Labour’s manifesto is the most daring move of this campaign so far. The party has decided to try and address one of its biggest weaknesses on page 1 of the document. The decision to make Labour’s fiscal locks, its attempt to show that it is fiscally credible, the major story of the manifesto is a risk. It means that Labour is playing on Tory turf.
The party’s hope is that these fiscal locks can reassure voters that Labour wouldn’t spend and borrow too much, removing one of the main obstacles to supporting them. Indeed, with Ed Miliband doing a far better job than expected of assuaging voters’ doubts about his capacity to lead, you can see what Labour are thinking: if they can address their other big negative, then they would be on course for a clear win.
But, I suspect, that this bold play won’t succeed. First, the shift in tone from Labour has come too late in the parliament. Second, it is very hard for Labour to establish fiscal credibility while maintaining that the last Labour government didn’t spend too much. I expect that we’ll hear a lot about that Liam Byrne note in the next few days as the Tories try to rubbish Labour’s claim to be fiscally responsible.