oil will rise from 15 per cent this year to 44 per cent by 2020 and to 57 per cent by 2025. On gas, Labour’s own figures show the UK’s dependence on imports rising from 31 per cent now to 45 per cent by 2020 and to 61 per cent by 2025 (DECC, The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan: Analytical Annex, July 2009, p. 81).
3. Five promises they’ve broken before
In his speech at the launch of the Manifesto, Gordon Brown said: ‘I am confident in the team I lead and the policies we promise’. But we know how Labour’s promises end.
· We will not raise the basic, higher and new top rates of tax in the next Parliament (p. 1:3). Labour promised this in the past: ‘We will not raise the basic or top rates of income tax in the next Parliament’ (Labour Manifesto, 2005); ‘not raise the basic or top rate of income tax and extend the 10p band’ (Labour Manifesto, 2001); ‘There will be no increase in the basic or top rates of income tax’ (Labour Manifesto, 1997). Yet Labour scrapped the 10p tax rate, introduced a new 50p tax rate and are planning to impose a jobs tax from 2011 (Budget 2007; Budget 2009). As the IFS said of Labour’s NICs reforms since 1997: ‘These changes mean that, even more so than in 1997, NI is now effectively a second income tax on earned income’ (IFS Press Release, 7 April 2010).
· Tough choices for £15 billion efficiency savings in 2010-11 (0:6). But the National Audit Office found that only a quarter of Labour’s first round of efficiency savings ‘fairly represent efficiencies made’ (National Audit Office, The Efficiency Programme, A Second Review of Progress, February 2007).
· Every child leaving primary school secure in the basics (3:2). In their 2005 Manifesto, Labour promised to ‘intensify our literacy and numeracy programme to help an extra 50,000 pupils achieve high standards at age 11, reaching our targets of 85 per cent of pupils succeeding at the basics’ (p.35). But in the 2009 Key Stage 2 exams, just 62 per cent of 11-year-olds achieved the expected standard or better in reading, writing and maths (DCSF, National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 2 in England, 2009 (Revised), 1 December 2009).
· Every young person guaranteed education or training until 18, with 75 per cent going on to higher education (11:2). In 1999, Tony Blair set ‘a target of 50 per cent of young adults going into higher education in the next century’ (Speech to the Labour Party Conference, 28 September 1999). But the official measure of university participation is still only 45 per cent (BIS, Statistical First Release: Participation Rates In Higher Education, 31 March 2010).
· Neighbourhood police teams in every area, spending 80 per cent of their time on the beat (5:2). This is a claim that was banned on 31 March 2010 by the Advertising Standards Authority as ‘misleading’ (Advertising Standards Authority website, 31 March 2010).
4. Five promises that are undermined by their own record
Labour’s Manifesto claims: ‘We, Labour, are the people to carry out this next stage of national renewal because of our values and our understanding of the role of government’ (0:3). But their own record in government undermines many of their promises:
· ‘Build a high-tech economy, supporting business and industry to create one million more skilled jobs’ (1:2). Between 1997 Quarter 2 and 2009 Quarter 3, manufacturing as a share of GDP declined by 9.3 percentage points, from 20.7 per cent of GDP to 11.4 per cent of GDP – the fastest decline under any government since records began in 1980 (ONS Time Series QTPI, QVYR).
· ‘As a sign of our continued commitment to the military community, we will introduce a Forces Charter to enshrine in law the rights of forces’ (10:3). But Labour have failed to uphold the Military Covenant. If it had already been written into law, Labour would have broken that law. As former Chief of the Defence Staff General Lord Guthrie said: ‘today I think they [the services] do feel undervalued and taken for granted. The last time they felt like this was in the days of the Callaghan Government’ (Speech to Global Strategy Forum, 20 February 2007).
· ‘We will protect the Post Office network, so that it can fulfil its historic role as a trusted institution serving the community’ (7:4). There have been 6,422 Post Offices closures between 1999 and 2009 (Royal Mail Group, Post Office Closures by Constituency: at April: 1999-2009).
· ‘We will introduce a new Fathers’ Month, four weeks of paid leave rather than the current two’ (6:3). Labour’s last Manifesto shows they cannot be trusted with their promises on parental leave. In 2005, they set the goal of a year’s paid maternity leave by the end of this Parliament. This has not been met and the goal has been abandoned in their 2010 Manifesto. So instead of pledging thirteen weeks more paid leave for parents, Labour has watered this down to just two extra weeks for fathers.
