Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Labour Party manifesto: banishing the demons of outside toilets

Britain’s Labour party issues its election manifesto.

Tony Blair says he has proven his party’s competence; they “banished the demons of ten per cent interest rates, mass unemployment, wages of £1.50 an hour, and outside toilets in our schools.” Outside-toilet demons? Someone call Stephen King. “I have heard teachers in Bexley, Middlesbrough and Sheffield tell me how they no longer have to work in crumbling classrooms without books and computers – and pupils show me, with pride, round their sparkling new school.” Sparkling schools? Someone call J. K. Rowling.

Tony says, “we refuse to accept false choices. The British people never wanted to choose between wealth creation and social justice. They never wanted to choose between national security and overseas aid. They never wanted to choose between equal rights and protection from crime.” The false choices thing might seem a touch more sincere if he hadn’t said the page before, “Now we have to decide whether to go forward or back.”

Interestingly, Blair implicitly acknowledges his personal unpopularity by including a promise that this is his “last election as Leader of my party and Prime Minister”. In other words, he will step down in favor of Gordon Brown sometime in the next 4 years.

Mostly it’s detailed and wonkish and not really meant to be read; you’re meant to turn the pages rapidly and receive the reassuring impression of solidity and competence without actually absorbing any details (pretty much what I did, but then I’m not British and if I were I’d be voting LibDem or Green or Monster Raving Loony). It doesn’t have any of the space-filling tricks of the Tory manifesto, those pages of scrawled slogans and pictures (my favorite was the stills from CCTV footage of a woman’s handbag being stolen). Labour’s 112 pages includes 1 picture — Tony, of course.

I’m expecting the LibDem manifesto to consist entirely of pictures of Charles Kennedy and his newborn son. The kid was born yesterday, just after midnight, and some time before the sun went down, he and his mother were out of the hospital for a photo op across from the Houses of Parliament.

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