Peter Hoskin

Brown’s thin air manifesto

Brown's thin air manifesto
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"You got that, Britain? We. Are. The. Future. Future, future, future. The Tories are the past. We are the Future. The future that is fair for all. We are that future. For all."  And so, more or less, went Gordon Brown's pitch to the nation at Labour's manifesto launch.  Except it lasted a good hour and a quarter.  And it involved a eye-wateringly fuzzy screen behind Brown's head.  And a needless introduction from Harriet Harman.  So if you managed to tune into it all, then well done: your enthusiasm for politics knows no bounds.

But Labour's problems today weren't so much presentational as political.  After thirteen years in power, Brown was always going to struggle to convincingly sell this "future" shtick.  But he wasn't helped by a manifesto which is surprisingly short on Big Ideas.  Indeed, as expected, we'd already most of the headline proposals: a pledge not to increase income tax rates; an international banking tax; votes for 16 year-olds; a People's bank; and so on.  And even the (slightly) new proposals, such as Brown's promise to expand on public service reform, lend themselves to general scepticism.  You could feel that in the tone of the media questions after Brown's address.

But the biggest problem for Labour, to my mind, is the absence of a flagship policy.  The one which seemed to stand out today, in Brown's speech and in the Q&A session afterwards, was the cancer guarantee – but, even if you're persuaded by that, I'd be surprised if Labour see it as the central plank on which they are standing.  But what is?  The fear for Team Brown is that there's nothing beneath his feet but thin air.