As the party conference season gets underway, party political-thinking turns to the prospect of retaining or winning power at the next general election. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg kicked off in Brighton this week with an impersonation of someone with authority.
Each of the party’s best brains will now begin devising policies that will form the manifestos they hope will attract votes. As such, a pre-election manifesto is like a job applicant’s CV, designed to help the chooser choose from a range of candidates.
Recent history reminds us that party manifestos can be printed using delible ink which can evaporate from the page shortly after power is bestowed, creating a communications minefield. This is a lesson Mr Clegg should have learned over the last two years.
To help avoid repeating the reputational misteps caused by the printer’s poor choice of ink, I propose the next set of party manifestos include a section detailing what the party ‘won’t do’ in power alongside the proposals for what it might. So, in the spirit of helpfulness, I offer the following starting suggestions.
Statute of limitations: Should we be elected to power, the party commits to a maximum period of three months during which the incumbent can be blamed for any historical issues. After the three-month period has expired, the party (whether solo or in coalition) accepts that it is solely accountable for policies, achievements and results.
Point scoring: As a party, we recognise that governing, particularly in difficult times, is a serious business. Therefore, we will refuse to attempt to point score against the other side of the house for no better reason that we think it makes us look clever in front of the TV cameras, especially during Prime Minister’s Questions, or during the BBC’s Question Time.
Decision making: We will only make decisions or enact policies or laws that are in the best interests of the country and its voters. We will ignore, without fear or favour, any party-political interests or the interests of the institutions that underwrote some or all of our election campaign costs.
Hard working families: We will never again use the term ‘hard working families’, either in written materials or in speeches or press interviews. We now accept that it is a patronising and meaningless phrase among voters.
Original thinking: We will not rely on political satire television series – past, present or future – for policy inspiration, recognising that satirists don’t often consider their scripts to contain valid or valuable policy ideas.
Respect: If any MP is deemed by a majority of voters to have crossed the line (say, for example, a Cabinet Minister insults a police officer or confuses the desire of a media magnate with his quasi-judicial responsibilities) voters will be asked over the interweb whether that MP’s time is up (a red card) or if a simple warning (a yellow card) should be issued. If elected democratically, the Prime Minister will not ignore the concerns of voters.
Readers are encouraged to add their own points in the comments section.