Election 2015: 5 things every charity should know about influencing the manifestos

The who

The top teams that will draft the manifestos are already in place. Much of the thinking has already begun though won’t be set in stone until shortly before the election.

  • The appointment of Jo Johnson MP as the Head of the PM’s Policy Unit earlier this year marked the point at which the unit became an election-focused vehicle to help David Cameron win votes in 2015. He will certainly play a big role in drafting the manifestos and will be supported by former Policy Exchange Director Neil O’Brien as the Osborne’s election adviser and No 10 election strategist Lynton Crosby. Despite some speculation to the contrary it’s likely Oliver Letwin will also play a key role.
  • Jon Cruddas MP is leading the policy review process that will form the basis of much of the Labour manifesto. He is supported by the IPPR through their Condition of Britain programme. Ex Brown adviser and IPPR Director Nick Pearce will be a figure to watch, as will another Brown staffer Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Resolution Foundation.
  • David Laws MP heads up the Liberal Democrat’ working group on the manifesto, backed by other key members at each level of the party.

The how

The manifestos may seem like a dark and mysterious process – but they’re not. Talk to people, request meetings, share information where you can and most importantly, listen to what the key people are saying. This will enable you to see where the respective parties are headed and give you some clues on where you and your organisation may fit in. Be prepared to adapt and work with a particular party on the details – it’s unlikely that they will buy your exact policy solution ‘off the shelf’ but may look to develop their own version and flexibility (within reason) will help smooth the way.

In addition NCVO will be engaging with all the major parties (and some smaller ones) on a range of issues affecting the sector, if you can please consider taking part in the 2015 project – a large scale consultation looking at our priorities for the next election.

The why

In an era of messy elections – there are two types of manifesto commitments – the ‘must haves’ and the ‘nice to haves’. Campaigners looking to influence policy after the next election will want to consider whether it’s something politicians will spend time on hashing out around the negotiating table.  More than ever before, time spent building a cross party consensus will be worth the effort.

The when

As we’ve discussed previously, not all days are equal when it comes to influencing the next election and crucially, the next government’s programme. But the sooner you get on this horse, the easier ride it will be.

The where

While it’s tempting to keep all your powder dry for the party conferences, either this year or next, in the hope of that big campaign splash. Remember how many organisations will be doing the same – so take advantage of the quieter times in the parliamentary year – think about working the local connections through the constituency link or ask them if they want to get out for some visits during recess or non-sitting Fridays.

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Chloe Stables, External Relations Manager, reflects on the latest political developments affecting the voluntary and community sector.

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