Brown opts for Blairite promises to woo voters

GORDON BROWN yesterday launched a distinctly Blairite Labour manifesto for the general election, promising to reform public services to “put people in charge” and pledging not to raise income tax rates.

Acknowledging that Labour faced “the fight of our lives” to secure a fourth term, Brown promised to rebuild the economy and avoid “reckless” cuts in public spending which he said would put recovery at risk.

Labour’s 76-page manifesto presented “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”, he said.

Brown described the manifesto as “ambitious but affordable, bold but realistic”.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the manifesto gave no certainty on the size and combination of tax rises and spending cuts envisaged to meet Labour’s commitment to halve Britain’s £167 billion (€189bn) deficit within four years.

“The party listed plenty of new things it would like to do, but was no clearer about where the spending cuts would fall,” said the IFS.

The manifesto pledged not to extend VAT to items like food and children’s clothes, but made no commitment not to raise the tax.

But Brown dismissed suggestions the party was leaving itself room for a post-election hike, insisting Labour’s fiscal plans “add up without having to put up VAT”, while Conservative proposals do not.

Flanked by his cabinet and wife Sarah, Brown set out plans to:

* Give parents the power to demand change in the leadership of schools, with the creation of 1,000 “accredited” schools by 2015.

* Make every NHS hospital a Foundation Trust, with those already holding the status able to take over those which are not “up to the mark”.

* Sack chief constables and police commanders who fail to deliver results.

Brown promised to reform politics with referendums on fairer votes for Westminster elections and a democratic Upper House, and opened the prospect of votes at 16.

For families, there were promises of a £4-a-week Toddler Tax Credit, four weeks’ paternity leave and the extension of free nursery care for two-year-olds.

Promises of a maximum 18-week wait for NHS treatment and cancer test results within a week were confirmed.

And Labour said it would take the first steps towards a National Care Service, though free care at home would initially be restricted to those with greatest needs.

Victims of anti-social behaviour will be given a right to legal injunctions, funded by the police or councils who have let them down, as well as guaranteed 24-hour response to complaints.

There is a £4bn fund to promote growth and a Green Investment Bank to deliver funding for low-carbon technologies.

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