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Brown launches Labour's 'fight of our lives' with election manifesto

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-12

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Monday he had plans to "renew" Britain as he unveiled the Labour Party's election manifesto, which included pledges to protect public services and cut the budget deficit without raising income tax.

AFP - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled his party's election manifesto Monday, seeking to seize back the initiative after a first week of campaigning dominated by economic squabbling.

The Labour Party leader set out "a plan for national renewal" after the May 6 polls, vowing to rebuild the recession-battered economy, cut the giant deficit while protecting public services, and shake up the political system.

In government since 1997, centre-left Labour hope their manifesto will help them overturn opinion polls that have consistently put them behind the main opposition Conservatives.

"The forward policies we set out today are rooted in the day-to-day concerns of the British people," Brown said at the launch, held at a newly-built hospital in Birmingham, central England.

Brown fired the starting gun for the poll race last Tuesday, and the economy has dominated campaigning so far, with the Conservatives and Labour arguing over whether Brown's payroll tax rise plans would help or hinder the recovery.

Britain's budget deficit is 167 billion pounds (257 billion dollars, 190 billion euros), according to government estimates.

The manifesto promised not to raise the basic rate of income tax -- though did not say the same of value added tax (VAT), a levy on goods and services.

It set out plans to modernise Britain's infrastructure with a high-speed rail network and widespread broadband Internet access.

The manifesto pledged to reform financial institutions so that banks "pay their fair share to society".

On political reform following last year's row over lawmakers' expenses, it pledged referendums on switching to the alternative vote system for general elections, and on an elected upper House of Lords.

It laid out plans to give people the right to recall lawmakers and a vote in parliament on whether to reduce the voting age to 16.

"This is the first post-crisis vote for our country, and the most important in a generation. Get the big decisions right now... and we not only renew our economy but renew our politics and society too," Brown said.

But, acknowledging that his party risks being ousted on May 6, he admitted: "Labour is in the fight of our lives."

A YouGov poll in The Sun newspaper Monday put the centre-right Conservatives down three points on 37 percent, Labour up one on 31 percent and the Liberal Democrats unchanged on 20 percent.

Despite their opinion poll lead, the Conservatives may not win enough seats to hold a majority in parliament.

The Conservatives' manifesto, to be unveiled Tuesday, will include pledges to scrap a planned rise in payroll taxes, give married couples a tax break and introduce a young people's community service programme.

Party leader David Cameron slammed Labour's manifesto, saying it contained nothing new.

"They've had 13 years... there's no real change there," he told a rally in Loughborough, central England.

Labour were in such "desperation" they have resorted to a campaign "all about fear, it's all about frightening people," he said, citing mailshots about breast cancer targeted at women.

"Labour have got to stop telling lies about what the Conservative Party would do," Cameron added.

"We are going to shake things up and put power in the hands of people, not politicians."

The Liberal Democrats, the centrist third-biggest party, unleash their manifesto on Wednesday.

Their leader Nick Clegg said Monday that the Lib Dems would offer a "radical overhaul" of the tax system, rebalancing it to "make it fair once and for all".

The rush of manifestos comes in the build-up to Thursday's first ever US-style televised election debate between Brown, Cameron and Clegg.

Queen Elizabeth II dissolved parliament on Monday, giving the departing ex-lawmakers till 5:00pm to clear their offices.

The new parliament will be summoned to meet on May 18, when the business will be the electing the speaker and swearing in members.

The State Opening of Parliament and the Queen's Speech setting out the new government's programme is planned for May 25.


Date created : 2010-04-12

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