We know there is going to be a General Election in the next nine months, we just don’t know when. It certainly won’t be 2 May. Did Jeremy Hunt hint at October? Or would the Prime Minister prefer mid-November? Whatever happens, it must be before 28 January 2025.

With the Election moving ever closer, there is speculation over what might be in the parties’ manifestos. Their degree of preparedness varies widely:

· The Conservatives’ manifesto usually emerges close to the election campaign itself through a “behind closed doors” process. Not surprisingly, the published policies on the party website focus on the current government.

· The process for drawing up the Labour Party manifesto is laid down in the party rulebook, based on National Policy Forum position papers approved by its Conference. Apparently, the manifesto policies were locked down in February in readiness for an early Election.

· The Liberal Democrats have published a pre-manifesto paper, which will be approved by conference.

· The Green Party manifesto will reflect its political programme set out on its website.

· The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru both have detailed policy positions drawn from their 2021 national election manifestos.

· Reform UK has published “Our contract with you” as a working draft for comments, challenges and queries, which they will finalise later in the year.

Many trade associations will be thinking about producing a manifesto in some form for the Election. Some are already well ahead of the game, and it’s worth looking at these to highlight best practice and illustrate what to think about if you are considering putting together a manifesto for your own association.

What is your objective?

Even if your intention is simply to re-package your existing policy positions, don’t neglect the opportunity to set out your positive vision for your sector. This should link to your association’s overall strategy. While the focus may be on the Election, take the opportunity to think beyond it to set out your agenda for the whole Parliament. The British Retail Consortium’s manifesto Accelerating Investment in the Everywhere Economy does just this, breaking each policy area down into three elements:

· Context and background, with some key facts and statistics

· Policy Briefing – Where are we now? Where do we want to get to?

· How do we get there?

It also includes a brilliant infographic as a clear, succinct summary of the main policy proposals. Elsewhere, the pledge-card style five-point summary is well-established and widely used. Logistics UK takes it one step further, adding an action plan for the first 100 days of a new government.

Stronger with evidence and data

Take the chance to highlight the wider impact of what you are proposing to the economy and community as much as the benefits to your sector. If you can, include an estimate of whether your

policies would be fiscally neutral for the new government, or even revenue-positive. If your proposals are going to cost the Government money, show how much and how the policy benefits achieved will outweigh the cost. Women’s Aid’s manifesto A Whole System Response to Domestic Abuse cites extensive research, much of it produced by its in-house team or working with external partners, to back up the case for its policy proposals. The Agricultural Industries Confederation manifesto includes a call for “a comprehensive, cohesive UK Government approach to food security and land use”, with a QR code linking to an independent report, “Powering Productivity for Sustainable Food Security” by Dr Marcus Bellett-Travers of Anglia Ruskin University

Reflect the political context

Where possible, you should try to reflect the language of the current debate. It can be difficult to judge what that might be at this stage, but it is important to have an eye to it. However, as the terms of the debate become clearer, certain phrases will be seen as targeted to one party or another, and so risk a reaction from opponents.

Think about how to use it

The manifesto should become the basis of your engagement with political parties over the next year and beyond, so it is worth giving some thought as to how best to use and communicate it. It makes sense to think about multiple formats, adapting to the range of channels now available. You should make sure that at least one of these is a format which is easy for members to use when they engage with local candidates. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s manifesto includes a pledge form to encourage members to ask candidates to sign and post online to show support.

Remember the things others don’t think about

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when setting out your own best case. Nevertheless, it is worth bearing in mind what others will be calling for in relation to the issues you are raising. You probably know who your allies are and how you might be able to strengthen your call by aligning with them. Do you know the counter-arguments to what you want? How do you address them? Can you explain why your policy positions are preferable? A government that adopts your policies will expect you to be able to support them against any opposition, so you should ensure you are prepared.

Richard Lambert

Senior consultant

Pragmatix Advisory Limited

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