Another day, another Tory policy announced and ends up spinning off the rails before lunchtime. I’d seen mention of extending Right To Buy to housing associations last night, just after we were getting over the momentary excitement at the thought of Hampstead and Kilburn’s election being delayed then finding out it wasn’t, but even then it seemed like a silly idea. True to form, like just about everything they’ve tried for the last week, it turned out to be full of flaws, but it’s yet to reach the terrible interview stage. Sajid Javid got to be floored by Jo Coburn as their NHS funding pledge unravelled, so who will be asking ‘and how can you force charities to sell assets at below market value?’ and who will be floundering as they attempt to respond?
Two manifestos were out today – the Greens had their launch at 10am, followed by David Cameron releasing the Tory one at 11am. Both of them revealed problems with the Lightfoot Test I introduced yesterday – based on an idea of the late Chris Lightfoot, it’s the page on which I first encounter something offensive or stupid – in that while Labour went straight for policy on the very first page, they fill several pages with pictures and contents pages, thus managing to artificially enlarge their number. So I’m now modifying the scoring system to not include any intentionally policy-free pages to prevent this inflation affecting any comparison of scores. (Labour’s score still remains 1 under this new system)
The Green manifesto is the most information-packed of all the manifestos I’ve seen so far, and there are a lot of policy pledges in there as well as a lot of scene-setting text and background information. The design suffers from putting seemingly random words in italic text throughout which gives the impression of someone emphasising the wrong words throughout. However, it’s a good attempt at using their increased prominence to push the full range of Green policy, and not compromise on it to get to the big time. However, it only gets a Lightfoot Test score of 9 (page 15 of 84 in the full version) as that’s the page they mention banning all genetically modified food, which is rather silly in my view, and also ignores that we’ve been genetically modifying our food (both flora and fauna) since the dawn of humanity, it’s just that in the past few decades we’ve been able to do it with more accuracy.
Still, there are some good bits in there – I’m always going to applaud a party who’ll put Land Value Tax and Basic Income into their manifesto, and the sections on equalities and digital & information rights are very good – and it’s not a manifesto of despair or Gradgrindian bleakness, which makes it all the more annoying when you run into some of the more stereotypical examples of Green thinking.
For a party content to let their inner idiot run freely through the manifesto, however, you need to turn to the Conservatives. You’re probably not going to be surprised that they get a Lightfoot Test score of 1 to match Labour’s. Yes, on the first summary page of policies (page 4 of 83, just before the full page picture of David Cameron’s face to test your strength of will before reading) – which begins with the creepy statement that ‘we have a plan for every stage of your life’ – they feature the Right To Buy for housing associations. But fans of bad ideas will have a field day with this manifesto, as it’s absolutely littered with them.
In short, I’d sum this manifesto up as being both good and Conservative, but the parts that are good are not Conservative, and the parts that are Conservative are not good. There’s plenty of crowing over things that were achieved in Government, but almost all the good ones are Liberal Democrat policies and/or pushed through by Liberal Democrat ministers. Indeed, putting raising tax allowances as one of their lead policies, when David Cameron dismissed it as unaffordable in 2010 is perhaps the defining example of Tory chutzpah.
Moving away from parties with hundreds of candidates, after yesterday’s look at TUSC we head back to Your Next MP’s list of parties fielding candidates and find that next in the list are the SNP, then Plaid Cymru but I think they’re well enough known to not need me writing about them. Instead, we’ll move onto the next in the list – the English Democrats. Unfortunately, the English Democrats still have the odious Steven Uncles standing as one of their candidates. Uncles, for those of you who don’t know, threatened to sue Chris Lightfoot after he said the English Democrats “appear to be some sort of quasi-fascist mob” in the post where he first used the Lightfoot Test, then withdrew the threat after discovering political parties can’t sue for libel. All pretty silly, but then after Chris’s death, Steven Uncles made some pretty horrific comments about him, and for such time as the English Democrats remain associated with a nasty character like him, that’s all the attention they’re going to get from me.
To finish on a lighter note, I have to thank Richard in the comments on an earlier post for drawing my attention to another bit of candidate nominative determinism. The Green Party candidate in Forest of Dean is James Greenwood, combining party and constituency in a single surname. Now, if we can find a few more of those, I might be able to persuade someone to fund a study of whether nominatively determined candidates are more or less successful than others.
And that’s just about it for today except to note that some councils have started sending out postal votes today, so the first votes in the election could well be cast tomorrow. But if you still haven’t registered to vote, you can do it up until Monday by clicking here.