Tribune, 19 April 1991
Paul Anderson takes a look at the policies that will be the basis for the party’s election manifesto
The main surprise in the f Labour policy document launched this week is just how few surprises it contains.
Labour’s Better Way for the 1990s, which will form the basis for the Labour election manifesto, was agreed by the party’s National Executive Committee on Monday and publicly unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday. Neil Kinnock told journalists that the document reaffirmed the approach of Looking to the Future, taking “further account of changes in the condition of our country and our world”. Indeed there is little in it that is not familiar from previous policy meats and speeches.
Nevertheless, there has been no clearer statement of. Labour’s current “social democratic austerity” programme, particularly on the economy. The process of drawing up Labour’s Better Way was closely supervised by Labour’s Treasury team to exclude ambitious spending commitments, and the final document, drafted by Patricia Hewitt, is notable for its pro-Europe stance and its extreme caution about the role of the state except as the provider of “a stable national economic framework” for private enterprise and as the rectifier of the failure of the market.”
Kinnock sets the tone in his preface, where he argues that “the old ideologies – command economy at one extreme, crude free market economics at the other – do not work”. The priority of a Labour government would be. “the modernisation of Britain”, he writes, “creating the conditions in which business can succeed – getting interest and inflation rates down to German and French levels and keeping them down, improving investment in science, research and development and new technologies as others do”.
The document itself emphatically rules out expansionary fiscal and monetary policies: “There will be no irresponsible dash for growth under Labour”. Instead, it stresses the role of government working “in partnership with industry to meet clearly defined goals – improving skills, crossing new technological frontiers, encouraging long-term investment and securing balanced economic growth in every region”.
The state should also ensure “that consumers are protected, monopolies restricted or dismantled and the environment protected”. Government “has a particular responsibility for securing long-term investment in education, transport and regional development which the market, left to itself, has failed to provide”.