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Manifestos: a short reading list

By Philip Cowley

This week is party manifesto launch week for the parties, starting with Labour today. For those interested, there are three useful articles in Parliamentary Affairs on manifestos:

  1. What the UK General Elections of 2005/10 Tell Us about the Demand for Manifestos (and the Other Way Round) (in the most recent issue, and free to download).
  2. The politics of manifestos (from 1981, by Dennis Kavanagh, and still very useful on the point of manifestos).
  3. A Question of Trust: Implementing Party Manifestos (Judith Bara, on whether they get implemented or not).

For all that you hear about politicians making easy promises in their manifestos but never then delivering, the evidence is that most pledges in fact get carried out, if the party has a majority to do so.

And there’s the rub. This time, almost no one expects any party to have a majority. This fundamentally changes a key part of the manifesto: it ceases to be something akin to a contract with the voter and becomes more of a list of aspirations or their opening bid in any negotiations. So expect everyone to be asked – repeatedly – to distinguish between their red lines (the things they won’t give ground on) and their wouldn’t-it-be-luverlies (the things they’d like to do, but alas…).

But as the Liberal Democrats have discovered, it can be damaging to promise one thing, and then not to deliver it.

Last night’s the Westminster Hour, featuring me, had a discussion on this, amongst other things.

Philip Cowley is a Professor of Parliamentary government at the University of Nottingham and is the co-editor of the book ‘Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box‘. 

Published inBritish PoliticsGeneral Election 2015Politics

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