Showing posts with label Labour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Labour. Show all posts

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Vote Labour in Oldham & Saddleworth today

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Voting To Begin In Oldham East By-Election ...
Oldham and Saddleworth go to the polls today in a byelection
Today is the Oldham and Saddleworth by-election. It was brought about by the harsh judgement (but one that has to be respected) that the democratically elected Member of Parliament, Phil Woolas had lied about his election opponent. Given the tumultuous parliamentary history of these Isles, there must be hundreds of past politicians who similarly would have been stripped of their seats, if they had been prosecuted for their views on political opponents.

Nevertheless, the decision of the court stands and maybe in the future will help raise the level and quality of debate in elections. It will certainly act as a deterrent to any candidate who thinks it safe to engage in dirty tactics or personal attacks.

Today is decision time as to who would make the best MP for the constituency.
Debbie Abrahams is the Labour Party candidate and is someone who stands up for what she believes in. Back in 2006 she resigned in protest at changes brought in by Labour over healthcare reform. That shows she is not afraid to stick to her convictions and principles and not just speak out but to take action. It's not a weakness but an asset. Oldham and Saddleworth need someone who will be a tough constituency MP and based on her past record Debbie looks like she will be a great champion for the area in the House of Commons.

Debbie has spoken about her concerns with transport, policing, jobs and the economy and especially healthcare. Those are the words of someone who cares about real issues affecting real people and her confidence is apparent when speaking.

Voting Labour will also send a strong signal to the Coalition that in spite of winning a court battle to overturn the election result and highlighting lies that were allegedly made by Phil Woolas and his election team, that the voters in Oldham and Saddleworth want to be heard. Their concerns about rising tuition fees, rising taxes, fewer jobs and the affects of the public sector cuts need to make their way into No. 10. The Coalition has made the wrong choices about how to improve the economy and have failed to distribute the burden fairly.

Bankers do not need a tax cut (compared to last year) whilst ordinary folk are losing jobs and seeing the standard of living plummet.

Today I hope Debbie Abrahams is elected as the new Labour MP for Oldham and Saddleworth.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Brown goes, media in a frenzy (again) and Lab-Lib Dem deal back on(?)

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Oh for goodness sake! I just press 'Publish' on my article about Con-Lib Dem Government and blow me there is an avalanche of tweets that Gordon Brown is stepping down. I had thought he would have to go but now the rumour mill is pumped up to suggest that the deal for a Labour-Lib Dem Coalition is on....

So there will be a new Labour leader by September. The Miliband brothers will be fighting over a deal to choose one of them to face Ed Balls, Alan Johnson, Harriet Harmen.....

Alastair Campbell must be loving it......

Con-Lib Dem Government

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Well there you go. What do I know? The Lab-Lib Dem Coalition looks like it is dead in the water.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown

It just proves that trying to reasonably predict the outcome to the 2010 election is as easy as winning the Lottery. The problems ahead for any type of Minority Government/Pact/Coalition are not to be under-estimated. As the talks continue (and there could be announcement later today), the chances are (at the moment) a Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government will emerge. It has the merit that it will have the most chance of lasting the distance as opposed to either a minority Lab-Lib Dem Government or a Grand Coalition of Lab-Lib Dem-Nationalist-Green Government. However, knowing the personalities involved and the hardcore of Lib Dems who really don't like the Conservatives there will have to be some tough selling to the Lib Dem back benches on a Tory deal and then some tough whipping to make sure the new Government can win all the crucial votes. When it comes to the Budget in the next few weeks there surely will be 5 or so Lib Dem MPs who will oppose the expected drastic cuts in public spending with another 5 abstaining. There is going to be really battles with the Left of the Lib Dems.

When no serious change in the electoral system comes about; let's face it most Conservatives on a free vote will vote against PR together with enough Others to block any Bill in the Commons, then the Lib Dems will realise that they are stuck with First Past the Post for another generation.

It will be one heck of a ride with the Lib Dem Whips having to cajole, persuade and invariably lean on their back benchers to get through a range of votes over the next four or five years. British politics will have a seismic shift because the next 2 years will see the Con-Lib Dem Government become very unpopular very quickly as the scale of the cutbacks in schools, hospitals, transport and local government becomes finally apparent. The two parties will be forced together to ride out their unpopularity. That means that every week journalists will be looking for splits between the party leaders and on key votes. The party conferences will become bumpy rides as activists (especially in the Lib Dems) complain bitterly about the Coalition. Could it actually result in resignations from the Lib Dems moving towards (or joining Labour). Will the Pact/Coalition split part within a year and force a second general election? Will the alignment mean an electoral pact at the next general election?

