Today was the turn of the Liberal Democrats, in London, and UKIP in Essex to dazzle us with their manifesto launches.
Lib Dems launch: attempt at funky Battersea ‘Live Lounge’
The Liberal Democrats were first up – a glossy colourful brochure and an intimate setting in Battersea with nightclub lighting. But why was the staging so small? Perhaps it reflected the ever decreasing party membership and the fact that the Lib Dems cannot no longer fill a large room. It is the ‘end of the era of single party government” said Nick Clegg – more like the end of the Liberal Democrats if the opinion polls are to be believed. Sorry, I know that’s a bit harsh.
But Nick Clegg strode purposely onto the stage to deliver his party manifesto. Could he keep a straight face? After breaking some of his key promises in the last manifesto it was not going to be easy.
Despite his undoubted debating and speaking skills, Clegg laboured throughout. Speaking at times at ninety miles an hour with a panicked and pleading tone that became more audible as he went along – an air desperation seemed to fill the room. “We will be the heart of any future Conservative led Government and the brain of any future Labour led Government” Well Nick, you need the courage of your convictions not to go back on your promises if you want the voters to trust you again.
He got the main pledges out and attempted to tell his audience how they would be paid for:
- Balance the budget fairly through a mixture of cuts and taxes on higher earners
- Increase tax-free allowance to £12,500
- Guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 with an extra £2.5bn and qualified teachers in every class
- Invest £8bn in the NHS. Equal care for mental & physical health
- Five new laws to protect nature and fight climate change
All very interesting and important but there was a sense of why bother about it all – the media did not try very hard to drill down into the policy commitments and how they would be funded simply because it seems that it is all irrelevant – it seems unfair to write that but that is how it appeared.
To put a real cosh on proceedings the light and sound feed broke down two thirds of the way through and so those of us watching proceedings on TV could only wonder how the rest of it went.
Verdict: An ill-fated attempt to look modern and dynamic. Tried too hard.
It was lacklustre from start to finish despite Clegg’s attempts to inject passion and vigour into his speech. It was almost like the Lib Dems were going through the motions and were resigned to their fate on May 7th. Nick Clegg will have to up his game again for the TV debate.
UKIP launch: articulated passion and a bit like mates down the boozer
In contrast the UKIP manifesto launch was a lively affair, full of confidence, a relaxed and jovial atmosphere in a simple Essex venue but with a serious message. Nigel Farage looked assured and determined to lead his People’s Army to success on May 7th.
To help him do that was the very able and impressive Suzanne Evans who along with Paul Nuttall and Patrick O’Flynn, were there partly to show UKIP as more than the whim of Nigel Farage.
In anticipation of intense scrutiny and to hammer home the point that UKIP was not a single-policy party they unveiled a plethora of fully-costed policies ranging from Immigration, cutting foreign aid, a tax revolution, an EU referendum, increased defence spending and re-introduction of the grammar schools to protecting the Green Belt.
One after another, polices flowed, the costs were detailed and the media looked shell shocked – they could not ask their stock question at the Q&A ‘how will you pay for it’?
Gone were the 500 pages of professed, “drivel” from 2010. Here was a manifesto launch in traditional style and delivered it has to be said with some panache, if not a little rowdy at times.
Verdict: Clear messages and straight talking. We saw a much more mature party than 2010.
But will it change anyone’s vote? The opinion polls seem to think it won’t – I am not so sure, I have a sneaky feeling that in the early hours of May 8th the UKIP political earthquake may have shaken the political establishment more than expected.