At today’s launch of the Conservative manifesto, David Cameron invited voters to “join us in forming the next government of Britain”. Cameron, and members of his Shadow Cabinet team who took to the podium before him, took a gamble today, hoping that voters will welcome the invitation to create a “Big Society”, rather than opt for Labour’s option of an active government.
At the heart of the manifesto is an appeal to voters to buy into the idea of reducing the power of government, and instead to hand power to individuals, voluntary organisations and businesses.
“The alternative to Big Government is not no government, It’s good government,” said Cameron. “It’s the partner of the Big Society, not its boss. There is such a thing as society, it’s just not the same thing as the state”
On the economy, the Conservatives repeated their pledge to reverse the Government’s proposed VAT rise and planned National Insurance rise. They confirmed that they would conduct an emergency budget within 50 days of taking office, and introduce a freeze on council tax for two years. The manifesto also set out a freeze on all public sector pay in 2011, except for the one million lowest paid workers, a promise to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million and review the state pension age.
“Yes it is an invitation to the whole nation: we’ll give you the power, so you can take control,” said Cameron as he went on to explain how he would give more power to parents, public sector workers and businesses. To this end, further pledges include giving parents the power to save schools threatened by closure, giving state schools the freedom to offer international exams, and giving more power to NHS patients.
Addressing concerns about how this would achieved without spending more money, Cameron argued that “if we change the whole way this country is run to empower people to come together to solve our problems together, then, yes…we can make things better without spending more money”. It was a Kennedy-esque appeal to people to work together for change.
We’ve run the text of the manifesto through Wordle again and here is the pattern:
Speaking after the launch, Gordon Brown was quick to argue that people would be left to fend for themselves under the Conservatives and there was nothing in it to help the recovery, and indeed their measures would put the recovery at risk. He added that the manifesto showed that the Conservative Party “hasn’t changed, despite all the rhetoric”.
Following this line of attack, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander tweeted later in the day that “the Tories set out an agenda this morning not to empower but to abandon people and leave them to face change alone”.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the Conservative manifesto had been launched in a power station that “no longer generates power. It’s style over substance”.
Clegg went on to argue that the Conservatives could not be trusted when they want to give “tax breaks to double millionaires not tax breaks to everybody else” or “when they don’t want to clamp down on the bonuses of greedy bankers”.
On the day when Plaid Cymru launched their manifesto, their leader, leuan Jones, said that “the London-based parties have already decided what’s important to them – the City, the banks, the votes of so-called Middle Britain”. In contrast, Plaid Cymru promised to “protect the vulnerable and front-line services”. Interestingly, it also set out seven areas where it would try to gain concessions from a minority government in the event of a hung parliament, including changing the funding formula for Wales.
Also launching their manifesto party today was the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Leader Lord Pearson stated that UKIP candidates, of which there are 550, will not stand against “committed” Eurosceptics. Lord Pearson explained that UKIP, which campaigns for withdrawal from the European Union, will actively support six Tories and one Labour candidate. He added that he did not feel guilty about the possibility of stopping a Conservative government because it would mean “five more years of integration”.