Sneak preview of Labour's manifesto

Ed Miliband Image copyright Getty Images

So, manifesto week is upon us - a bit of a game of Tetris with six blocks. Whereas once manifestos were programmes for government, now they are one of a number of possible programmes for government.

We'll spend this week looking to see how they slot together ahead of coalition negotiations.

The Tory inheritance tax policy announced over the weekend is a classic example - the Lib Dems vetoed the policy last time. Except yesterday on Andrew Neil's programme Danny Alexander stopped short of saying the Lib Dems would block it. This time it's a little more "coalicious". The Lib Dems won't love the fact it benefits only 6% of households, but being funded as it is from capping pension relief, they also may not hate it.

But let's look forward to Labour's manifesto on its own merits. Much of what is milling about, I have heard before, but I'm told by people who have read it that it is a strong document. In fact, some of its biggest fans are Labour folk quite lukewarm on Ed Miliband.

Suddenly many of his critics are wondering if Miliband might win this election (largest party, probably nothing more). The strength of the manifesto is part of that renewed optimism.

Confirm or deny

The story this morning is about Labour's fiscal charter, the first page of the manifesto devoted to how Labour will get the deficit down. I am told that this only went into the document as late as last Thursday night. Labour won't confirm or deny this.

My sources say Labour looked at last week's Tory pledge on the NHS, which they think is unfunded (they have a case) and decided there is scope for whittling away at Tory economic credibility. That's quite some whittling they'll have to do, but there we are. Interesting that something that today seems such a major part of their launch crystallised so late in the day.

'Not surprised'

Some describe the document as a cross of red Labour and blue Labour - unsurprisingly as it is a mix of Jon Cruddas and Ed Miliband's brain. That while there are the social democratic levers that Ed Miliband cherishes ("traditional state paternalism"), there are the hallmarks of blue Labour too.

"It's very Ed. He couldn't say no to anyone," one source says.

"All the fault-lines we have been arguing about for the last five years are on display. Is the state going to sort out Britain's problems in the future - more top-down transactions, more tax credits - or are we going to give power away?"

In English that means there are personalised budgets (blue Labour) but also the mansion tax to pay for nurses (red Labour).

There are apparently workers on pay committees (blue). Regional banks (blue) but nothing big on RBS. Living Wage tax credits for firms (red Labour).

A little more surprising, according to someone who has seen the document, is the section on public services.

How patient- and pupil-centric it is. We've spent the last five years thinking Ed Miliband has very little to say about public services - it is being suggested to me that is corrected today.

In particular, Labour's answer today to the Tories on free schools - we know they want parent-run schools. But let's see how much prominence they give this section. It appears, however, that there is little about welfare, but I'm not surprised.

More broadly, the mood in Labour ranks is that they are going into the last three-and-a-half weeks on the up. Their strategists can't believe the Tory campaign.

"This is the campaign Lynton Crosby wanted to run against us. We just can't believe they haven't got more. This seems to be it," said a source.

But we'll see in a couple of hours whether Labour have the goods themselves.

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