All over the country small groups of people are writing manifestos for the country’s future. Each party has teams of people drafting and testing policies to entice voters next May. Each team is blitzed by lobbyists from all directions, including Democracy Matters, and tested almost daily in news headlines.
Manifestos matter because they set government priorities for the next five years. They provide a reference point for civil servants. And if we have a hung parliament, they are the basis for discussion with other parties.
If you want parties to include specific policies, time is rapidly running out: see Portland’s Road to the manifestos and the party websites (below). If you want to be heard, the more marginal the seat the more politicians on all sides will listen to you: Lord Ashcroft’s Polls provide insight and analysis of public opinion, particularly in the marginals.
Where are the parties going?
Parties want three things from a manifesto:
1. A few eye-catching, heart-warming headline policies and themes to win public support;
2. Core commitments for which parties want a mandate to carry out in government;
3. Special attractions for interest groups sufficiently consistent with the above.
The headlines are aimed above all at swing voters in 194 marginal constituencies with majorities of 10% or less, just 30% of seats, who will decide which party governs next. The headlines are tested with focus groups and policy announcements to find a winning message.
The core commitments are the battle ground within parties, each line argued over in policy groups with think tanks and alliances close to the party.
Special attractions are the sweeteners for interest groups too big to ignore or small but nice to have on side. Each party could go out of its way to woo groups whose influence could make a difference on Election Day – businesses, ethnic minorities, rural voters, Eurosceptics, etc., depending the party.
Campaigners and lobbyists might like their issue as a core commitment but a brief mention may be enough on which to build after the election.
Who’s who and what’s want?
Grayling PR’s Manifesto Infographic is a handy snap shot of who’s who in policy-making. As they put it, “The race is on to present the electorate with innovative, costed, deliverable proposals which boost businesses and growth, protect society’s vulnerable and ease the ‘cost of living’ burden on squeezed household budgets.”
For a detailed summary of key people, issues and analysis of campaign strategies see Portland’s Road to the manifestos.
For the Conservatives see the Policy Forum for briefings and discussion among members, Conservative Home for unfettered debate, or the Free Enterprise Group and 2020 group of MPs for some of the ideas competing to be included in the Conservative Manifesto.
The Labour Party invites people to contribute ideas through Your Britain, its eight Policy Commissions and a National Policy Forum for members. Elected councillors are represented on the LGA Labour Group. The National Executive Committee signs off the manifesto. Left Foot Forward is a lively Labour policy blog.
The Liberal Democrats have a guide to “How we make policy”, but the key people are the Manifesto Working Group. The party also has a variety of groups through which it may sometimes be easier to propose relevant policies. The LibDems also publish a detailed guide on How To Be A Parliamentary Candidate.