· ‘We rule out the introduction of national road pricing in the next Parliament’ (1:7). Labour have refused to cancel the work currently going on at the Treasury to provide the technology needed for a satellite based ‘spy-in-the-sky road pricing scheme’ (HMT response to FOI request, 24 March 2010). According to a study commissioned by Gordon Brown in 2006, with the evidence from these trails and with more work behind the scenes in this Parliament, Labour will be able to introduce the national road pricing in 2015 (HMT, Eddington Transport Study, 2006, p.141).
5. Five promises they’ve stolen from us
Labour’s Manifesto claims that ‘we stand as the people with the ... ideas to help our country through the next phase of national renewal’ (0:5). But the details show they have borrowed many of their ideas from us:
· Any government-controlled appointment involving a salary over £150,000 will require ministerial sign-off. (1:4). Announced by George Osborne: ‘In the current climate, anyone who wishes to pay a public servant more than the Prime Minister will have to put it before the Chancellor’ (George Osborne, Conference Speech, 6 October 2009).
· Pay as you save home energy insulation (8:3). In January 2009 the Conservatives launched plans to give every household the right to have home energy efficiency improvements worth up to £6,500. The upfront costs would be financed by the commercial sector; and repaid over a period of up to 25 years through the savings on energy bills (Low Carbon Economy green paper, 16 January 2009).
· No stamp duty for first-time buyers on all house purchases below £250,000 for two years (11:1). Announced by George Osborne: ‘So I can tell you now: the next Conservative Government will abolish stamp duty for almost all first time buyers. Anyone who buys their first home for under £250,000 will pay no stamp duty. We will take 200,000 people a year out of stamp duty altogether; that’s one million people over a Parliament’ (George Osborne, Conference Speech, 1 October 2007).
· A new national 111 telephone number ... for non-emergency services (4:4). We proposed this in an NHS policy paper published on 28 September 2007: ‘We will also ensure that public telephone access to NHS services will consist of just two choices: “999” for emergency care and a single national number e.g. “116 116” which will access advice and urgent care’ (Conservative Party, The patient will see you now, doctor, 28 September 2007).
· We will promote the transfer of buildings and land to the ownership or control of voluntary and community groups (7:5). Conservatives launched a ‘Community Right to Buy’ last year to help residents save and protect local community facilities under threat (Daily Mail, 20 November 2009). Last month, we outlined additional plans to allow neighbourhoods to bid to take over the running of community amenities, ‘such as parks and libraries’ (Conservatives, Big Society not Big Government, March 2010).
6. Five things they’ve dropped in this Manifesto
Gordon Brown says in his foreword: ‘we will restore trust in politics’ (0:2), but he has had to drop several policies from his manifesto that he and his ministers have recently announced with little idea of how to deliver them or pay for them:
· Free personal care at home for those with the highest needs. In the 2009 Queen’s speech, Gordon Brown promised to give 280,000 people free personal home care, which he claimed would cost £670 million per year. The Manifesto does not mention this; it contains only a vague reference to the National Care Service.
· Free hospital parking. In his speech to the 2009 Labour Party Conference on 1 October, Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, promised to end hospital parking changes for inpatients but this is not mentioned in the manifesto.
· Free school meals for all pupils. At Labour conference in 2008, they pledged to introduce free school meals for every primary school pupil (BBC News Online, 24 September 2008). In January 2009, local authorities were asked to bid for a £20 million pilot, funded jointly by the DCSF and the DoH (DCSF, Press Release, 15 January 2009). The subsequent Pre-Budget Report then introduced eligibility criteria (HMT, Pre-Budget Report, 9 December 2009). The scaled back version of this pledge is repeated in the Manifesto today.
· Hostels for teenage mothers. In his party conference speech in September, Gordon Brown pledged that ‘from now on all 16 and 17 year old parents who get support from the taxpayer will be placed in a network of supervised homes. These shared homes will offer not just a roof over their heads, but a new start in life where they learn responsibility and how to raise their children properly. That’s better for them, better for their babies and better for us all in the long run’ (29 September 2009). This has been dropped from the Manifesto.
· British jobs for British workers. During his campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown said: ‘I want to ensure that the jobs available in Britain are available for British workers who are looking for jobs’ (Speech at GMB Conference, 5 June 2007). There was no reference to this policy in the Manifesto.
7. And finally ... where is the reference to our record national debt?
Gordon Brown says in his foreword: ‘This is a moment for good judgement and serious purpose to meet the challenges ahead’ (0:2). But the biggest challenge facing the country is ignored in his Manifesto:
· No mention of the country’s £1.4 trillion national debt. The Manifesto refers to the word ‘debt’ only four times: twice in relation to third world debt, once in relation to consumer debt, and once in relation to the hypothetical consequences of government inaction.