Today at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron accused Ed Miliband of ignoring his own party’s manifesto on the Royal Mail. He said:
‘He said just then, Mr Speaker, it’s a sale nobody wanted. It’s in his manifesto! It was a commitment of the last government!’
So what does the Labour 2010 manifesto actually say? Here’s the section on the Royal Mail:
‘The universal postal service delivered by the Royal Mail connects and binds us together as a country. We are firmly committed to the 28 million homes and businesses across the country receiving mail six days a week, with the promise that one price goes everywhere. The Royal Mail and its staff are taking welcome and needed steps to modernise work practices. For the future, continuing modernisation and investment will be needed by the Royal Mail in the public sector.’
After the exchanges, Labour MP Jon Ashworth raised this disparity as a point of order, demanding the PM return to the Commons to set the record straight. Number 10 sources insisted that the language in the Labour manifesto was ‘similar’ to the plan in 2009 by Lord Mandelson to sell off 30 per cent of the Royal Mail and keep the rest of it in the public sector to prepare for modernisation. A Number 10 source refused to respond to a question asking whether the PM misspoke or had misled the House, insisting that the manifesto language was similar to the Mandelson plan. But the PM’s defence would have been stronger had he not made this claim in the House.