On the other hand with supposed secret talks going on between the Lib Dems and Labour is their a final spectacular twist in all this and the talks with the Conservatives collapse in recriminations and the Grand Left Coalition is back on? Goodness how the media are loving this!


My election prediction

How far out was I?

My Prediction                                   Actual result

Conservatives         285                    307 (Conservatives likely to win final by-election)
Labour                   262                    258
Lib Dems                 74                      57
Green                         1                        1
Other                       28                      27
Total                     650                    650

If the Lib Dems had held up their vote as predicted by virtually all the polls, then my prediction would have been about spot on. The Lib Dems seats were overestimated by 17 seats and the Conservatives underestimated by 22 seats. As it is, I take some comfort from the Labour prediction being almost bang on together with the Others prediction likewise (including the new Green MP, Caroline Lucas).

Friday, 7 May 2010

UK - The Negotiations to begin?

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After a long night with many well known faces leaving parliament and the worn out faces of Cameron, Brown and Clegg dominating the newsreels, what has the electorate delivered?
It seems to be a hung parliament with neither Labour nor the Conservatives having enough seats to form a majority Government. the Conservatives are close with a perhaps around 305 seats, Labour struggling to make 255 seats, Lib Dems on perhaps 60 seats and then the all important smaller parties from Northern Ireland, Scotland, wales and a Green MP coming in with some 30 seats!

The Lib Dems will be bitterly disappointed after Clegg did so well in the first TV debate but after all the attacks they failed to make the break through that seemed to be predicted by the polls.

There will have to be a lot of negotiations for a non-Conservative Government to be formed. It is possible but I cannot see Gordon Brown remaining as Prime Minister now. Losing 100 Labour seats is not a mandate to continue with any credibility. History will judge that he called the big decisions correctly during the worst recession for thirty years and the worst banking crisis for seventy years. However, his unfriendly style on TV never played well with voters and came from another era when politicians may be great intellects but not not have to know how to 'perform' in the media. In 2010, that is an essential asset for any politician.

What of the Conservatives? Cameron has gone on the attack (understandably) to say Labour and Brown have lost the mandate to rule. He may be right and Cameron is close to forming a Government; but not quite. The Conservatives have defied all the polls throughout the election and are within touching distance of gaining power for the first time in 13 years but David Cameron will quietly rue the day that he didn't win an outright majority given the appalling mess the Labour Government found itself in just six months ago. At that time the polls were predicting a huge majority of 90+ in the Commons for the Conservatives.

Back to those negotiations. Can Brown or more likely a new Labour leader stitch together a Coalition? Can Cameron defy the Commons and form a minority Government or can he charm enough of the smaller parties and crawl over the 326 line?

The media will be in a feeding frenzy for the next few days trying to work out the intentions of those smaller parties. If there is a Centre-Left Coalition can it really last four or five years as a Government? It is hard to believe that it will not tear itself apart given the economic situation and the two or more years of public sector cuts. If it can be formed then Cameron will bide his time and wait and I have a feeling he will enter Number Ten sooner or later.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

UK Election 2010 - Time to vote

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Election Day in the UK - Thursday 6th May 2010
So it is nearly that time when the pain and distress comes to an end and finally the British people can put the candidates out of their misery. Tomorrow is Election day in the UK. The leaders are madly trying to pack in as many last minute photo opportunities and persuade the newspapers that each of them is the best choice as Prime Minister. The last celebrity endorsements and spin doctors’ musings are being milked for all their worth.

Brown is promising to fight every inch of the way, [there is some serious trouble ahead if you are forced to wear a hard hat]

Sarah and Gordon Brown

Cameron claims the Conservatives have had the strongest finish, [or was that fish?]
David Cameron

and Clegg attacks Labour for being ‘desperate’. [will more people vote for you if you 'love' them?]

Nick Clegg

The exhausted candidates race around knocking on doors and urge on equally exhausted volunteers to deliver the last bundles of leaflets. As for the British electorate, they will be glad that normality could just be over the horizon. We will be able to get back to repeats of old movies and sitcoms and catch up on soap operas and celebrity reality TV without being disturbed by the endless analysis of the election by commentators (on second thoughts....). However, before then we will have to endure various ‘highlights’ shows and documentaries analysing the 2010 Election.

