Pic and Mix

Deliverance Day minus 23. Todays launch of the Liberal Democrat’s Manifesto was overshadowed by Gordon Brown’s admission that he had not strictly regulated the investment banks leading up to the financial crisis and had learnt a lesson from the experience. This was quickly followed by his Treasury aide, Ed Balls, also joining the Leader in being contrite about the light regulation. This is suspicious as it was not necessary to distract attention away from the LibDems. With the Leaders debate imminent on television it might be a pre-emptive move to fend off some revelations that the other Leaders would make as a result of insider leaks. It could even be evidence of an internal battle between the Milliband wing and the Balls/Brown wing within the Labour Party. Curiouser and curiouser.

Labour’s response to the LibDems Manifesto – it cannot be afforded. Clearly not the case as it has been carefully costed and the Manifesto is evidently a statisticians delight. All that within a paperback A5 booklet of 100 pages. The launch was a solid workmanlike no-nonsense affair that emphasised the confidence of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, who seem to be joined at the hip. They are very comfortable with their party programme and the costings. No sign of any chink in their armour. This was a realistic view of the economy and the growing debt, with the forecast of an increase in overall taxation. They focused on fairness and honesty. Oh!, pity about their 2005 commitment to give the public a referendum on the European Constitution.

They are very reliant on the persona of Vince Cable who has established his reputation for economic competence on the back of his early warnings in the House of Commons of the danger of the spend and borrow policies of Chancellor Brown. Some commentators have unkindly pointed out that there were others also giving similar warnings. That is correct, but Vince was the only MP in the Commons to stand up and challenge Brown at the height of his power when he seemed invincible. Vince was jeered for his pains from the government benches. He who laughs last, laughs longest and it would be sweet justice if Vince found himself as Chancellor of the Exchequer in a coalition government. The public hold him in some considerable affection and what’s more he is trusted.

The opinion polls indicate that no party will have an overall majority after the Election. The polls might be accurate if the Country was a single constituency and people voted for a party leader instead of an individual representative for their local constituency. It is the voting intentions in the marginal seats that matter.

None of the manifestos are totally convincing, but they all have some attractive elements. The public might like to combine the best bits from each manifesto, rather like the pic-and-mix counter in the old Woolworth stores. That might happen if there is a hung parliament.

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