A lit crit of the party manifestos


Terry Eagleton in The Guardian:

The title of the Conservative party manifesto is “Forward, Together”, presumably because “Backward, Apart” isn’t much of a vote catcher. The prime minister’s mind-numbing mantra, “strong and stable government” (anyone for the weak and turbulent kind?) crops up twice in consecutive lines on the first page, suggesting that the authors have a rather dim-witted audience in mind. Less blandly, Labour calls its manifesto “For the Many, Not the Few”, cunningly calculating that this might have a wider appeal than “For the Posh and Powerful, Not For Riff-Raff Like You”.

Writing these things can’t be easy. You need to talk about the British Coal superannuation scheme surplus while still managing to sound a high moral tone. Party manifestos are part sermon, part technical guide. They must be morally uplifting but down to earth, confident but not complacent, inspirational yet briskly practical. The luckless hacks who write them must also resign themselves to the fact that, apart from journalists and political nerds, they probably attract a smaller readership than War and Peace.

The Tory manifesto errs on the sermonising side, full of pious sentiment and high-minded rhetoric. Most of the sentiments are drearily predictable (“Britain has always been a great trading nation”) while one or two are not, such as: “We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality.”

The phrase “except in practice” seems to have been accidentally omitted.

More here.