So what do the latest polls say?

The BBC Poll Tracker is showing:-

Latest BBC Poll Tracker                  Election Seat Calculator
Conservative         35%                        270
Labour                  29%                        272
Lib Dem                26%                          79
Other                    10%                          29
Total                   100%                       650

Latest Sky reports

Conservative         37%                        296
Labour                  28%                        248
Lib Dem                27%                          78
Other                      8%                          28
Total                   100%                       650

This seems to confirm that (as I predicted) the Lib Dems have slipped back from those giddy days just after the first TV Prime Ministerial debate when Clegg catapulted his party’s standing in the polls from around 21% to sometimes 33%.

As usual, I have to qualify the uniform swings that calculate the number of seats as this never happens on the ground. There will be local factors at play from a sitting MPs expenses being scrutinised to only new candidates standing (so no incumbency to factor in to the equation) through to local politics affecting the outcomes such as who is supporting the planned incinerator or . However, it gives us some idea as to what people are telling the pollsters (and not necessarily how they actually vote....).

What we can say though is that :-

1.       Cameron and the Conservatives seems to have lost around 5% of the vote since the election campaign kicked off and perhaps will only gain around 60 seats (up from 210 at 2005 election). The Conservatives will talk this up as making the threshold of power and given they may be doing much better in the marginal seats then Cameron could yet pull something amazing out of the hat at the last minute. If on the other hand it turns out they are some 50 seats short Cameron will come under a lot of criticism in the coming weeks.

2.       Brown and Labour is staring at losing around 80 seats (down from 349 seats at 2005 election) but let’s face it compared to the low expectation, the poor Labour campaign and Brown’s own goals including poor TV debate performances, Bigot Gate, a lacklustre manifesto, then Labour would (as I predicted) be in the position of still clinging to power through a Coalition with the Lib Dems. There will be pressure on Brown to stand down if Labour is much lower than 290 seats. Whilst Clegg won’t force Brown out as leader, the party may well now feel enough is enough and lever Brown out (especially if a deal can be struck with the new leader (David Miliband?) but not with Brown).

3.       Clegg, in spite of dropping back from polls that may have given him over 90 seats may still have pushed up the Lib Dem number of seats by a modest 15 to 20 seats (up from 62 seats in 2005 election). The Conservative onslaught against the Lib Dems on the immigration amnesty, the Euro and Trident took its toll. However, let’s not forget that prior to the campaign starting it seemed most likely that Clegg would be looking at around 15 fewer seats so if this all plays out as the polls suggest, Clegg will be hailed as a hero by Lib Dem supporters. The more tricky bit will come with the potential Coalition negotiations and then actual seats in Government.

4.       The Nationalists such as Plaid Cymru, SNP, Unionists, Sinn Fein (and possibly the Greens) could suddenly find themselves in the eye of the storm come 7th May if either the Conservatives or Labour are scrambling around for a handful of votes to win a confidence motion in the Commons and take power.

25 hours until polling closes. Are there to be any last minute twists and turns or has this election played its last trick?

A Lab-Lib Dem Coalition or can Cameron somehow pull off a final surprise by winning many more seats in the marginals than predicted and perhaps with Unionist help clamber over the finishing line?

And my prediction (which is always madness to try and estimate election outcomes)? Hung Parliament. Lab-Lib Dem Coalition.

Conservatives         285
Labour                   262
Lib Dems                 74
Green                         1
Other                       28 (perhaps the SNP gaining 3 seats and Plaid Cymru gaining 2 seats on 2005 election)
Total                     650

No BNP MPs but they will no doubt have picked up many more votes and their poison will continue to increase.

Now get voting!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Lib Dems roller coaster towards Government

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The election 'game change' to break the Lib Dem glass ceiling occurred during 90 minutes of the first leader’s TV debate. Nick Clegg shattered the barrier holding back the Lib Dems in the time it takes to kick a ball around a pitch.
The BBC thoughtfully supply a transcript to allow checks on what exactly was said in case anyone thinks that the words of Solomon were spoken. However, the key was not just the actual words but the presentation and clear delivery by Clegg that brought him to the viewer’s attention and they liked what they saw.
In spite of the Tory smears and attempts to reverse the Lib Dem surge in the polls, Cameron failed to deliver any kind of knock out blow in the second TV debate against either Clegg or Brown, although I think he was much better than in TV Debate 1 and deserved to take the plaudits for a narrow win. It should be noted though that Brown too was much more fluent and at ease and this was shown in a closer result between all three on opinion polls (specifically on the TV debate ‘winner’).
We are now left (as expected) with a little slippage by the Lib Dems to a settled score of around 29% in the polls. This is an impressive 8% higher than the same polls were showing before the first TV debate.

