Businesses should seize chance to influence election manifestos

Out-Law News | 21 Jan 2021 | 4:46 pm | 1 min. read

Businesses have an opportunity to shape future government policy in Scotland and Wales by preparing detailed proposals for political parties to consider adopting in their manifestos for forthcoming elections, an expert in public policy has said.

Scott Wright of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, was commenting as political parties in Scotland and Wales, alongside candidates for metro mayoral positions in so-called combined authorities in England, develop their manifestos ahead of this spring's elections.

The elections are scheduled for 6 May, but there is some uncertainty as to whether they will go ahead on that date in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. This uncertainty, however, is not preventing political parties engaging in the process of developing and packaging-up policies to promote to the electorate. Wright said there is still time for businesses to influence what policies political parties adopt.

Election manifestos represent a public declaration of each party's policies and aims for their term in office, should they be successful at the ballot box. It is also a tool to measure governing parties' actions against pre-election commitments. While each party will already have clear views on the type of headline policies that they will want to set out on their election stall, the manifesto-writing process is also consultative. Wright said this presents an opportunity for external organisations to influence the contents of the manifestos and indeed the next five years of policy-making. 

"Organisations keen to engage in the manifesto development process should first prepare clearly articulated policy 'asks'," Wright said. "To optimise the potential for inclusion in the manifesto, it is critical that the proposals are simplified, costed and set-out the mechanism required for exacting a change, such as any need to amend existing legislation. Crucially, policy ideas should be communicated in a fashion which outlines a clear public benefit, either locally or nationally."

"In addition to taking policy ideas directly to political parties, organisations will often engage with the media and in their own campaigning, including through the publication of their own manifestos, to socialise and generate support for the issues they are campaigning on. Once these 'asks' are developed, organisations should identify the appropriate individuals within each party responsible for manifesto development before making representations to them and opening a dialogue," he said.