Remember the 2019 election? There was this guy called Corbyn running the Labour Party. Now that was a manifesto. Spend another £26 billion on the health service. Create a £400bn national transformation fund. Introduce a net zero energy system by the 2030s. Hold a longed-for second referendum on Brexit. It was a gluttonous political sundae – you knew you’d regret it in the long run, but how sweet it would be to indulge.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson was also making lavish promises. The headline was that he would “get Brexit done” with his “oven-ready deal” which would “unleash Britain’s potential”, ushering in an era of “hope and optimism” instead of the “deadlock and division” under Labour. “Get Brexit done and we restore confidence and certainty to business and families,” he proclaimed.

Oh, the deceit. There was no oven-ready Brexit deal, it’s still half-baked and the nation is sickly from its effects. While the US and Eurozone have grown substantially, the British economy is still smaller than its pre-pandemic size, dragged down by the Brexit albatross. The tax take has reduced and public services have suffered.

“Hope and optimism”? You won’t find it at Britain’s 2,700 food banks. You won’t find it in the NHS, which is in a perpetual state of near-collapse. You won’t find it among the 300,000 people classed as homeless.

An “end to division”? Was he joking? Boris Johnson is actively and openly trying to damage the Conservative Government he himself led by attacking his successor and forcing by-elections that will benefit the opposition – all in a fit of pique because neither Rishi Sunak nor the privileges committee is prepared to do his bidding. The man’s monstrous selfishness knows no bounds. The public can see that his grandiose Brexit promises were all of a piece with his personal behaviour: utterly mendacious.

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And here in Scotland? Well here in Scotland, every day brings fresh criticism of the SNP for its long-term failures to deliver on eye-catching promises. This week alone, ire is focusing on the shelving of the Deposit Return Scheme; an ongoing failure to fix waiting times in the NHS; the likelihood that a key 2024 child poverty target will be missed; and the painfully-slow dualling of the A9 (only 11 out of 88 miles have been completed in 10 years). Meanwhile, the drumbeat of discontent continues about the attainment gap (nowhere near closed), climate change targets and a hopeless failure to ensure reliable ferry services to the islands.

The era of “anything’s possible” is well and truly over. It’s goodbye ambition, hello damage limitation. With so little cash to go round, the health budget sucking ever more funds away from other departments and a Brexit-chastened electorate now deeply suspicious of anyone who overpromises, the SNP, Labour and the Tories are all scaling down their offers to fit the painful reality of Britain in 2023: a nation with limited options. We’re heading for the low-ambition election.

A “fall” in waiting lists, “improved” social care services and “work to ensure drugs deaths reduce”: this vagueness is what Scottish Government ambition looks like under Humza Yousaf.

Meanwhile in Westminster, Rishi Sunak wants to be judged on his five priorities of halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing national debt, cutting waiting lists and introducing laws to stop the small boats.

But most were already predicted and he’s been deliberately vague about timescales.

Mr Sunak promised to cut inflation within the year when it was at its scary height of 11 per cent, but it was already forecast to fall by two-thirds by the end of this year. The Government blamed external forces for how high inflation was, but seems intent on taking credit when it falls for the same reasons.

The economy could hardly fail to grow from its painfully low post-Brexit base, enabling Mr Sunak to claim even the most feeble improvement as a win. Again, debt was already on track to reduce, but by how much? After a post-pandemic high, waiting lists will have started to fall by the time of the next election, which the PM will badge a win, even though millions will still be waiting far longer than they should.

And introducing laws to stop small boats crossing the Channel is very different from actually stopping small boats crossing the Channel. Again, the Prime Minister’s great strategy for the country appears to be setting the bar low and repeating ad nauseam that he’s “delivering for Britain”, even though most people will still be feeling scunnered by high costs and struggling services.

This, of course, leaves room for Labour to do the vision thing, but Sir Keir Starmer too is trimming his sails. He’s steadfastly refusing to revisit Brexit. An earlier lavish pledge to fund universal free childcare for children from nine months until the end of primary school – which could be transformative in getting parents back into work and reducing child poverty – has been ruled out in a bid to stick to strict fiscal rules. For the same reason, Labour’s flagship green prosperity fund, a £28bn-a-year investment in green jobs and tech, funded by borrowing, has been delayed, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves saying she will build up to it by the middle of the parliament.

That still leaves Labour with the most eye-catching manifesto on the menu, but it is not shaping up to be the great reforming government we might have wanted.

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Does Sir Keir’s approach meet the scale of the problem? To tackle child poverty? To get the NHS back into shape? To meet our climate change targets and capitalise on the green revolution?

No, it doesn’t. Keir Starmer’s unwillingness to hand the Tories ammunition by backtracking on Brexit is understandable, but unless the harm caused by Brexit is addressed, the economy will continue to drag. Labour’s offer beats careering from crisis to crisis under the Conservatives. It beats believing in a Utopia built on sand. It will help build stronger foundations for public services. But we’d better hope for a more ambitious second term for Labour if we’re going to reverse that gloomy sense of a nation in decline.