Latest BBC Poll Tracker                  Election Seat Calculator
Conservative         35%                        274
Labour                  28%                        260
Lib Dem                29%                          87
Other                      8%                          29
Total                   100%                       650
Note – a 1% swing from Conservative to Labour (34% vs 29%) and the seats change back to give Labour the largest number of 282 vs 251 seats. The narrow margins of error, when you throw in the inevitable swings in marginal seats, mean that it is impossible to accurately predict.

Now if the smears continue or Clegg makes a gaffe before polling day, the Lib Dems will keep nudging lower to perhaps my predicted 26% but they are looking good for a higher vote and number of seats than anyone predicted prior to the campaign.
I think though that in Clegg’s clear attempt to head off the Conservatives successful counter attack that ‘Vote Clegg get Brown’, he (and his advisors) has made his life a little more difficult in the coming weeks. At the weekend Clegg sent out slightly fuzzy signals. In his interview in The Sunday Times he said that, “I tie my hands in the following sense: that the party that has more seats and votes, but doesn’t get an absolute majority – I support them”.  This is Clegg’s Rule on a Hung Parliament.
That seems fairly straightforward. Under Clegg’s Rule the party with the most votes and seats but short of a majority (326 seats) will get Lib Dem support in parliament. So the Lib Dems will have to support the Conservatives(if the actual result was above), right? No.
Given Cameron’s stated hostility to voting reform and that is a ‘deal breaker’ for any previous Lib Dem leader, I simply can’t believe that Clegg would throw out of the window any sort of serious commitment to a Bill on PR and agree to prop up the largest party come what may. Labour is promising reform but a very limited AV reform (chances are that it could be amended into a bill that would satisfy the Lib Dems and since a large minority of the Labour Party believes in PR , a deal could be stitched together). However, both Cameron’s assertion that he is against voting reform and a lack of appetite in the Conservative Party for such change, there can be little prospect of voting reform by the Conservatives other than a Bill in Parliament on a referendum and then the Tories would campaign against it!
However, clearly spin doctors had been talking to journalists on the Sunday evening BBC Radio Four programme Westminster Hour. There seemed to be real confusion as to what Clegg actually suddenly meant.
Today, in The Times, Clegg went further and stated he wants to overthrow Brown before dealing with a new Labour leader.“I think, if Labour do come third in terms of the number of votes cast, then people would find it inexplicable that Gordon Brown himself could carry on as Prime Minister, which is what the old convention would dictate.” So fair enough he has gone further by now saying he not only will not deal with a party in third place but also not Gordon Brown. Right? Wrong. In an interview with Sky News he was asked if he was prepared to work with alternative Labour figures such as Alan Johnson or David Miliband. He said: “I will seek with whomever else to deliver those big changes that I want, in the way the economy is run, the way the tax system works, the way our education system works and, of course, cleaning up politics from top to toe.”
Well how can he work with any Labour leader who has come third in the national vote and yet has the most seats (but short of a majority)?
You see Clegg has to be very careful about being tripped up in all the confusion post-6th May to find a new Prime Minister who commands a majority of support in the Commons.
1. First, Brown as the sitting Prime Minister will be invited to form a Government so he will naturally talk to Clegg and the Lib Dems. Under Clegg’s Rule though he should be immediately be turned away regardless of what he offers them. That would be madness to turn down say a deal on PR (breaking the two party duopoly forever and fulfilling the Lib Dem dream of Government after a hiatus for most of the Twentieth Century). Is Clegg really going to turn Brown away at that stage? I doubt it but let’s assume he does.
2. Then Cameron and Clegg sit down and what happens if they can’t agree a programme (inc. voting reform) for Government? Either unofficial channels have already agreed that some sort of deal can be made and in recent days David Laws emphatically denied that was the case (but heck if it is ‘unofficial’ he could deny it). Or no deal is put together and then what happens?
3. Well, either Clegg has forced Brown to resign (the Labour Party will hate it if it is seen that they have lost their leader because the Lib Dem leader forces him out), a temporary Labour leader then comes in and Clegg perhaps gets a second chance to make a deal. In that scenario, Clegg has perhaps twisted his logic to near braking point but would claim he hasn’t broken his word. He would argue that he could not do a deal with the man who voters placed in third ie Brown but a new leader (albeit temporary) would not be as tainted. Likewise, he has given Cameron a chance but a deal was never going to happen, although it makes Clegg look like he gave them an opportunity.
4. Finally, a new Labour leader is elected by the party and the new Lab-Lib Dem Coalition can be formed. It would take a few weeks and the country will be sick and tired of the newspapers repeating over and over every single nuance to the story.

