Refusing to publish your 2015 manifesto at the start of 2013 is, obviously, a sensible one. However uncomfortable Labour frontbenchers have felt over the past two and a half years about not being able to respond to the jeers of ‘well, what would you do then?’ from ministers at departmental questions, writing another one of the longest suicide notes in history would have left them in still greater discomfort at the polls. But how do voters know whether to trust you or not when they’ve only recently booted you out of government?
Ed Miliband was trying to explain this tension to James Landale on Marr this morning.
Miliband: But, James, I’ve tried to explain to you why it isn’t reasonable for an opposition at this stage of a parliament to set out precisely what will be in the manifesto. I’m happy to come back on the programme and talk about our manifesto when we publish our manifesto.
Landale: You could be Prime Minister in two years’ time.
Miliband: Exactly, exactly.
Landale: If that’s what the British electorate vote.
Landale: And yet there’s this gap, there’s this gaping lacuna with the electorate not knowing what you’re really going to promise to do.
When Landale pressed him further, Miliband said:
‘I’ve explained the different choices we’d be making. But, look, if I was coming along two and a half years before an election and was saying to you, without knowing the state of the public finances, without knowing the state of the economy here’s every dot and comma of our manifesto, you’d be saying that’s not responsible. And by the way, look Labour did do this in the past, in the 1992 parliament. It was a mistake and we’re not going to make that mistake.’