ELECTION 2001: This Is How Real Change Can Happen ; as the Main Parties Duck the Vital Issues, the `Independent on Sunday' Offers Its Own Bold and Progressive Manifesto
The general election comes at an important moment in the country's history. Euro coins will be issued next year with Britain still undecided about whether to join. There are unanswered constitutional questions arising from Labour's first term in power. The future prospects for the environment look bleak after President Bush's rejection of proposals agreed at Kyoto. The public services need urgent investment and reform... these are just a few of the issues that should be at the heart of the campaign. They are the big issues that political leaders are too often keen to avoid.
Today The Independent on Sunday unveils its own manifesto. We will judge the performance of the parties on the basis of how they respond to the policy initiatives outlined below. We are aware that there will be a deluge of manifestos from the parties in this campaign. But they will be evasive, woolly documents. They always are.
Our proposals are genuinely bold and progressive. Not all would be immediately popular. But they address the range and scale of the tasks that will face the next government in less than four weeks' time. Broadly our agenda can be categorised as libertarian, liberal and green. The policies in the manifesto are not by any means an exhaustive list. But it will give readers some ideas on how we will be judging the the parties over the next few weeks.
So far none of the parties has been willing to tackle the issues raised in our manifesto. Labour nods in its direction on some issues, but runs a mile when probed too closely. So far Tony Blair has opted for sermonising generalities. The Conservatives have shown where they stand on the issues of "tax and spend" and the environment by proposing a big cut in petrol duty. The Liberal Democrats seem intent on running a policy-free campaign. Their main theme so far has been that Charlie Kennedy is a "good bloke". But these are early days. Labour and the Lib Dems have yet to publish their manifestos. The Conservatives, reluctant to stage many press conferences, have not been questioned in detail about their programme. Mr Hague has not explained how his sums add up, or how his bland commitment to the environment can be reconciled with the cut in petrol duty.
The Independent on Sunday urges the party leaders to range over a wider canvas, to break with tradition and engage in open debate during the campaign, rather than when it is safely over.
We look forward to hearing from the parties who seek your vote on 7 June how they intend to address the issues in The Independent on Sunday's manifesto.
SWALLOW YOUR GREENS
The environment has slipped too far down the political agenda. We look to an incoming administration to show a world lead by taking the green agenda far more seriously. To that end the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions must be broken up - each merits a separate Cabinet post. The foot and mouth outbreak reminds us that one of the first tasks for a new Secretary of State for the Environment must be to initiate a fundamental rethink about food production and the uses to which Britain's countryside is put.
DUMP THE PUMP, FOR GOOD
For decades, our transport infrastructure has been allowed to crumble - with results now all too obvious. The fuel price escalator, vital for encouraging motorists to switch to rail, must be reintroduced - or a replacement found. Last September, The Independent on Sunday, alone among national newspapers, urged the government to resist the blockaders' demands to cut fuel duty. Our demand then was that "the Government should ignore the cries of the road hauliers, restore the fuel escalator and ring-fence all the revenue to invest in public transport". That is still our position.
LIBERTY - EVEN FOR THE UNSPEAKABLE
It is tragic that in the 21st century it is necessary for us to demand that any political party with a claim to decency must promote an inclusive, multi-cultural outlook. …