Labour campaign trail splits in two at Border
LABOUR set the course for different election campaigns north and south of the Border yesterday, as it unveiled the manifestos it hopes will secure the party an historic fourth term in office.
• Jim Murphy launches Labour's manifesto in Scotland yesterday
In Birmingham, Gordon Brown published a document he insisted would secure Britain's recovery with a group of policies designed to win votes in middle England.
Evoking the spirit of New Labour, the Prime Minister promised to create a "bigger middle class than ever before" and declared that his was the party of middle income Britain.
In Motherwell, on the site of the former Ravenscraig steel works, Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy revealed the party's Scottish manifesto, stuffed with pledges on devolved issues that Labour cannot deliver even in the event of a general election victory.
In doing so, the party fired the starting gun for the 2011 Holyrood poll, pledging to push for the enaction of policies on health, education and justice in opposition in Scotland, before using them as the basis of its Scottish election fight.
• Labour differences on devolved issues
The widely trailed 75-page documents, which set out 50 "steps" Labour would take to secure a "future fair for all", contained few surprises, with a focus on "securing the recovery" through the creation of jobs and halving the year-on-year government deficit.
But 23 of the pledges made in the Scottish manifesto could not be delivered by a UK government, including education promises such as small group tuition for struggling school pupils, and policies on crime such as the introduction of mandatory jail sentences for anyone caught carrying a knife – a policy not included in the UK-wide document.
And many of the party's commitments in the rest of the UK were absent from the Scottish manifesto, including the establishment of registered supporters' trusts to buy football clubs, and protection for rural pubs.
Plans to increase democratic accountability for local government services will not be part of the party's Scottish campaign, neither will plans to allow parents to change the leadership of schools that do not meet standards.
The party did promise to protect "front line" spending on healthcare, and issued a guarantee cancer patients could see a specialist within two weeks of diagnosis, as part of a group of NHS commitments it would be unable to meet in Scotland.
Dismissing "empty slogans about change" from Conservative leader David Cameron, Mr Brown told a large audience in the PFI-funded Queen Elizabeth hospital that Labour had "a realistic and radical plan for Britain that starts with securing the recovery and renews Britain as a fairer, greener, more accountable and more prosperous country for the future."
• David Maddox: Labour's austerity manifesto v the Tory giveaway
In a much smaller room in Motherwell College, Jim Murphy insisted Scotland was at a "turning point". "We can either go backwards with the Scottish Tory Party or Scotland and Labour can continue together to build a fairer and stronger Scotland," he said.
"Here on the site of Ravenscraig, we offer a new strategy for creating new jobs in new industries."
Elsewhere, there was a promise to link the minimum wage to average earnings, but it detailed no new tax rises and there was a pledge not to increase the basic rate of income tax. Under the party's plans, VAT will not be extended to food, children's clothes, books, newspapers and public transport, but there was no commitment to keep VAT at its present rate.
As part of a package of constitutional reforms Labour confirmed it would take forward recommendations made by the Calman Commission to hand Holyrood additional powers.
And the party announced it would introduce a public petitions system, similar to that employed in the Scottish Parliament, to allow campaigns to be brought before parliament.
The manifesto was derided by political opponents as "two faced" and "empty". SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said: "Labour are utterly two faced in this election. Their candidates are making promises they know they can't deliver on a manifesto that doesn't apply in this election."
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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