Try to contain your excitement: Labour's manifesto launches

'A future fair for all', is Labour's rather generic election slogan - and it hasn't impressed John Humphrys, who introduced the Today programme's segment on today's Labour manifesto launch by snarling 'try to contain your excitement'.

And its contents are fairly predictable: despite the planned rise in National Insurance Contributions (NICs), we were told it was going to be a 'pro-business' manifesto - but the focus during the launch was firmly on supporting the family, with a film emphasising the manifesto's measures on education, health and helping those on low incomes.

And while rumours were afoot Labour would make a commitment not to raise VAT, that particular pledge wasn't included. Although business secretary Peter Mandelson has resisted pressure to set up a 'high pay commission', there is a focus on public services, with promises to cap chief executives' pay at £100,000.

Lord Mandelson has also fought calls to include a pledge to extend maternity leave to a year, in an effort to repair damage to the Party's reputation among businesses, after new proposals on paternity leave have proven unpopular.

The manifesto will include a £4bn 'UK finance for growth' fund to help start-up businesses grow, with new measures to make hostile takeovers, such as the Kraft takeover of Cadbury, more difficult.

While the measures are unlikely to significantly boost Labour's credibility among small businesses, the real litmus test will come on Thursday, when the election's first Prime Ministerial debate is set to take place.

Labour urgently needs a lift: according to YouGov figures released today, the Conservatives have a six-point lead.

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