Gordon Brown Launches Labour Manifesto

(Telegraph) – GORDON BROWN unveiled Labour’s manifesto for the election, describing it as ”a realistic and radical plan for Britain”.

Under the slogan ”A Future Fair For All”, the Labour manifesto promises to rebuild the economy, renew society and restore faith in politics.

Ahead of the May 6 General Election, it sets out plans to give citizens a greater voice in public services and allow the takeover or merger of under-performing schools, hospitals and even police forces.

As expected, Labour promises not to raise the basic, higher or top rates of income tax over the life of the next Parliament. There is no such commitment on VAT, though Labour does pledge not to extend it to food, children’s clothes, books, newspapers and public transport.

Launching the document at the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Mr Brown said the manifesto was ”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”.

Flanked by his Cabinet, Mr Brown insisted new Labour was “ready and equipped to answer the call of the future”.

He said: “The road to recovery that we have been travelling is also the road to a better and fairer Britain for all.

“Leave it to our opponents to try to build the present in the image of the past.

“The manifesto is written not in the past tense. It is written in the future tense because even in the darkest days of the crisis we never stopped thinking and planning for tomorrow.”

Mr Brown said: “We are in the future business and under my leadership we will always be in the future business. Building a future fair for all.”

The PM said Labour’s policies matter because Britain was “in a new world now”.

Just as September 11 had brought about a change in countries’ attitudes to terrorism and security, so the credit crunch had changed economic attitudes, he said.

“This is the first post-crisis vote for our country and it is the most important vote for a generation,” he insisted. “Get the big decisions right now, make the right choices now and we not only renew our economy but we renew our society, and renew our politics too.”

Mr Brown went on: “Labour will be restless and relentless reformers. Reformers of the market and reformers of the state.”

Mr Brown pledged to “give every citizen real choice and voice and put you in charge of the service you receive”.

He also promised to replace “discredited and distrusted politics with one where you the people are the boss”, saying the manifesto contained a “plan for national renewal”.

In a dig at the Conservatives, the Prime Minister said: “In its pages and online you will find a programme not setting out empty slogans of change, but setting out who is best for the NHS, who is best for schools, who is best for young people, who is best for jobs, who is best for our pensioners – for dignity and security in retirement with our new National Care Service.”

The priority was to secure the recovery but then move to a “fairer” recovery and economy.

“As long as we see this through – our plan for the future – you, the British people will be better off,” Mr Brown promised.

Business would be backed with high-speed rail, a green investment bank and wider access to broadband.

New standards in the boardroom would be demanded, and finance would take into account the “long-term interests of British business and industry”.

“It’s a Britain where banks serve the people and not the other way round, where banks pay their fair share to society through an international banking tax,” Mr Brown said – drawing applause from the crowd.

Industries where Britain “leads the world” would receive investment and small businesses would be supported, the Prime Minister said.

Plans for apprenticeships and jobs would result in a Britain where “everyone has a chance to get on”.

A minimum wage rising with earnings would help support families and first-time buyers would get more assistance.

Setting out his vision, Mr Brown said: “It’s a Britain where we have more homeowners, more students, more apprentices, more professionals, more businesses and a bigger middle class than ever before.”

In a question and answer session, Mr Brown insisted that the Government had been clear about its four-year plan to cut the deficit.

“We’ve done more than any other country to set out our plans in detail – the tax changes, the public spending reductions and the growth we will achieve to make that possible.

“We said very clearly: £11 billion from efficiency savings, £4 billion from public sector pay and pensions and £5 billion from non-priority areas.

“I don’t think any party could have been clearer.”

In a pointed jibe at the Tories, he added: “Our promises for the future are not based on a flimsy four-page document that does not add up.”

On the question of trust in politicians after the expenses scandal, Mr Brown said all politicians must apologise for letting the public down and stressed: “We can build a more open, fairer and democratic politics for the future.”

Labour was prepared to learn from “past mistakes” and bring forward bold new proposals.

“I’d rather be standing on a manifesto that said here is what we are going to do for the future, than on a manifesto like the Conservatives, who will defend, tomorrow, hereditary peers and no change in the House of Commons.”

Asked if Labour would raise VAT if they won on May 6, Mr Brown said: “We haven’t raised VAT since 1997. The only party that has raised VAT in the last 25 years is the Conservative Party.

“Our deficit reduction plans add up without having to put up VAT. The Conservative Party plans do not add up without assuming they will put up VAT.”

Mr Brown rejected the suggestion that it was inappropriate to be holding Labour’s manifesto launch in a taxpayer-funded hospital.

He said the Tories were merely “complaining” because the party had “found a wonderful building” in which to stage the event.

“This is a building that is held by the construction firm, that will be passed on to the NHS in the next few weeks,” he added.

Mr Brown dismissed questions over why there is no commitment in the manifesto to keep VAT at the same rate, insisting Labour’s record was “not to raise VAT when there have been difficulties”.

He said the Government had instead chosen to increase National Insurance to help tackle the deficit because it was fairer.

“That is the decision we have taken and I repeat our plans are costed on the basis of not raising VAT.”

Asked how people could trust Labour’s pledges after it created a new top rate income tax, having promised in 2005 that the levy would not increase, Mr Brown said the move had become “necessary” due to the financial crisis.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “Labour’s manifesto sets out serious plans for supporting the economy and dealing with the deficit through steady economic growth and fair taxation, and is in stark contrast to Tory gimmicks and draconian cuts.

“There are commitments to protect funding for key public services like the NHS, schools, Sure Start and policing. This funding will be critical for supporting jobs, underpinning the economic recovery and improving life for working families.

“The manifesto gives real hope to the unemployed, the low-paid, and young people, through its Future Jobs Fund, apprenticeship schemes, Living Wage policies and guaranteed increases to the national minimum wage.”