Despite assurances as recently as the 20th March that there wouldn’t be a snap election, on the 18th April Theresa May announced that polling day would be 8th June, a huge U-turn. The question on everyone’s lips since the announcement, hasn’t been ‘will our next Government be Labour or Conservative?’ It’s been ‘so, how much will Theresa win by?’ A question which has sparked a wave of rhetoric around tactical voting. Could this new wave throw off the polls again? We’ll have to wait and see!
Whilst we wait we're also seeing the rapid scramble to be ready with new policies. Securing support in a manifesto for a policy ask is a big step towards changes you want to see. But with manifesto launches expected on 8th (Con), 15th (Lab), 18th (Lib Dems) May, with the SNP tbc, can you realistically still influence them?
Of course, manifesto pledges are a long shot towards influencing policy, but here’s our breakdown of how you might still squeeze in there, plus a handy forward planning tip for the new Parliament!
With a historically top down fashion of policy adoption, The Conservatives have the least accessible manifesto process, they also boasted a lead last week of 45:29 in the polls, and as a result can get away with making the fewest left field pledges. However, last Monday, Conservative Home – the leading Conservative blog – circulated it’s General Election survey. Although by no means a promise of influence, this temperature check is likely to be acknowledged. See what the Conservative Home responses looked like here!
The nature of the surprise announcement suggests that only a few key individuals knew what was coming. With this in mind, Number 10’s Policy Unit: John Godfrey, George Freeman and Ben Gummer are likely to have been piecing together The Conservative Party manifesto with a bit of a head start. However, before publication (estimated May 8th) it will receive input from Ministers, the 1922 Committee and the Conservative Policy Forum (which is designed to engage with backbenchers).
The successful hush-hush surrounding the announcement of the general election means that it will have been as much of a surprise for these contributors as it was for the rest of us. And so, the melee that ensues between these groups for a say in the party positioning is likely to be the softest point of influence for outsiders. Should you have an insider who leads one of these bodies, and is willing to fly your flag, you may get recognition, but time is short and even these groups have factions of their own that must be mitigated. Competing with the noise will not be easy, this manifesto process is the least open and collaborative of the major parties.
Officially (and brace yourselves for an extensive list), Labour party rules state that “When not in Government the NEC, the Shadow Cabinet, the Parliamentary Committee of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), Leaders of the Scottish and Welsh Parties, the Chair and three vice Chairs of the NPF and eight Trade Union members of the TULO Group shall decide which items from the party programme will be included in the manifesto that shall be issued by the NEC”. Ultimately the manifesto is decided by the NEC - which has not been Jeremy Corbyn’s friend in the past.
The NEC's manifesto meeting isn’t scheduled until 11th of May, by which point Labour could have an entire Manifesto de Corbyn. Though this could be bad news for Labour infighting over the next week or so, it does increase your chances of featuring in the Labour manifesto. Should you have worked with a member of the NEC before, the next 9 days is the time to engage with them.
Don’t know someone on the NEC? Don’t panic, Labour’s Policy Forum has provided an email address for policy suggestions: email@example.com, even though the manifesto consultation has closed this email is being manned.
Rumour has it that the Lib Dem manifesto is 95% done. The Lib Dems have been planning for an early election, evidenced in the majority of their candidates already being selected before the announcement, so this 90% rumour rings true.
But is there any point trying to get your policies into the Lib Dem manifesto? Well arguably, yes. There are hints of a revival and they’ll be on the lookout for eye catching policies that offer them a media platform. Good policies that belong to parties who present a threat can be adopted by larger parties, this is exactly what happened when Gordon Brown adopted the Lib Dems policy for the independence of the Bank of England. A more recent example is the energy price cap plan that was the baby of Red Ed and is now being adopted by Prime Minister May. There are many tories sitting in remain voting constituencies now looking over their shoulders at Lib Dem opponents, which makes the policy debate worth having. And, even without adoption from larger parties, the Lib Dems will have some MPs to be sitting on committees and to influence the business of the House.
So how can you squeeze into that spare 5% they have left?
Unless you have been in talks with the Lib Dems in the past on your policy issues, then it may not be that easy. The Party’s policy positions are largely governed through democratic votes which take place at each conference, so although not impossible, it would have to be a policy that the Lib Dems were certain would get the support of the majority of their members.
If your policy is undeniably liberal in principle, you might stand a better chance; but don’t forget it also needs to be under threat from a hard Brexit. Contact the Liberal Democrat policy team, use subject heading ‘Policy’ and send to firstname.lastname@example.org this will go straight through to the Policy Team in HQ.
The SNP has enjoyed a powerful position throughout the last 2 years of Parliament due to the slim majority the Conservatives held. For the first time, the third largest party has been one with Scottish interests at heart. However, there seems to be an air of the unorganised about the SNP. There are no hints of when their manifesto will be published and the SNP contact numbers online don’t seem to work (although it could because I’m calling on a Saturday). Even the progressive page on the SNP website called ‘submit your policy idea’ can no longer be found.
It may be hard for the SNP to exceed their performance in the last election, it’s been suggested they will lose some of their marginal seats. With 7 of these seats expected to go to the Tories, the SNP would have to play a hard game in their manifesto to prevent this. But, even losing a few seats leaves the SNP holding the majority of Scotland, and we have seen them flex their muscles on issues that aren’t solely Scottish before (fox hunting bill), so getting SNP support for your policy would be a way of ensuring it receives attention in the next Government.
However, how kindly a Conservative Government will take to policy suggestions of the SNP’s is another story. The relationship between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon is somewhat icy post the request for indyref2 and handing the SNP an easy win through Conservative adoption an SNP policy, is very unlikely.
Nicola Sturgeon’s continual ask of ‘the Prime Minister to go to the polls for a mandate for her Government’ being frequently denied, appears to have thrown the SNP off the general election scent. Perhaps the SNP fell victim to their own warnings and believed a Westminster MP, or maybe they are just playing their cards close to their chest. Either way, if you’ve worked with an SNP MP before, now would be the time to get back in touch.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Manifestos are not the be all and end all of policy influence. Post-election MPs new and old receive a mountain of correspondence congratulating them and asking for their support. Get their attention ahead of the crowd by writing to them as candidates on issues that you know are of interest.
If you want help identifying future policy advocates for your issues, get in touch.