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General election: What makes a good manifesto?

An expert panel explored the role played by manifestos during – and after – a general election campaign.

Panellists on stage at the Institute for Government

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With the general election less than a year away, the Conservatives, Labour and all other political parties are drawing up their manifestos. Scrutinised by the media and voters, manifestos can shape debate, shift the polls, and play a major part in an election campaign – and shape what the winning part does in government.

While manifestos are described as a contract between a party and the people, the reality in government is often quite different. Pledges may prove difficult to deliver in practice, with unforeseen crises and the day-to-day challenges of governing seeing commitments fall by the wayside. In a coalition or minority government, parties may have to compromise.

So how do the parties develop and write their manifestos? What does a good manifesto actually look like? What are the questions that Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer will be considering when signing off on their manifestos? And just how important are manifestos during – and after – a general election campaign?

Joining us to discuss these questions and more were:

  • Andrew Fisher, former Executive Director of Policy for the Labour Party, and author of the 2017 and 2019 Labour manifestos  
  • Robert Shrimsley, Chief UK Political Commentator and Executive Editor at the Financial Times
  • Rachel Wolf, Founding Partner at Public First, and co-author of the 2019 Conservative manifesto

The event was chaired by Dr Catherine Haddon, Programme Director at the Institute for Government.

Follow us on X (formerly known as Twitter) @ifgevents and join the conversation using #IfGgeneralelection.

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