Labour’s manifesto, launched today and available online here, is certainly long and wordy, but it is short on detail and short on promises (despite what the mainstream commentators say). The big idea is that there isn’t a big idea: a third-term Labour government would proceed pretty much as the current government – which the manifesto says has been a jolly good thing.
There’s no surprise in any of that. Tony Blair might have wanted at some point to go for a “radical” manifesto full of the rhetoric of “choice” for consumers of public services – but there is no way he could have persuaded Gordon Brown or the rest of the cabinet to back him. What Labour is advocating (even more explicitly than in 1997 and 2001) is “safety first” – the Brown doctrine.
Up to a point, fair enough: the purpose of the manifesto is to help win the election, and “We’ve done OK: don’t let the Tories ruin it” has to be at the centre of Labour’s appeal right now. But I wanted a little more.
The good news is that the manifesto makes it clear Labour will back a “yes” vote on the European constitution, will allow a free vote on how members of the House of Lords are chosen and hasn’t quite yet ruled out a referendum on proportional representation for the House of Commons.
Inspiring? No. But they're still better than the Tories.