Wednesday, 14 April 2010

How To Launch A Manifesto

The three main parties have all now released their manifestos.  And now it's Thursday.  How do you feel?  Empty?  A little bit post-coital?  Yeah, me too.  I don't know how I'm going to get to the weekend, let alone the next General Election.  How can I go a single morning without some shiny-faced would-be demagogue flinging lukewarm intellectual porridge at me?  I mean, obviously there's Thought For The Day, but that seems a mere amuse bouche now that I've tasted the three full, gloopy courses of the feast.

So, look.  I was thinking: we could do it ourselves.  We could each take turns to issue a manifesto - one a day so that we get our full RDA of feeling a bit nonplussed.  Obviously, this is a big step.  The major parties have been working on theirs since, ooh, at least when they took delivery of the beer mats and fag packets that their marketing blokes ordered and they could get their pens out.  If we are to make a go at this, I reckon it might be worthwhile to have a few guidelines so that we don't all accidentally end up writing something else, like a novel, or a recipe.  Seriously, it can happen; the recipe for Banoffee Pie was the first draft of Das Kapital.  True story.

Here, then, is a simple DIY guide to launching a manifesto.

1)  Get some buzzwords.  

There are several ways to go here.  The Tories went for the refrain 'We The People', thus giving away that they basically wish they were doing politics in a different, more glamorous country.  Perhaps you might like to borrow something from another culture yourself.  Maybe "Arbeit Macht Frei", or "Mola Ram, Sula Ram".

The Lib-Dems had a go at being ultra-modern with their references, Nicholas Cleggolas talking about "hard-wiring fairness into society."  Bang up to date.  The date in this case being some time in the 1990s, clearly, but the effort is noted.  Perhaps you could talk about "Floppy Disk Britain" or "SodaStream Society".

Labour tried to give the impression of energy and struggle: "restless and relentless reformers" they said they'd be.  Perhaps you could describe yourself as something similar: "antsy and incessant" or "ADHD with a twist of passive aggression".

2) Get an Image.

The actual, physical manifesto has to look like something, even though it is basically on a one-way trip to the green bin by the gate.  The Tories went for that slightly spare, sombre look you would normally associate with vanity publishing or the slim volumes of poetry that despotic leaders all seem to release.  Labour chose a sort of The-Kremlin-Just-Bought-The-Poster-Painters-A-Couple-More-Colours vibe.  And the Liberal Democrats resigned themselves to going the The-Budget's-All-Gone-But-The-Intern's-Brought-His-Laptop route.  This leaves you with a number of thus far unclaimed options, to whit:

-Something that looks a bit like the X-Factor design.
-Free DVD of Catherine Cookson miniseries on the cover.

3) Choose a launch setting.

Labour surprised us all by holding their launch in a hospital and having Gordon Brown stand in front of footage of a cornfield.  This, presumably, was to marry the notions of success (hospital) and hope (cornfield).  In the event it just looked like the patients were being visited by a theatre therapy group with the worst production of Oklahoma ever.  The Conservatives symbolically held theirs in a famously derelict building that's been unsuccessfully trying to renew itself for a couple of decades and Nicholas Cleggolas stood in front of a blue screen, presumably so that they can chromakey in a picture of whichever party the Lib Dems end up backing later on, once they've decided.

Again, plenty of possibilites go unspoken for:

- Stonehenge/Cerne Abbas/That Big Chalk Horse
- Mrs. Thatcher's Gaping Maw
- Nandos

4)  Think of Some Policies

Now, this sounds hard and it might seem odd that it's last on the list, but in truth it's very easy.  You don't need policies and you certainly don't need detail when it comes to the actual launch. It's best to avoid trying to name specific policies in any event in case you commit to something.  Just look at how the main parties do it - we've still not really got a straight answer from any of them on where they stand on the repeal of the Corn Laws.  Really, what you are trying to convey to 'Them, The People' is the general thrust of your ideas - your basic direction.  And this couldn't be easier because there are only three available:

- Mend Broken Britain.
- Ask Broken Britain to mend itself.
- Get a big stack of yellow pages and a phone and ring round all the Broken Britain menders, asking for quotes.

Oh, and don't forget - crossword in the middle for light relief and TV listings on the back.


  1. Am I alone in detecting a tinge of cynicism in this latest essay?

  2. I'm going to base my manifesto on cakes. With vague promises about filling the economy with jam and forcing the bankers to take all their bonuses in the form of domino cakes.

  3. Slogan: Mi casa, sui casa - ie take my house and good luck cos I can't bloody sell it. Or possibly, my house/your house, doesn't matter if I can flip it to quadruple my income.
    Image: Blonde. Lots of leather. Secretarial spectacles.
    Launch: 1500-2000, The M6 around Birmingham - captive audience desperate for absolutely ANYTHING to entertain them.
    Policies: Ooooh - lots! Just name one, I expect it's in here somewhere... (delves into handbag) ...