Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Saturday, 27 March 2010

Election pledges on the cards for Brown

By Robin Brant
Political correspondent, BBC News

Labour pledge card

Saying you will do something isn't good enough.

Especially not in this post-expenses scandal world where trust in some politicians has all but disintegrated.

Labour thinks you need to write it down and carry it around in your pocket.

So the pledge card is back. It worked for the first time in 1997 - a list of promises, the size of a credit card, which were clear and easy to understand.

This time they aren't so specific.

In fact, if you look back at what Labour was pledging in 2001 and 2005 you can see a trend.

The words have become more generic.

Targets have been replaced by aspirations in most cases.

'Lower-priority spending'

Gordon Brown's version of the pledge card is full of colour.

On one side, the sun gleaming over a field of wheat with the five pledges spelled out - secure the recovery, raise family living standards, build a hi-tech economy, protect front-line services, and strengthen fairness in communities.

On the other side of the card, a quadrant of colour, with more specific policy ideas.

It is on the back where perhaps the most significant word appears - cuts.

Labour is pledging "cuts to lower-priority spending".

That word was virtually banned from the Labour lexicon a few months back as it tried to establish a pre-election dividing line with the Conservatives, pitting (Labour) investment v (Tory) cuts. But now Labour is pledging to make some cuts.

The one-line pledges themselves are things that most politicians, of whatever persuasion, would sign up for.

Some critics have said they are so vague that they are difficult to measure.

Labour's 1997 pledges were concrete: "We will cut class sizes for five to seven-year-olds."

That could be measured and judged a success or failure.

In 2010, how do you measure fairness in a community?

The Conservatives have said that no-one will trust Labour and so the pledges are meaningless.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg thinks that nothing can mask what he's called Labour's "13 years of failure".

But the pledge card does give Labour focus for the campaign ahead.

It is a tangible and simple to understand - if not so simple to measure - statement of its priorities.

It could be coming to a doorstep near you soon.

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