This then relies on Brown being ousted or resigning in step 1. or 2. above. Still with me? Problems start to arise at every twist and turn but what happens if Gordon Brown refuses to resign and carries the support of his party? Clegg could be forcing a second general election down everyone's throat and the electorate would give him and his MPs a good kicking for yet another four weeks of electioneering. Clegg has to make a deal (with Brown if he has support from the Labour Party) rather than go back to the electorate with everyone blaming them for a paralysed Government.

 The question is; has Clegg just created a risky strategy in the hopes of seeing off the ‘Vote Clegg get Brown’ attack and placed himself at the mercy of the ‘what if’ scenarios about to play out post 6th May? He better get this right otherwise his party will not forgive him if they are left in the cold for most of the Twenty First Century.
All of this excited chatter about Clegg’s Rule though evaporates under some opinion polls that suggest the Conservatives edging back up again and only slightly short of a majority.
Whatever, the final outcome there are about twenty Lib Dem ‘MPs’ who will owe their re-election to Clegg’s 90 minute wonder and perhaps another 30 new Lib Dem MPs who will be swept into parliament against the odds. Before the election campaign it looked like they would be reduced to 45 MPs, now they are heading for 90 MPs. It will be the most Liberal Democrat/Liberal MPs since 6th December 1923 when 158 Liberal MPs were briefly elected until just 29th October 1924
So the Lib Dems/Libs will be back in power since 1979 after a 31 year absence, but something far more important could be about to happen. If Clegg pulls off PR (or at least a fairer voting system), it may mean that the Lib Dems are finally back permanently as a serious force in British politics after a rollercoaster ride for 86 years.
So did a 90 minute television debate change the course of British politics forever?  We will find out in 10 days time.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Clegg wins first TV debate by a mile

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Well after all the hype and fuss, the Prime Ministerial Debates on TV turned out to be fascinating for the hacks and politicos and vaguely interesting for the rest of the 9 million who tuned in to ITV. Alastair Campbell [Ed - After comment below Stewart!] the host was very annoying with his shouting at the candidates and constantly uinterrupting them, just as they sometimes were getting into interesting exchanges. He seemed desperate to hurry them through the prescribed agenda and list of questions, rather than professionally guiding the event and making it more natural.
Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron

Nick Clegg won it by a mile. Generally relaxed, confident and full of clear ideas. Yes there was less pressure on him to perform but hey try saying that when you are up in front of the cameras on the most important hustings of your life. Heck the pressure was on all three. Clegg though worked the TV studio audience and whilst still indulged in a little of the yah boo politics, he generally stuck to substantive policy statements. The Lib Dems were ecstatic afterwards and so they should be, Clegg deserves to take the plaudits after that performance.

Now for David Cameron. I was amazed at how poor he performed. He didn’t seem comfortable sandwiched between the other two. He gave luke warm answers and was too feeble when Brown tried to attack him. Cameron clearly was feeling the pressure and keen (if not desperate) not to drop a clanger that could cost him the election. Unfortunately, that wariness came over and he looked blown away by the cock sure confidence of Clegg next to him. Cameron was the biggest loser of the night.
Gordon Brown lived up to expectations, which were pretty low. Gordon is no Tony and it showed. He tried very hard to land a few punches by drawing Cameron on the specifics of where the Tory cuts of £6 billion would land within 9 months of coming to power. Brown gave substantive replies but his delivery was clunky. But that’s just the way he is and no one could seriously expect him over night to turn into JFK. So overall I thought he did better than expected.

So the key question now is what will happen to the opinion polls?

YouGov poll afterwards gave Clegg 43%, Cameron 26% and Brown 20% in terms of who won the debate. The Times Populus poll gave Clegg an even big lead. That may give the Lib Dems a shot in the arm of 2 or 3 points (after the polls settle down) over the coming week. The chances are that if say they go up by 3% then 2% will come from the Tory support and 1% from Labour.

