Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Tories' Manifesto Breaks New Ground

I got the email from Ellie Gellard(20) -see left- telling me about Labour's manifesto and I read today in The Times that Iain Dale had come up with a post from 2008 when she had told Gordon to give up. Her defence is that it was after a by election loss and that since then Gordon has shaped up, (no doubt in response to Ellie's exhortations). I know just how she felt and feels but I have to say it's embarrassing for Labour and another trick to the nation's foremost blogger.

So what about the manifestos? I've only absorbed the two major ones second hand but I think here too the Tories have edged it. Labour's effort is brave and tries hard to sound radical in promising an 'active reforming government' which is 'on your side'. Interestingly Brown has gone for more Foundation hospitals, Academies and new procedures for removing poorly performing agencies. Rawnsley's book documents how Brown lambasted and impeded such policies as the first two when championed by Blair and Milburn in order to pose as leftish against a leader who had 'sold out'. It is fairly cynical one has to confess, but few things surprise me these days. 'This is a plan' writes Peter Riddell, in The Times, 'for an activist state'.

The Conservartive manifesto is surprising and impressive in its ambition. The product of what we learn is years of gestation, this weighty 130 page document invites each voter to 'join in' the government of the country' and take back control from the state. Amongst other suggestions, public sector workers will be given the chance to run their organisations as coops; parents given the chance to set up new schools in their communities; and academies expanded throughtout the country. I am sceptical as to the practicabality of coops in the public sector, especially as the Tories have dismissed such ideas as arrant rubbish in the past and I'm not sure how the coop model can be translated from, say, John Lewis, to say, a health clinic.

Nor am I sure voters want what they might have said they want to pollsters or in focus groups. A fair amount of participation is allowed in planning processes but experience suggests it is seldom taken up. Voters might think they want this surprisingly left-sounding 'invitation' but in practice will probably ignore it. But it catches the zeitgeist in this 'anti-politics' time and sounds sufficiently radical to be genuinely exciting. I suspect Cameron has come up with something authentically new this time- though totally counter intuitively so for his rightwing party. Personally I don't believe it, but I think it'll sell better than Labour's half cooked offering.

What so "left-sounding" or "counter-intuitive" about it, exactly? Normally, it's left-wing parties which aggregate the most power to the central government, not conservative ones.
In practice you are right but lefties always claim to be 'seizing power' for the people from the 'ruling elite'.
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