Would Libdems be better off with a ‘two-tier manifesto’?

The Liberal Democrats might present a ‘Two-Tier Manifesto’ to the voters (although they would never use such a crass term). First, they will present a more general statements of principles and ‘red line’ policies, which they would expect to be a part of any coalition deal.

All this chat about how the Libdems have broken their manifesto promises leaves me a little cold. Or rather, in the modern parlance, “a bit meh”.

I think my failure to become outraged or agitated stems from a sense that the Liberal Democrats have fallen into a semantic trap. ‘Manifesto commitments’ are things that you promise to enact when you have Power to do so in Government.

But the situation that the Lib Dems find themselves in does not seem to fulfill the sufficient and neccessary conditions to merit such a desription!

A “U-turn” doesn’t really capture the essence of what has happened – It implies an agency and a mens rea that, by virtue of their Junior status, the Liberal Democrats simply do not possess.

This conundrum will have consequences for future elections. Now we have become used to the idea of coalitions (a prospect more likely if an AV or PR voting system is introduced), the way that political parties put their manifestos to the electorate could change.

The Liberal Democrats might present a ‘Two-Tier Manifesto’ to the voters (although they would never use such a crass term). First, they will present a more general statements of principles and ‘red line’ policies, which they would expect to be a part of any coalition deal.

Then they could present more detailed manifesto commitments, which they understand they may have to ditch if they were the minority partner in the Cabinet. The Greens, the Nationalist Parties and the Unionists might choose to do the same.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives and Labour could publish their own red-lines and general principles, signalling what is up for grabs in coalition negotiations and what would be out-of-bounds.

Such a convention would be a nightmare for those drafting the manifestos, and would lead to much factionalism within the parties around election time… but at least the voters would have a much better sense of what would happen in various coalition scenarios.

x-posted at LibCon.

5 thoughts on “Would Libdems be better off with a ‘two-tier manifesto’?”

  1. Not going to engage on the LibCon thread, the usual ad hominem bullshit from people like Sally already puts me off, but Duncan and a few others have made the point.

    Brilliant idea. Not exactly original, a nice reread of the 2010 manifesto will make it clear that’s exactly what Danny and team actually did.

    It wasn’t presented as that on the grounds that coalition was a completely new idea, but now it’s not, the next one will probably be a little more explicit–it was clear to me way before the election that that’s what it was.

  2. Thanks Matt, for the comments and the broken link advice.

    The outrage all seems a bit faux to me. We all know what is going on and what is possible and what is Realpolitik. To pretend otherwise is not helpful and (for Labour) not a way to win votes IMHO.

  3. Well I think this post is a bit faux.

    It is a U-turn if they’re supporting or ditching policies contrary to their manifesto. They have no mandate from the electorate to do so. Whether they have enough voting power to enact the things they would were they in full power is another question, but being Junior in a coalition is no excuse for abandoning everything you told the electorate you stood for in order to win their votes. Now in government, they still have to vote according to their manifesto, whether it makes a blind bit of difference or not. Otherwise, everyone who voted for them has been shafted, haven’t they?

    The question of helping the Labour party, IMHO really beggars belief. We’ve seen very clearly what the Labour party stand for – why any left-wing or right-minded person would want to help those vicious swindling war-mongers back into power I really cannot imagine. It’s just as heinous, frankly, as people voting Conservative even after witnessing the devastation that Thatcher wreaked on the country. To take a kinder view, I can only guess that this type of dogged perseverance even in the face of gross abuses stems from a sense of learned helplessness, a willful and unforgivable blindness, and a lack of imagination to think outside the reductionist status quo of the left-right dichotomy. What kind of person would vote for an abusive dishonest, incompetent and authoritarian party like Labour have shown themselves to be? Only an idiot or a masochist, surely…

    Just saying.

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