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 A/V REPORTS
The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"Tony Blair promised a radical programme of change"
 real 56k

Tony Blair
launches the Labour manifesto
 real 56k

Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo
"I don't think people will be very reassured today by a very long and boring speech"
 real 28k

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy
"The biggest disappointment...is the poverty of ambition"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 14:27 GMT
Blair sets out 10-year goals
Tony Blair
Tony Blair pledged real and radical change
Tony Blair has launched Labour's election manifesto with a pledge to deliver economic stability and public service reform.

The 44-page document - Ambitions for Britain - sets out the party's policy goals not just for the next parliament but right up until 2010 and includes the pledge not to raise the basic or higher rates of income tax.


This manifesto is not a recipe for a quiet life

Tony Blair
Speaking in Birmingham, Mr Blair said Labour was asking the British people to allow it to get on with the job of delivering "real and radical" change.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both criticised the manifesto. The Tories dismissed it as "full of spin" while the Lib Dems called it "timid".

And hours after the launch Mr Blair had to deal with his first real image problem of the campaign when a woman angrily confronted him over the government's spending on health.

The manifesto contains many of the pledges already outlined by Labour including more nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers.

Education
10,000 more teachers
Radically improve secondary schools
Diversify state schools
Direct more money through headteachers
Give more freedom to successful schools
It commits the party to spending billions of pounds on education, health, police and transport in the first three years of the next parliament.

The party renews its pledge to reform the NHS promises to give more freedom to headteachers and "radically improve" secondary schools.

The manifesto also commits Labour to holding a referendum on joining the euro when the economic climate is right and giving MPs a free vote early in the next parliament on banning foxhunting.

Health
20,000 more nurses and 10,000 more doctors
Decentralise power to doctors
Ensure booked appointments by 2005
Cut maximum waiting times by 2005
Create specially-built surgical units to cut delays
On crime, the manifesto promises an overhaul of sentencing to ensure tougher punishment for criminals and a new victims' bill of rights.

The party would also establish a new department of rural affairs, widely expected to replace the ministry of agriculture.

Mr Blair said: "I know we have a great deal more still to do. We have made a start. There is progress and now we have a chance to begin the work we have begun.

"Now I ask the British people to let us get on with the job of continuing the real and radical change."

He added: "This is a manifesto that takes the next steps to building a strong society, strong economy and strong Britain.

Economy
No income tax rises
Referendum on joining the euro
Increase minimum wage to 4.20
New baby bonds for every new-born child
"This manifesto is not a recipe for a quiet life."

Mr Blair also promised to reform public services while also increasing spending.

"Money alone is not enough. That is why we are also committed to fundamental reform to our public services.

"There should be no barriers, no dogma no vested interest that stands in the way of delivering the best services for our people."

Policies under fire

But shadow chancellor Michael Portillo said Mr Blair couldn't be believed.

"The fact is he has been given four years and he has failed to deliver. All his actions say he does the opposite of what he says.

Shadow chancellor Michael Portillo
Portillo: 'Labour has failed to deliver'
"During the past four years all he has done has been to centralise and make Britain more bureaucratic.

"We have fewer police, we have fewer teachers and we have a public transport service in crisis."

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said Labour had a "poverty of ambition".

"They have a healthy economy, a big parliamentary majority, they could be doing so much more."

It is the first time the Labour Party has launched its manifesto outside London in what is a key election battleground.

Later there was a contrast to the carefully crafted manifesto launch when, visiting a Birmingham hospital, 38-year-old Susan Storer confronted Mr Blair over the state of facilities there.

As Mr Blair tried to respond by pointing to extra government investment she snapped back: "All you do is walk around and make yourself known but you don't actually do anything to help anyone."

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