How do we hold politicians to their promises and Manifesto pledges?

The national debt is being used by politicians to justify massive changes of policy which did not appear in the election Manifestos of the main political parties.

The Lib Dems are the biggest casualties, and the public suspects that the Tories are using this opportunity to cut benefits and excesses in the system which could not be done in good times.

Just as a big news story can be a good day for ‘burying bad news’, so economic hardship can be a good time for implementing unpalatible policies.

Although Labour is in opposition, it is not immune from the discussion, for whenever the ConDem alliance blames Labour for the cuts they must implement, the Labour response is to blame the credit crunch caused by the American subprime mortgage defaults.  However, that was simply a tipping point and it was not the cause of all our woes.  Thus the major parties are not being honest in debate, with themselves nor with the public.  Corruption is endemic in the system.

None of the major parties were prepared to say prior to the Election how savage the cuts would be.   They would not say where the cuts would fall, nor if they would raise VAT.  If they did, they would lose votes.

At the General Election every Lib Dem candidate made this promise to students: “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees and to pressure the Government to introduce a fairer alternative.”   This won them a lot of votes, as Labour MP Charles Clarke found out to his cost when he would not make this pledge.  He lost his seat by 310 votes to the Lib Dems and he can feel justifiably aggrieved now that Vince Cable the Lib Dem Business Secretary has jettisoned this pledge.

Yet the problem is not wholly with the politicians, but with the gullible public who believe these weasel promises.  Will students be any wiser next time round?  A new generation of students and politicians will arise and events will move on.

So – what policy should Christians introduce to hold politicians to account?  It would help to recover a Christian conscience in public life, but one cannot legislate for this – besides, law-making does not include the motive to keep the law.

How can the public insist on politicians keeping their promises?  They cannot.  It seems that the sovereignty of parliament has been translated into political parties doing whatsoever they deem in their best interest – disguised as “the national interest” which politicians hope will deceive the gullible public.

Your help wanted – your country needs you

This section of my blog hopes to explore, with your help, what a Christian Manifesto should say on the pressing issues of the day.  It begins with a Manifesto itself.  To what extent can we expect a Party to stick to its own Manifesto when in Government?

The excuse is that an incoming Party of Government does not know what “the books” are like, and so they justify breaking their Manifesto promises.  This is not good enough.   The Christian Party Manifesto said it would increase VAT to 20 per cent while the main parties kept quiet.

Should the Christian Party Manifesto include the promise to introduce legislation along the lines that a Government will not be allowed to legislate contrary to its most recent Manifesto?  Some advantages include:

1. This begins to curb the irresponsible interpretation and extrapolation of the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament.

2. The electorate do not have to wait five years till the next election to hold the Government to account.

3. It will make parties more responsible for what they put in their Manifestos.

4. It will improve the relationship between the electorate and politicians and begin to restore trust in the political system.

What do you think?


13 May 2019: Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party jettisons the concept of a Manifesto.  BBC Question Time discusses ‘the end’ of the Manifesto because parties will not deliver their own Manifesto, especially if a coalition results.  Nigel Farage claims that in the current context ‘Manifesto equals lie’.

2 Jan 2023: slowly, others are catching up but not accurately, because one cannot hold a governing Party to implement its Manifesto, which might not be in the interests of the county, but one can hold them not to legislate contrary to it.

16 Jan 2023: even more people are questioning how to hold political parties to their Manifesto promises.

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