Two of Labour's desperate pledges stand out as more fatuous and risible than others from this party bankrupt of both ideas and understanding. First, the pledge to force all public sector workers to learn English. Now maybe I've missed all the stories in the media about this, but where exactly is the existing problem? Who are all these public sector workers who can't speak English? Doctors, nurses, teachers and environmental health officers can hardly be being employed without not only equivalent qualifications but a degree of fluency in English, surely? The only people who I can possibly imagine would be covered by this are cleaners. Perhaps gesticulating at a mop, a bucket and a corridor, as effective as it may be, is simply not enough for Labour; perhaps these non-Anglophone cleaners are required to read Labour's leaflets on Compulsory Equality or How to Have Babies the Labour Way, or even How to Complete a Postal Vote for Labour.
The second is Labour's affirmation of the State's role in dictating performance and standards from Whitehall; they still don't trust people to make these decisions for themselves. The Times says that Brown will claim "Tory policies to scrap national targets and empower local initiatives risk widely differing levels of service and outcomes". Well, yes. That's the point, isn't it? If my neighbourhood decides we want to increase resources to the local park and cut funding for Smoking Inspectors to pay for it, that's our choice, isn't it? And if we end up with a better quality park than a neighbourhood in Bromsgrove, so what? They can make their own democratic decisions.
Whenever you hear a politician complaining about a 'postcode lottery' you can be sure they're speaking in code, and what they mean is 'loss of State control'. The whole of Labour's manifesto is just one, huge, unapologetic encomium to the power of the central State, with measures to increase it even further thinly disguised as increased citizen powers to enforce standards. The one power you won't find in Labour's manifesto is for the people of this country to set their own standards.