Longest receipt in history.

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Geoffrey Robinson, Peter Mandelson's partner in mortgage scandal, explained what Labour's up to on Newsnight, tongue in cheek. "We're finally implementing the 1983 manifesto."

Oh, we laughed. 

And then began a skim of the infamous suicide note. It's certainly long. At 22581 words it could be a novella, but the plot and characterisation need to be honed a little. 

Somewhat surprisingly, it's not all bad, although anyone wishing to quote me out of context should at least use this whole sentence.

I don't agree with Neil Clark, obviously, but am disappointed that not even New Old Labour will get round to some of the good bits. No amount of Labour government would ever deliver this section on international relations, for example:

  • Cancel the Trident programme, refuse to deploy Cruise missiles and begin discussions for the removal of nuclear bases from Britain, which is to be completed within the lifetime of the Labour government.
  • Ban arms sales to repressive regimes.
  • Increase aid to developing countries towards the UN target of 0.7 per cent.
  • Re-establish a separate Ministry of Overseas Development.
  • Take action to protect the status of refugees in Britain. 

Sure, the penultimate one happened, but that's clearly the least radical part. And perhaps that 0.7% aid target will be met by 2013, but frankly I doubt it. Here's another section that would have been well worth delivering, this time on planning.

We intend also to widen democratic participation in the planning system by:

  • Codifying and extending public rights of consultation, and of appeal against planning decisions;
  • Improving access to public planning inquiries and broadening their terms of reference;
  • Ensuring that, before the inquiry stage of certain major development proposals, the environmental effects are subject to detailed analysis and the report is published;
  • Creating a new fund to help objectors at major public inquiries, with an independent board to decide who should be helped and by how much.

Now, there were policies they did eventually bring in, sure, some of which deserve credit.

Establish a directly elected Scottish Assembly, with an executive drawn from members of the assembly.

While some of the elements Labour delivered were not exactly the brightest. Here's just one example:

Give a high priority to building bypasses.

All of this is incidental, though. The document is primarily famous for its call for state ownership of industry, which is there in spades. Some particularly absurd candidates for nationalisation are included, like film distribution and the building materials industry. 

There's also a specific section on banking, too, the most immediately relevant, in which Labour said it would:

  • Establish a National Investment Bank to put new resources from private institutions and from the government - including North Sea oil revenues - on a large scale into our industrial priorities. The bank will attract and channel savings, by agreement, in a way that guarantees these savings and improves the quality of investment in the UK.
  • Exercise, through the Bank of England, much closer direct control over bank lending. Agreed development plans will be concluded with the banks and other financial institutions.
  • Create a public bank operating through post offices, by merging the National Girobank, National Savings Bank and the Paymaster General's Office.
  • Set up a Securities Commission to regulate the institutions and markets of the City, including Lloyds, within a clear statutory framework.
  • Introduce a new Pension Schemes Act to strengthen members' rights in occupational pension schemes, clarify the role of trustees, and give members a right to equal representation, through their trade unions, on controlling bodies of the schemes.
  • Set up a tripartite investment monitoring agency to advise trustees and encourage improvements in investment practices and strategies.

We expect the major clearing banks to co operate with us fully on these reforms, in the national interest. However, should they fail to do so, we shall stand ready to take one or more of them into public ownership. This will not in any way affect the integrity of customers' deposits.

Not classic New Labour. Yet, except for the purpose being panic, not investment, some of this is now happening. Tighter lending rules are back in vogue, and, a Labour Chancellor is apparently about to part-nationalise all the commercial banks. Hopefully the receipt will show us taxpayers holding some actual assets thereafter.

It makes me wonder if Geoffrey brushed up on his 83 manifesto before going into the studios tonight. Perhaps he didn't need to. He may scoff now, but in 1983, like Tony Blair, he was elected on it.

Apologies for the longest blog post in history. Please take a well-deserved break from the internet.

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This page was published on October 8, 2008 12:08 AM.

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