Labour’s manifesto launch in 2010 was a surreal event in a brand new hospital. I kept expecting someone to arrive with a stretcher…

From The Times

13 April 2010

Was it a launch or an advert for Dignitas?

It takes a certain amount of guts to launch a manifesto in a hospital, even more so in one that specialises in trauma and accident and emergencies. It sort of shouts out for a Casualty theme. Never mind that the brand new Queen Elizabeth Hospital building in Birmingham looks to be a magnificent place: it is still somewhere for sick people to go. There really can’t be many key political events that have taken place next to a sign that directs you to “Outpatient Endoscopy”.

I would have loved to have been at the planning session for this event. First came the brainwave about using a hospital — which was only really possible because it’s not open yet — and then the idea to put a wheatfield in the hospital. You may ask why, and the honest answer is I have no idea. But someone had gone to a lot of trouble to erect a giant screen in the hospital reception that showed a wheat field with the sun rising or setting (you pick, but I warn you this is a political judgment). If I’m kind, I would say that it looked like a shampoo commercial; others might judge that it seemed more like an advert for Dignitas.

It was freezing. I think this may be because the hospital is so new that they haven’t turned the heating on yet. Still, if there ever was a place to get hypothermia, this is it. There was no sign of food or drink. Everyone kept saying that this is a word-of-mouth election but this was a nil-by-mouth launch. But again, as it was a hospital, maybe it was all part of the “Let’s play doctors and nurses” theme.

Hundreds of Labour faithful had come to cheer on Gordon Brown and his team, as he now calls his Cabinet. When did politics become sport? Actually, don’t answer that. The team arrived in five-minute spurts in groups of six. It was as if, like buses, they had to space themselves. When the whole team was in place, the Labour sound system cranked up their ten-year-old tape of (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher — and I knew that Gordon and Sarah (this is their song) were almost in A&E.

We all watched a Labour YouTube cartoon with stick figures named Joe, Jane, Jack, James and Jill, which is supposed to encapsulate the manifesto in two and a half minutes. Yes, that long. Then Gordon was before us and the wheatfield — he really was outstanding in his field, if only for this event — telling us that the manifesto is all about the future. He said the manifesto (non-YouTube version) was written in the future tense: I checked but, actually, it was written in something I would call the present future hopeful tense.

“We are in the future business,” he boomed. I must admit that I had not realised that the future was a business or that it would be quite this strange.