The political manifesto

Promises or hype, how can we tell?

It does what it saysIt does what it says.

The Ronseal company has always been proud of its advertising slogan 'it does what it says on the tin'. However, this sort of integrity does not extend to politics. It takes a great deal of effort to research, create and then promote a coherent manifesto.

But if it no longer has any value would it be such a bad thing to get rid of it? Perhaps it would be sensible and not a sign of politics dumbing down. For if the political parties are no longer bothered about the manifesto then this brings direct democracy a step closer.

Because small local groups could form with a view to taking power and would be spared a great deal of effort. In other words a political party is no longer something so special because of its huge resources.

So why bother with a manifesto at all? Tradition has it that a political party seeks credibility by
making a promise and then carrying it out. This brings trust, support and loyalty and so the party grows. The manifesto today is an altogether different thing. Not least because credibility is deemed old fashioned.

Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats made promises about student tuition fees that could not be kept. The promise of power in the coalition proved too much for the LibDems to resist, this was their undoing.

In other words their manifesto was hype and had it been advertising copy would have got them into even more trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority! Now we see the cunning of slippery Tony Blair with his 'aspirations' approach. Unlike a manifesto aspirations are wishy-washy and this is so much easier to slip away from when things go wrong.

Or there is the path taken by the Conservatives. They have in a move of almost worthy of North Korea simply deleted from their website all record of their manifesto prior to 2010.

Much laughter followed the performance of Nigel Farage as a result of his poor grasp of the UKIP manifesto. But then this was the Andrew Neil show and so a lot of things stood a chance of being poor. This has to be the problem with 'Daily Politics'. It's a knock-about thing that to avoid being monotonous, or so they hope, has been given that magic ingredient, BBC humour. Neil never stops grinning and it's laughs all the way. However, the Farage episode did prove once again that conventional politics does not really inspire. It might be good for a laugh, perhaps even good television, but that's all.

And it happened again with the Chuka Umunna interview. He was called upon to represent his party and explain its approach to taxing the wealthy. This poor man is so lightweight it's a wonder he does not blow away in the breeze. Luckily he has no concept of embarrassment and so showed up himself and his party. But could you expect anyone other than a 'politician' to put up with this? So ordinary people opt out from the political process, but then that suits both the political parties and the TV.

Of course we need reporters to review politics in a rigorous manner but what we don't need is a circus and that's what we have got with the Daily Politics show.