The Ming vase manifesto: Labour’s plan as it leads the polls

Ella Rose, Senior Consultant 

In the Labour city of Manchester, Sir Keir Starmer launched the Labour Party’s long-awaited manifesto, referencing the city’s history with the cooperative movement, supported by the Shadow Cabinet, PPCs and introductory speeches. In a hark back to Prime Ministers Labour never had, Deputy Leader Angela Rayner echoed the language of former Leader of the Opposition John Smith, asking the country for the opportunity to serve. She claimed that the manifesto answered the question of what future the country wants to see. 

Having criticised the Conservatives for a ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ manifesto, nobody was expecting a highly detailed document or the mini manifestos on issues such as Equalities or Animal Welfare that Corbyn himself had released. The smaller the manifesto, the smaller the target for critical blows. 

This manifesto is the culmination of the so-called ‘Ming vase’ strategy; to be cautious and avoid getting drawn in on the minutiae of the details. For many in the Labour Party, it would be enough for the manifesto to simply be a picture of Keir Starmer with the word ‘change’ written on it. It’s not quite that, but the manifesto was never intended to create a splash upon landing, with Starmer making it clear in advance there were no policy rabbits coming out of hats. 

All the major policy announcements have been trailed, focus grouped, and launched by the respective Shadow Cabinet Members. The headline of the Labour Party’s election campaign has always been clear; ‘change’ to grow the economy, and the rest of the manifesto following the ‘missions’ that have defined Starmer’s strategy so far.  

The Labour Party has only ever won from opposition three times in its 100-year history. Given that, inspiration has been taken from across the globe from progressive parties who have managed to win power amongst rising global populism. A clear example is the childcare policy, which the Australian Labour Party has long credited with for their recent election win. Biden’s economic strategy has also been closely watched. 

Introducing the manifesto, Iceland’s CEO was emphatic that Labour was the only party who can turn this country’s economic chances around, the main theme of the manifesto launch. With the Conservatives usually holding the ground on the economy, Labour haven’t just parked their tanks on the Tory lawn, they’ve driven right through it. The challenge now lies with how quickly the change can come. The Labour Party is all but certain to form the next government, but with this week’s 0% growth announcement and a crystal-clear commitment from Starmer on not raising taxes, there is a tough road ahead. Starmer referenced that himself with his line on not having a magic wand.  

Interestingly, Labour insiders have been saying for a while that many of the achievements that the Blair government is known for were not in the manifesto – the Day 1 independence of the Bank of England as a key example. So maybe there will be more to come once the party is in power, so we should not expect that the door is closed on other major policies being enacted over the next 4-5 years.

It’s just three weeks to go to the General Election, with the first postal votes being cast in the next few days. With Labour up 20 points in the polls, and the Conservatives languishing behind and embroiled in press scandals of election betting and D-Day absences, many believe the result is a foregone conclusion, and the media attention will quickly shift to focus on what happens after the election. It’s unlikely this manifesto will change much in the polls, but today will become more significant as the years go by and references to policies being in (or not in) the manifesto become increasingly important when government priorities are being determined. 

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