No 10 plots ways to jettison 2015 promises

Downing Street cleans up its act. Photo: Politicalpictures
Downing Street cleans up its act. Photo: Politicalpictures.co.uk
Alex Stevenson By

The Conservatives are looking to find ways of cutting back on the number of promises they make to voters before the 2015 general election, it has emerged.

Politicians in Westminster are becoming increasingly wary of the perils of breaking the pledges which charities and other campaign groups persuade them to sign up to in the run-up to elections.

The likelihood of another hung parliament has made it harder for parties to stick to policy promises - as the Liberal Democrats discovered when they decided to abandon their pledge to scrap tuition fees if they got into power.

With another hung parliament likely, it has now been confirmed those at the top of government are trying to find ways to reduce parties' commitments before polling day.


Matthew Taylor, Tony Blair's former chief adviser on political strategy, revealed the current thinking inside Downing Street in a blogpost.

"Earlier this week I was at a dinner with a thoughtful and impressive senior No 10 strategist," he wrote.

"As someone involved in manifesto writing, he asked how his party could escape the long-term and dysfunctional tendency for the number of specific policy pledges made to NGOs and sections of voters to increase at every election (there were apparently over 650 such promises in the last Conservative manifesto).

"This temptation made be even harder to resist in 2015 given that, beyond economic growth, a combination of austerity and a very mixed record on policy means the coalition won't have much in the way of concrete service improvements or outcomes to trumpet."

Taylor's revelation came on the same day that the government pushed ahead with its 'gagging bill' making it harder for charities and the voluntary sector to make its voice heard during election campaigns.

Nick Clegg's now infamous apology over tuition fees has led to his party preparing for a two-tier manifesto in which some pledges will be 'red-line promises' that are non-negotiable.

All other policy commitments will be clearly earmarked as being potentially reversible.

It is not yet clear whether voters have embraced the Lib Dems' version of coalition government.

Recent projections suggest the 12% average vote share seen in recent polls would see their number of seats in the Commons slashed from 57 to just 23.

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