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Thu, 18 July 2024

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By Ben Guerin
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Manifestos Give Candidates "Answers To Lots Of Questions" On The Doorstep

Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party's manifesto launch at Silverstone on Tuesday (Alamy)

3 min read

The launch of party manifestos should give candidates “answers to lots of questions” they are hearing repeatedly on the doorstep and in their email inboxes, according to one of the authors of the Conservatives’ 2019 campaigning document.

Rachel Wolf, a former policy adviser who co-authored the Tory party's last election winning manifesto, told PoliticsHome that while “not all manifestos are created equal” there are a number of directions candidates can take from them on the campaign trail as they try to win over voters. 

“They give you answers to lots of questions that constituents are emailing you about, asking you about, worried about,” Wolf said.

“They provide you with a set of things that you're able to say to people on the doorstep that a week earlier you weren't able to say. That's somewhat useful.” 

Political parties have been launching their manifestos this week ahead of the General Election on 4 July. The Liberal Democrats went first on Monday, before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak followed with the Conservatives’ plans on Tuesday. 

Keir Starmer will set out Labour’s plans on Thursday, while the Green Party unveiled its own on Wednesday. 

The release of the manifestos, “if successful”, ought to also give candidates “a core story for the campaign”, said Wolf. That story “should have already been fairly obvious before the manifesto was dropped,” she said, “but they give more substance to that story”. 

Parties will also be aware of the different demographic make-ups, and likely different priorities in every seat. 

Polling suggests that policy priorities can vary widely across different groups of the population. 

According to data from YouGov from earlier this week, 58 per cent of 18-24 year-olds believe the economy is one of the most important issues facing the country at the moment, while 18 per cent gave immigration and asylum the same label. 

However, among people aged 65 and over, 58 per cent thought that immigration and asylum was one of the country’s most pressing issues, compared to 43 per cent who said the same about the economy. 

Manifestos, Wolf said, can help campaigning across these sort of gaps. 

The documents “ought to give you specific policies that are important in your context,” she explained. 

“Seats differ, they have different demographics, different issues, different kind of things that come up on the doorstep, and manifestos provide ways for you to campaign on those issues.” 

Wolf, a founding partner at Public First policy consultancy, believes the impact manifestos have can “vary” from campaign to campaign, but “sometimes they matter enormously, as anyone who was campaigning in 2017 will remember”. 

Theresa May’s election manifesto in that year contained plans for social care that became known as the “Dementia Tax”, and would have altered how much people paid for their social care.

May ended up watering down the plans and promising a cap on the amount people would have pay, but the announcement went down very badly on the doorstep and were cited as one of the reasons for the party’s falling poll numbers.

The Conservative party went into that general election on course for a comfortable House of Commons majority. However, the Tories ended up the biggest party in a hung parliament in what was a humiliating result for the then-prime minister.

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