Whilst the polls are bouncing around it is very difficult to decide where they currently are now. However, if we take say the BBC Tracker then yesterday Conservatives 39%, Labour 32%, Lib Dem 20%.

Already today that has changed to Con 37%, Lab 31%, Lib Dem 21%. I suspect that the Lib Dems may even edge up another point or so in the next few days.

On a rough and ready uniform swing over the country:-
285 seats
278 seats
Lib Dem
58 seats
29 seats
650 seats

This gives us a hung parliament with Cameron 41 seats short of the magic 326 to form an outright party. However if Brown can do the deal with Clegg then Lab-Lib Dem have 336 seats and would have a working majority (for now).

Note – If the Conservatives lose 1 point and the Lib Dems gain 1 point directly (Con 36%, Lab 31%, Lib Dem 22%) the numbers change as follows:-

271 seats
291 seats
Lib Dem
59 seats
29 seats
650 seats

Whilst the Lib Dems may gain one extra seat the Conservatives lose 14 seats and Labour gain 13 seats putting Brown in the driving seat with a potential 350 Coalition majority. All of this, of course, is based on uniform swings across the country, which simply will not happen. There will be umpteen local variations BUT the message is clear; if Clegg does well in the next two debates and continues to snick a point or two off the Conservatives then Cameron’s expectation of the keys to Number Ten will start to collapse. 

No wonder Peter Mandelson looks so quietly confident as he trails Brown around the studios watching over him do the interviews. 

Mandelson knows that after all the talk that Labour were finished last year and Brown could not possible win, the odds are shortening on a Lab-Lib Dem Coalition.

We await the next TV debate with interest.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Labour Party Election Manifesto

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Labour - A Future Fair for All

Today was the fanfare of the Labour Party manifesto launch. As I sit as an outsider looking in, I realise how embarrassing, futile and generally awkward all these launches are for political parties. These days they are perfectly choreographed down to the micro second with a hand picked audience and lots of white teeth, Hollywood style videos and cherry picked words. I wonder; do any voters seriously sit down to watch the launch? Yes I am sure that the serious minded will tune into the PM debates and maybe the odd party advertisement but the Manifesto launch?  The parties have to do it but a bit of grit, down to earth tough talking would go down very well with people trying to pay the rent.

So don't misunderstand me, this launch was like any other launch of the Big Three Parties over the past twenty odd years. The reactions so far have been predictable. But this time as I take a closer look as an outsider I can see it from a different perspective. As a Parliamentary Candidate you hope that it will boost the party's fortunes, you hope that when you knock on doors that evening, the voters have some inkling of the party policies from seeing the news coverage of the launch (usually it just means you are still interrupting some poor exhausted worker just back from the office or factory who wants his or her dinner in peace and quiet and watch East Enders). In 1997, it was case of just get the launch over and done with and plough on with the six week campaign in the hope that nationally we didn't blow it. It was different in Shrewsbury and Atcham as I wanted a long campaign to personally meet as many voters as possible (in the end we covered off around 70 villages and most areas of the town of Shrewsbury).

In 2010, though you can see that most people are disinterested in politics and struggle to find the time to get to know what the policies are for each party. It will be interesting to see if the turnout increases. I suspect that there will be some real upsets in certain key seats with terrific fights going on that will generate a lot of interest and drive up the turnout. However, I fear the turnout generally will only increase a little on 2005, which was around 61%. 

In a world of cynicism and constant negativity, it is worth reminding ourselves that voting does matter and does change things. Whether it is the passion and determination of The Suffragettes, ending the shame of slavery or the great reforming governments of the 1906 Liberal Government, or the 1945 Labour Government, votes have brought about meaningful improvements to millions of people in Britain.

So back to the Labour Party manifesto launch. The document has a strange cartoon picture of a bright sun rise over the hills as a family looks on in wonderment with the words, 'A future fair for all' in the middle of the light. Yes I know it is supposed to be uplifting and it is quite catchy as a sound bite, but the cynicism left after two years of dreadful news stories on MP's expenses and a deep recession costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and loss of income to most families means that they are not in the mood to be uplifted. The fact remains that after the election, whoever wins there is going to be a bitter round of deep cuts to public services and more tax rises to pay for the national debt we had to acquire to stave off a banking collapse. The public seem to want brutal, cold honesty of how bad is bad.

