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After So Many Broken Promises In Government, This Tory Manifesto Must Get The Scrutiny It Deserves

18/05/2017 07:49 BST | Updated 18/05/2017 07:49 BST
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I was proud to be in Bradford earlier this week for the launch of Labour's manifesto. Quite rightly, it's been subjected to forensic analysis and scrutiny from the media and from our political opponents. I welcome that - it's what politics is about, and any party that seeks to govern needs to have its ideas tested.

As the Conservatives publish their own manifesto, it's vital that it's given the same treatment. Theresa May has been running a safety-first campaign, in which she's spent more time hiding from voters than putting herself in front of them. She's tried to reduce the entire Conservative offer to the words "strong and stable" and the hope that voters will be bored into submission. To be fair, it certainly bores me.

But the Tories can't be allowed to float through their manifesto launch untouched. Just two years ago they made a series of impossible promises and got away with it. Now they want to do it again.

Let's just remind ourselves what the Tories' 2015 offer consisted of. A pledge to move to a budget surplus in 2019-20 that has already been abandoned. A promise to find £12billion in welfare savings which ended up causing the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary as it proved impossible to deliver without hitting disabled people in a way he said was "not defensible". A commitment to cut net migration to the tens of thousands which Theresa May, in six years as Home Secretary, was utterly incapable of delivering. A so-called "tax lock" which Philip Hammond tried to break in his recent budget, and which was described by one of David Cameron's own advisors as "probably the dumbest economic policy" possible.

Add to that a pledge to give the NHS £8billion which the House of Commons Health Select Committee says is not being met, a pledge to give 30 hours free childcare to three- and four-year olds which isn't even close to being delivered, and a pledge to raise living standards which has been undermined by news of falling wages just this week, and the Tories' 2015 manifesto starts to look like a document to run away from, not run on.

And the less said about the Tories' solemn 2015 manifesto commitment to safeguard Britain's interests in the single market, the better.

I'll be interested to see how many of these 2015 promises - published in a document with Theresa May herself pictured prominently on the cover - make it into Theresa May's 2017 manifesto. If she chooses to keep them, I hope she will be asked serious questions about how she'll deliver them, given her government's abject failure to do so up to now. If she drops them, I hope people will ask themselves why, if commitments solemnly made just two years ago are so easily abandoned, we should take seriously whatever commitments replace them.

Ten years ago, Theresa May told the House of Commons that "the idea that a lot of voters read manifestos is purely fictional... in the case of some parties, their manifestos are pure fiction". As Prime Minister, she mustn't be allowed to get away with publishing a fictional manifesto that nobody reads. I look forward to seeing it get the scrutiny it deserves.

Tom Watson is deputy leader of the Labour Party and the party's candidate in West Bromwich East