Peter Hoskin

Labour put “guarantees” at the heart of their campaign

Labour put "guarantees" at the heart of their campaign
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Does Gordon Brown look like the kind of guy who can keep a promise?  Because that's the main question which stands in the way of Labour's election strategy, if Andrew Grice's revelations in the Indpendent are anything to go by.  According to Grice, Labour are going to repeat their trick from 1997, and focus on five or so pledges – what Downing St now calls "guarantees" – during their election campaign.  It's not certain what they'll be yet, but Grice reports that Labour MPs are being instructed to concentrate on the following policies in their constituencies:

-- Training or further education will be provided for all school-leavers and a job or training for jobless young adults.

-- Suspected cancer patients will receive their diagnosis within one week.

-- The elderly and most vulnerable will receive free personal care.

-- Families responsible for antisocial behaviour will face tough action.

-- The national deficit will be halved in four years through tax rises, spending cuts and growth. As was pointed out at the time Brown first started making these guarantees, they're a lot more problematic than they first sound.  For instance, just who's going to enforce them?  And what happens if they're not met?  Couldn't they inspire a bureaucratic nightmare when people start claiming for things the government says they're entitled to, but which they haven't delivered?  There's plenty of room for the Tories to point out how messy Brown's little promises could get.

Of course, this wouldn't be Brown's premiership without a negative aspect to the campaign.  Grice reports that those pledges will sit alongside a set of "accusations" against the Tories:

"They will also attempt to contrast the pledges by levelling five accusations at David Cameron – that the Tories would cut schools funding, scrap the cancer promise, preside over a social care 'lottery', reduce police numbers and axe Sure Start schemes."

Most of which, particularly the first, suggest that Brown is still eager to drag the national debate about our fiscal crisis – a debate we desperately need – to the level of good investment versus nasty cuts.  And that in spite of the deficit reduction guarantee above.  Yep, it's going to be a very long election campaign, indeed.