Gordon Brown delivers Labour manifesto

I actually think that Gordon Brown is looking a lot better these days on the stump than he used to. For one thing, Sarah must have wrenched off him the badly fitting suit that drooped off the edges of his shoulders and he is looking smart, fresh and the old crispness of his delivery is back. I remember that punchy delivery when he confounded expectations by making the Bank of England independent within a few weeks of being elected in 1997. He was energetic and brimming with new ideas. He is not quite back to that but after the awful stale, look of just a few months ago this is looking a lot better in front of the media. He is not the charismatic Tony but he is appearing as a party leader who believes he can win this election (or at least get enough votes to put together a Coalition and stay in power). History will judge him more kindly than at present. 

As Prime Minister, he took the right decisions at a crucial time to steer the British economy through a storm. It would have been much, much worse if the Conservatives had been in power and followed through on what they were saying at the time. On that single issue brown deserves more credit than he has received thus far.

And the manifesto says? Basically a pledge of 'steady as she goes' through the traumatic next two or three years of tough economic battles, with a sprinkling of promises to continue to uplift low income families through the National Minimum wage increases, better quality apprenticeships (about time), re-establish the link between pensions and earnings and a new Toddler Tax Credit. The pledges to bring in much needed constitutional reforms is to be welcomed with fixed term parliaments, written constitution (excellent news although I await the actual wording - see paragraph 5 of The Independent back in 2001), referenda on voting reform and an elected second chamber and clamping down on MPs taking paid lobbying jobs.

Likewise there is encouraging promises on improved education and an improved NHS but given the creaking sounds from the two pillars of society, even after the billions have been invested in them in recent years, I wonder whether there will be anything other than a slow decline in services (whoever is in power)? Nettles need to be grasped and open debates are needed to decide how we intend to pay for the medical care of an ageing population in a consumer rights society.

There are some encouraging words about digital and green jobs although the devil will be in the detail on what that means and I fear it is only a small improvement on what is needed to make a step change in the way this country grasps the opportunities from the digital age and the potential for environmentally sound jobs.

The big disappointment is the less than convincing chapter on climate change. There is a lack of urgency and belief that climate change is a threat we simply cannot ignore. All the parts to this Chapter are to be welcomed and applauded but there is no rock solid commitment to passionate leadership to help wake up the lethargy around the globe on climate change. There is an understandable luke warm response from some Environmental campaigners. After a missed opportunity in Copenhagen and the warning signals year in year out of the warming of the planet to critical levels over the coming decades, these pledges are not good enough.

We await the Conservatives and Lib Dem manifestos next. 

