The Labour pledge card has been an important part of every campaign since 1997.
The cards help set out priorities. In addition to attracting widespread media coverage, they are, more importantly, a useful basis for doorstep communications and further campaign materials.
Thirteen years on from the first one, they are also a reminder of what Labour has done in the past. I used to be able to recite the ’97 pledges in my sleep, but had to look them up just now, having forgotten two of them
Halve the time it takes to get persistent young offenders to court – a pledge met.
Cut class sizes to 30 or under for all 5-7 year olds – met.
Cut NHS waiting times – met.
Get 250,000 young people into work through the New Deal – met and exceeded.
No increase in income tax, cut VAT on heating to 5% and keep inflation and interest rates as low as possible.
The pledge card 2010, launched by Gordon Brown today, is both more general and more specific than some of its predecessors.
More general in that the pledges on the front – secure the recovery, raise family living standards, build a high tech economy, protect frontline services and strengthen fairness in communities – speak mainly to broad themes on which Labour’s campaign will be based.
But the reverse of the card (with variations for Scotland and Wales) has more policy detail than some of its earlier versions, showing another dividing line with the Tories – Labour policy-rich, the Tories policy-lite.
Secure the recovery and halve the deficit through economic growth, fair taxes and cuts to low priority spending
Raise family living standards keeping mortgage rates as low as possible; increasing tax credits for families with young children; providing new help for first-time buyers; and restoring the link between the state pension and earnings from 2012.
Build a high-tech economy, supporting business and industry to create 1 million more skilled jobs and modernising our infrastructure with High-Speed Rail, a Green Investment Bank, and broadband access for all.
Protect frontline investment in policing, schools, childcare and the NHS, with a new guarantee of cancer test results within a week.
Strengthen fairness in communities through an Australian style points-based system to control immigration; guaranteed education, apprenticeships and jobs for young people; and a crack down on anti-social behaviour.
It is no surprise that three of the pledges relate to the economy. This may be an attempt to win a fourth term. But this is actually the first post-economic crisis election, and the ramifications of that extraordinary global event frame the choice and make this perhaps the most significant election since ’97.
In an interview in The Guardian today, GB seems to have rediscovered a lot of the confidence required for the fight ahead. Elections are gruelling, especially for the leaders, and confidence and momentum are key.
But whatever the criticism the pledges draw from the media and Oppositions that they are ‘too vague’ (I’ve been hearing it all morning), Labour can be confident that they are placing the right issues at the centre of the forthcoming campaign at the right time, with the manifesto itself still to come, and the Tories feeling the beginning of electoral heat on their lack of policy substance.
I would also love to know, if the Tories were similarly to do a pledge card, what they would go for. Do they have enough policy to stretch to five yet? And if they did, would they be able to agree on them?
* Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.