MY faithful Concise Oxford defines manifesto as: a public declaration of policy and aims. On that basis the Guardian was perhaps entitled yesterday to title its three full pages devoted to Gordon Brown's policy statement as Labour manifesto. But in British political usage manifesto has come to mean the statement of policy intent that a party puts before the electorate at a general election and that can later be used in criticism if it deviates from the document's promises. Gordon Brown spoke for only twelve minutes in the House of Commons in introducing Building Britain's Future - not exactly election-launching rhetoric. But as with everything else at the moment, when even the smallest policy announcement by either of the leading party is assumed by the other side to have weighty electoral importance, it was treated on that basis by the media. May 2010 may seem quite close. But in politics ten months can be a very long time, especially when global and local economic climate change is so difficult to predict. I think that both the prime minister and David Cameron are going to wear out the public's patience if they insist in behaving as if the election were taking place next week. It is not and when it is held today's rows over the minutiae of possible cuts and spending provision may seem very distant indeed. These issues are important, of course, but the debate on them should be later.
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