Every party has a launch of their campaign. And just as night follows day, there is another important date in the political calender the launch of the manifesto. All the parties prepare a manifesto and spend a great deal of cash publishing it. But very few read them.
Journalists, the politicians themselves and a few political anoraks – they are the only ones to take an interest. Why then do we need them?
Just like the creed represents a religious faith, the manifesto of a political party is a public declaration of intention and principle.
From the manifesto we discover what laws to expect if the party under consideration wins power. There is a special status in a party’s intention to legislate on a manifesto commitment. And should a party not live up to their manifesto commitment it is regarded as a real sin. Some might go as far as to call it treachery. So it is not an insignificant act to publish a manifesto and the public declaration that it entails of the party’s intentions. It has to be taken seriously.
As the opinion polls are still pointing to a hung parliament, in such a situation the manifesto becomes all important. Why? It is on the contents of these that the parties will discuss the programme of a coalition government. Or come to an understanding with an other party to maintain it in government.
Certainly the whole campaign of Plaid Cymru is based on the premise that there will be an uncertain result. As the party hasn’t a hope of ever forming a government even if there was a political miracle and they won all forty Welsh seats and there is no sign of any such miracle. The talk of a hung parliament is music to their ears.
They now campaign with confidence. The opinion polls answer that question that a vote for them is a wasted one. They can push the argument that they will have influence, and it’s not impossible for them to have their way with some of the policies in manifesto. And that is the hope of all small parties, influence and being taken seriously.
This is also the case with the Liberal Democrats in the British context. They have been squeezed in successive elections between the two larger parties. A lack of credibility. Not taken seriously as a party that could gain power and govern.
That is why the television debates was such tonic to Nick Clegg and his party. He was on the same stage as the big beasts. 9.4 million viewers watched Nick Clegg in the first debate a holding his own with the Brown and Cameron. And it was he in the eyes of the viewers that won the contest. Consequently his party so this reflected in the polls and are now taken seriously.
It is likely now that Cameron is regretting having challenged the Prime Minister to a television debate. Because he has given a stage to a party that is likely to damage his as much or even more perhaps than Labour. I t was perhaps not an accident that Gordon Brown was looking for Clegg’s backing in the first debate. And we see enough in the two parties manifesto’s that they agree on that should the case arise that they can cooperate on in government.
Yes, it will be interesting to look at the manifesto’s of the parties after 6 May.