On each of the programmes I review in the course of a weekday, yesterday saw the 'election campaign's' first big day on the BBC (and wasn't it fun?). It was the day the Conservatives launched their plans for the NHS & the day Labour launched another of its dodgy dossiers, this time listing why the Conservatives' sums don't add up (though holes in Labours' sums appeared within 45 minutes). Guess which one led each programme's coverage. Yes, the Labour attack on the Tories, with the Conservatives' health plans limping along behind. And each time the BBC's economics editor Stephanie Flanders was on hand to award the prize for successful campaigning to Labour - as she did on her blog too http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/stephanieflanders/2010/01/the_thought_doesnt_count.html
But it's true that there have been a number of not-quite-pledges in the rhetoric
of senior Tories over the past year - like the talk of tax cuts for married
couples, or reversing the 50p rate for top earners. Here and elsewhere, they
have wanted to gain credit for aspiration, without having to pay for it.
Yet, to coin a phrase, it's not the thought that counts.
The only message that Labour wanted to get across with this document is that you can't have your cake and cut it too. To the extent that the Conservatives are now
forced to clarify what they have and have not promised for a Tory first term, I
suspect Labour will consider this first big day of the 2010 campaign a success.
So Stephanie - whether on The World at One, on PM or on her blog - supported Labour's main charge of the day and claimed success for it as an electioneering point. Unlike her commentaries on Radio 4, however, blogs can be updated and Stephanie has judiciously balanced the above comments with warnings for Labour.