Yesterday the three UK party leaders all came to Scotland to “campaign”. None of them would appear in public or be interviewed on TV, speaking only to small crowds of invited supporters before scurrying south again. Nevertheless, their fleeting presence north of the border meant that the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions was conducted by substitutes. Standing in for David Cameron was William Hague.
So that’s all a bit clearer now.
“The statements by the party leaders made on this in the last few days are statements by party leaders in a campaign – not a statement of Government policy today, but a statement of commitment from the three main political parties, akin to statements by party leaders in a general election campaign of what they intend to do afterwards. It is on that basis that they have made those statements.” (column 900)
In pointing out that any promises made by the three leaders were merely campaigning rhetoric, Hague placed them firmly alongside a long list of famous election pledges.
1997, Labour: “We have no plans to introduce tuition fees”.
(introduced tuition fees)
1997, Labour: “We will reform the electoral system”
(electoral system was not reformed)
2001, Labour: “We will not introduce top-up fees”
(introduced top-up fees)
2005, Labour: “We will not raise basic or higher rates of income tax”
(raised higher rate of income tax)
2005, Labour: “We will hold a referendum on the EU constitution”
(did not hold a referendum on the EU constitution)
2010, Conservatives: “We have absolutely no plans to increase VAT”
(increased VAT to 20%)
2010, Conservatives: “There will be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS”
(instigated massive top-down reorganisation and privatisation of the NHS)
2010, Conservatives: “No cuts to front-line services”
(the biggest cuts to front-line services in British peacetime history)
2010, Conservatives: “No plans to abolish Education Maintenance Allowance”
(abolished Education Maintenance Allowance)
2010, Liberal Democrats: “We will vote against any increase in tuition fees”
(voted to triple tuition fees)
Those are just a small handful of the better-known highlights. (For example, we’ve left out New Labour’s pledge to renationalise the railways, because as far as we can tell they never quite came out and said it in public, despite lots of nudge-wink briefings.)
Readers can while away a fun morning Googling for “[party] [year] manifesto broken promises” themselves if they like. In the meantime, we thank Mr Hague for providing candour and clarity.