Peter Mandelson’s State of the Race Memo Part 3

Some interesting stuff in this…have a read.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so I welcome George Osborne following in our footsteps with these campaign memos.

But I notice in his latest one yesterday he began with the line, “It’s been another great week for our campaign”. Keep it up, George!

Something has just happened to this campaign – it’s come alive.

During the first ten days, we found it hard to persuade the media to do much more than anticipate David Cameron being carried shoulder high into Downing Street. With the Tories’ grip on News International and other Tory supporting newspapers, some broadcast coverage came to echo this received wisdom.

But Thursday’s ITV debate has put a spanner in these works. So, thanks Nick. Just by being there and being seen and heard properly for the first time, Mr Clegg has triggered a public reaction to this ‘closed shop’ election. Voters do not regard it as open and shut. They want to hear all the arguments about the big challenges following the global crisis. And they want policies, not public relations, properly debated. For this reason, there has been a strong, positive public response to Gordon Brown’s interview on The Andrew Marr Show this morning.

As the polls since Thursday have demonstrated, this is becoming the most fluid and unpredictable election in recent memory. A very large section of voters – perhaps as many as a third – are undecided about what they think is best for the country. A further mandate for Labour, which is showing steadiness and grip in very uncertain times. Or turning right with the Tories, however much a risk this might be. Or dallying with the Lib Dems, whatever they might stand for.

The public’s attitude to the two main parties is understandable. To many, Labour has had a good innings but now it’s somebody else’s turn. But equally, having looked at Cameron and Osborne, they feel there is less there than meets the eye.

But my bet is that most people will not follow through on their current flirtation with Nick. Why?

For three reasons. Voters will be reluctant to embrace a party that would cut tax credits, scrap Child Trust Funds and even offer an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Second, a hung parliament may seem attractive to some but it may give disproportionate power to a small party holding the balance of power and bring its own danger. Important legislation, for example on fighting terrorism which the Lib Dems are likely to oppose, would be difficult to get through.

And third, in these uncertain economic times, we need a strong, centred and united government – not one that might be rocked from side to side by Lib Dems chopping and changing their point of view. I am not against coalition government in principle – my grandfather served in Churchill’s wartime Cabinet – and for Britain, anything would be better than a Cameron-Osborne government. But a two party government may not be so stable without a single big unifying challenge facing it.

There’s another consideration for those tempted to vote Lib Dem because they want political change. The only party offering the real deal – radical reform of the Commons and Lords and the chance to vote for a new, fairer voting system – is Labour. If you vote Lib Dem and, in doing so, help the Tories win in those hundred or so Labour/Tory marginals where the election is going to be decided, that’s going to deliver the status quo, not change in our political system.

So, where does Labour’s campaign go from here? Redoubling our efforts to set out a strong vision of Britain’s future and fair policies for families in Britain. And pointing out the risks and costs of a Tory Government.

The right policies on the economy and schools, the NHS and policing are the public’s priorities. That’s what they want to hear about from us.

Voting for the Lib Dems means settling for second best, or worse. Getting the Tories in power would mean policies that de-rail the economy’s recovery and turn our public services into a do-it-yourself wish-list from which the well-off could afford to opt out and everyone else would have to put up with the consequences.

But one thing is for sure. This election’s going to the wire and Labour’s campaign is going to fight every inch of the way to get the current team re-elected. To switch to the Tories before our policies have succeeded fully in lifting Britain out of the recession would risk tipping Britain back into rising joblessness. And having to negotiate policies with the Lib Dems would likely blunt rather than sharpen our performance.


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