Labour sets promises in stone

The British public is not very trusting of politicians. A poll by Ipsos MORI in January 2015 found “Just 16% of Britons trust politicians to tell the truth compared with 22% trusting journalists and estate agents and 31% who trust bankers.” The lack of trust in part comes out in cynicism and voter apathy. But it is also clearly a major obstacle for a group that is attempting to persuade the British public to believe in them at election times. If you don’t trust politicians generally why should you choose one over the other? Why should you believe the promises a politician is making for how his policies will make things different?

Politicians in opposition have a fundamental problem that they have no, or little, record on which to trade. Labour’s Ed Miliband can’t show how he has kept promises from the last election both because he has little power to implement policy and because he was not the party leader at the time of that election. What the public do think of as the Labour party’s record is almost entirely negative; the banking crash (regardless that this can’t really be said to be Labour’s fault), and the Iraq war.

Ed Miliband has therefore decided to try and show that he can be trusted to keep his word with an 8ft 6in limestone monolith inscribed with six pledges:

  • A strong economic foundation
  • Higher living standards for working families
  • An NHS with the time to care
  • Controls on immigration
  • A country where the next generation can do better than the last
  • Homes to buy and action on rents

The stone is to be installed in 10 Downing Street’s rose garden should Labour win the election where they will thus be visible from the offices in no.10.

While trust in politicians is sinking to new lows it has never been good and there is a history of politicians trying to overcome a lack of trust by trying to make it absolutely clear what pledges they should be judged upon. This has in the past been done with pledge cards by Labour or signing a statement on tuition fees by the Liberal Democrats – a promise that they unfortunately broke – something which is not helping trust in them this time around.

Stone may be a new, and even more visible reminder of promises. If the pledge stone is installed in the rose garden it would be very difficult for Ed Miliband to get away with outright breaking its inscribed pledges. Its’ very concrete and visible nature might mean that voters are more inclined to think that the promises will be kept this time. It is also to Labour’s advantage that the pledges are comparatively vague and don’t promise how the outcome will be delivered. Many of them are issues that Labour would be judged on after a term in office even without the stone. As such Ed Miliband has nothing to lose by setting these pledges in stone. 

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