Labour Party Manifesto - A Future Fair for All
A future fair for all

50 steps to a future fair for all

  1. Secure the recovery by supporting the economy now, and more than halve the deficit by 2014 through economic growth, fair taxes and cuts to lower priority spending.
  2. Realise our stakes in publicly controlled banks to secure the best deal for the tax-payer, introduce a new global levy, and reform the rules for banking to ensure no repeat of past irresponsibility.
  3. Create UK Finance for Growth, bringing £4 billion together to provide capital for growing businesses, investing in the growth sectors of the future.
  4. Build a high-tech economy, supporting business and industry to create one million more skilled jobs and modernising our infrastructure with High Speed Rail, a Green Investment Bank and broadband access for all.
  5. Encourage a culture of long-term commitment to sustainable company growth, requiring a super-majority of two-thirds of shareholders in corporate takeovers. 
  6. 200,000 jobs through the Future Jobs Fund, with a job or training place for young people who are out of work for six months, but benefits cut at ten months if they refuse a place; and anyone unemployed for more than two years guaranteed work, but no option of life on benefits. 
  7. A National Minimum Wage rising at least in line with average earnings, and a new £40-a-week Better Off in Work guarantee.
  8. More advanced apprenticeships and Skills Accounts for workers to upgrade their skills.
  9. No stamp duty for first-time buyers on all house purchases below £250,000 for two years, paid for by a five per cent rate on homes worth more than £1 million. 
  10. A People’s Bank at the Post Office; a Universal Service Obligation on banks to serve every community; a clampdown on interest rates for doorstep and payday loans.
  11. Spending increased on frontline Sure Start and free childcare, schools and 16-19 learning.
  12. 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.
  13. Every pupil leaving primary school secure in the basics, with a 3Rs guarantee of one-to-one and small-group tuition for every child falling behind; and in secondary school, every pupil with a personal tutor and a choice of good qualifications. 
  14. A choice of good schools in every area – and, where parents are not satisfied – the power to bring in new school leadership teams, through mergers and take-overs, with up to 1,000 secondary schools part of an accredited schools group by 2015. 
  15. Every young person guaranteed education or training until 18, with 75 per cent going on to higher education, or completing an advanced apprenticeship or technician level training, by the age of 30.
  16. Legally binding guarantees for patients including the right to cancer test results within one week of referral, and a maximum 18 weeks’ wait for treatment or the offer of going private.
  17. Preventative healthcare through routine check-ups for the over-40s and a major expansion of diagnostic testing. 
  18. More personal care, with the right in law to choose from any provider who meets NHS standards of quality at NHS costs when booking a hospital appointment, one-to-one dedicated nursing for all cancer patients, and more care at home.
  19. The right to choose a GP in your area open at evenings and weekends, with more services available on the high-street, personal care plans and rights to individual budgets.
  20. Access to psychological therapy for those who need it.
  21. Provide the funding to maintain police and PCSO numbers with neighbourhood police teams in every area, spending 80 per cent of their time on the beat visible in their neighbourhood; improve police performance through online report cards and ensure failing forces are taken over by the best.
  22. Intervene earlier to prevent crime, with no-nonsense action to tackle the problems caused by 50,000 dysfunctional families.
  23. Guarantee fast and effective action to deal with anti-social behaviour, including a right to legal injunctions for repeat victims, funded by the police or council who let them down. 
  24. Expand tough ‘Community Payback’ for criminals who don’t go to prison, giving everyone the right to vote on the work they do.
  25. Control immigration through our Australian-style points-based system, ensuring that as growth returns we see rising levels of employment and wages, not rising immigration, and requiring newcomers to earn citizenship and the entitlements it brings. 
  26. More help for parents to balance work and family life, with a ‘Father’s Month’ of flexible paid leave.
  27. A new Toddler Tax Credit of £4 a week from 2012 to give more support to all parents of young children – whether they want to stay at home or work.
  28. The right to request flexible working for older workers, with an end to default retirement at 65, enabling more people to decide for themselves how long they choose to keep working.
  29. A new National Care Service to ensure free care in the home for those with the greatest care needs and a cap on the costs of residential care so that everyone’s homes and savings are protected from care charges after two years in a care home. 
  30. A re-established link between the Basic State Pension and earnings from 2012; help for ten million people to build up savings through new Personal Pension Accounts. 
  31. A golden decade of sport with the 2012 Olympics as a great national and world-wide celebration.
  32. Registered Supporters Trusts enabled to buy stakes in their club bringing mutualism to the heart of football.
  33. Operational independence for major museums and galleries, with more lottery funding returning to the arts, sport and culture after 2012.
  34. Protection for the post offices and pubs on which community life depends.
  35. The BBC’s independence upheld; and Britain equipped with a world-leading digital and broadband infrastructure.
  36. Achieve around 40 per cent low-carbon electricity by 2020 and create 400,000 new green jobs by 2015. 
  37. Make greener living easier and fairer through ‘pay as you save’ home energy insulation, energy-bill discounts for pensioners and requiring landlords to properly insulate rented homes.
  38. Move towards a ‘zero waste’ Britain, banning recyclable and biodegradable materials from landfill. 
  39. Link together new protected areas of habitat; maintain the Green Belt; increase forest and woodland areas.
  40. Ensure fairness for food producers through EU reform and a Supermarkets Ombudsman; and support post offices, shops and pubs in rural communities. 
  41. Referenda, held on the same day, for moving to the Alternative Vote for elections to the House of Commons and to a democratic and accountable Second Chamber. 
  42. Improved citizenship education for young people followed by a free vote in Parliament on reducing the voting age to 16. 
  43. Legislation to ensure Parliaments sit for a fixed term and an All Party Commission to chart a course to a Written Constitution.
  44. A statutory register of lobbyists, with MPs banned from working for lobbying companies and required to seek approval for paid outside appointments.
  45. Stronger local government, with increased local democratic scrutiny over all local public services. 
  46. Conduct a Strategic Defence Review to equip our Armed Forces for 21st Century challenges, and support our troops and veterans.
  47. Use our international reach to build security and stability – combating terrorism and extremism, curbing proliferation, preventing and resolving conflict, and tackling climate change.
  48. Lead the agenda for an outward-facing European Union that delivers jobs, prosperity and global influence. 
  49. Re-energise the drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, supporting sustainable growth and combating poverty. 
  50. Reform the UN, International Financial Institutions, the G8 and G20, and NATO to adapt to the new global challenges.