Today, I’m starting with an appeal. Many of you who read this blog are Lib Dems, and so I’m hoping that some of you are part of, or know someone who’s involved in, the party’s social media campaign team because I’d like to get a message to them. To the person or people who were responsible for this, I’d like to say stop. Please, in the name of all that’s good and holy, stop. It’s not cool, it’s not clever and most importantly of all, it’s just not funny.
Talking of things that aren’t cool, clever or funny, what’s Michael Gove been up to today? If your answer to that was anything other than ‘turning up to Labour’s manifesto launch accompanied by a bunch of Tory activists in Nicola Sturgeon masks‘ then you’re wrong, but you deserve some points for imagining that a senior member of the Conservative Party would be doing something more constructive with his time. (Whatever it was you were imagining, it would surely be a better use of his time)
Let’s leave hardworking Michael Gove behind and instead turn our attention to the work of looking at Labour’s manifesto for working people. Sorry, it’s hard working to get rid of the working habit of putting the word work into as many working parts of your sentence as possible after the work of reading it. Now, there are many things within this manifesto, not least the crimes against grammar and comprehension one comes to expect from British politics, and there’ll be plenty of pieces elsewhere going through it in microscopic detail. Instead, I’m going to subject this (and the other) manifestos to what I shall call the Lightfoot Test, in tribute to the late Chris Lightfoot’s method of deciding how to vote:
Manifestos are long and policies are complicated. However, in this case it turns out that an even easier approach works: read each manifesto until you encounter something really offensive or stupid, then stop and reject that party. If you ever reach the end of a manifesto, then you should consider voting for that party. (In the unlikely event that you reach the end of more than one manifesto without gagging, then I’d suggest that your moral compass is out of order and you need to fix it.)
In this case, Labour get a Lightfoot Test score of 2, because it was on page 2 of the PDF version that I found a really stupid idea. As Page 1 was the front page, this really is impressive.
No, it wasn’t the Budget Responsibility Lock, which is mainly just silly and bad economics pandering to the media narrative about the deficit, but one of the policies linked to it:
We will legislate to require all major parties to have their manifesto commitments independently audited by the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Now, I understand that Labour are smarting over the Chancellor banning the OBR from auditing their manifesto to prove how signed up to the ‘fiscal responsibility’ consensus they are, but this seems a dramatic overreaction to that. Rather than just allowing other parties to make use of the OBR, this will be the Government requiring the Opposition to put their plans through a scrutiny process they control. (The OBR is technically independent, but it’s run by people appointed by the Chancellor) The potential for a Government to abuse that process is huge, and what would be the sanction for parties that choose not to meet this requirement? Would their candidates have to have ‘not approved by OBR’ on the ballot paper?
The whole thing feels very like post-democracy in action, ensuring that parties are locked into a ruling consensus and made to alter their plans to fit the priorities and decisions of the bureaucracy. The idea that an arm of the Government would be required to pre-approve manifestos from those seeking to replace that Government is the sort of thing we’d heavily denounce if it was happening in other countries, and should Labour end up in power I hope this becomes a policy quietly dropped during coalition negotiations.
Quick question: after Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens, which group is standing the most candidates? That would be the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who have 132 candidates (according to Your Next MP) across the country. TUSC emerged from the ‘No2EU’ list Bob Crow and the RMT put together for the 2009 European elections and consider themselves the left-wing alternative to Labour. They are a coalition, not a party, expecting candidates to adhere only to their core policies, but free to run on their own priorities after that. It involves many of the usual suspects of the hard left including the Socialist Party (the one that used to be Militant, not the older SPGB) and everyone’s least-favourite cause-hijackers, the Socialist Workers Party. 132 candidates means £66,000 in deposits being paid to Returning Officers across the country, and I’d expect at least £60,000 of that to be doing its bit to relieve austerity by remaining in local council coffers after the election. The odd TUSC candidate may get success at a local level, but their Parliamentary breakthrough is probably about as far away as their dreams of uniting the Left.
Finally, something interesting but rather distasteful found through Election Leaflets: an anonymous ‘Silent Majority’ leaflet attacking ‘the LibLabCon’ that looks like it’s being delivered in Thanet South. It’s published by something called ‘The Political Reform Society’ which is based in a Northampton PO Box and while it’s not promoting any particular party or individual, the intent of it seems quite clear.