How Not To Writte… A Political Manifesto

As you may have noticed from the wall-to-wall TV debates, never-ending media coverage and eager canvassing in the high street, there’s a general election taking place in the UK on 8 June. We’ve heard a lot of election promises, a lot of denouncing of other parties and their MPs and (on the whole) an awful lot of hot air from many of the candidates.

But if your party is going to convince the electorate to vote for you, you’re gonna need to get your promises, pledges and predictions down into a proper document and not just the back of a fag packet. That means rolling up your writing sleeves, finding the best biro in Westminster and writing a manifesto that sets out your vision for the future of the country, and makes your underlying political ideology clear to us, the already voting fatigued masses.

So, how do you get that manifesto on point? Here’s the dos and don’ts…

Do:

  • Bag the best biro in Westminster. This will be difficult with all the stationery budget cuts and Peggy’s tight grip on the hidden chamber of pens, but you can do it.
  • Set out the key foundations of your political beliefs. This is your soapbox (or eco-friendly cleaning product recyclable platform of choice) for explaining the core values and beliefs of your party, so make it concise, simple and to the point. It’s a chance to get your target voters on board and singing your praises from the rafters (and Wetherspoons), so make sure you grab the opportunity with both hands!
  • Put your big ideas right at the start of the manifesto. No-one, apart from political journalists, will read every word of it, so make sure you capture people’s attention as quickly as possible.
  • Use plain English and explain your ideas clearly. You’re not writing this for the Westminster clique, or the supporters in your own party: you’re writing this for the person in the street. So keep the language clear and unflowery and make sure that ‘Doris, 87, Burnley’ and ‘Sunny, 18, Uttoxeter’ have as much and idea about your policy on education as Tarquin and Tabitha, your research assistants.

Don’t:

  • Fill your manifesto full of lies and half-truths. The electorate are not quite as dozy and complacent as you’d like to think. If you’re going to make a claim or quote a statistic it needs to have the source quoted and it needs to stand up to some scrutiny. That goes for radio interviews and sides of buses alike.
  • Spend more time on the branding of the party and the press marketing than on the ideas contained in the manifesto. Yes, it’s important that the document looks engaging and makes the average punter want to read it, but if the pledges inside are a pile of undiluted hogwash then you’re rather wasting your time.
  • Try to write a sequel to War & Peace. Detail is good, a breakdown of the finances and funding is excellent, but don’t make it so long that people are loath to even pick it up. In the digital age, attention spans are short, so keep it readable and to the point.
  • Don’t include a photo of your illustrious leader kissing a baby/shaking hands with a construction worker/eating a bacon sandwich. They never pan out well and most of us seasoned voters can sniff out these PR photo opportunity before you can say ‘Jacob Rhys-Mogg in a hard hat’.
  • Slag off your opponents. It makes you look cheap and bitchy. Concentrate on your values and your plans – let the others dig their own holes with their hot air and diversionary tactics.
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