Depending on time and resources available, many may opt for a ‘Plan B’ (see bottom) which is really a scaled down version of the approach set out below.
Setting up the manifesto
- Click this link to download an editable copy of the manifesto>>> (go to File>Download as) and circulate widely
- Reach out to other groups such as your local civic society, conservation groups, ramblers groups, residents associations and local businesses
- Get their feedback, edit and amend as appropriate.
- Post online for further comment and feedback allowing each section of the manifesto to stand on a separate post and page with its own comment section.
Engaging party candidates
- When ready, issue a short press release alerting local media to your initiative and then invite party candidates to respond to the manifesto in writing. By using this approach you have a clear public record of their responses that avoids later claims that they have been quoted out of context or that a record of a meeting is erroneous and incomplete. This approach should not replace party hustings or informal meetings which vivify election campaigns but be in addition to face to face contact and public meetings
- Post party candidate responses online with each post or page having its own comment box for people to feed back. Encourage candidates to be involved in this process and respond to additional questions by members of the public
- At the end of a given period, probably within four weeks of the election, issue a summary that brings together the salient points of candidates responses as a helpful reference document for the public. Combine this with a press release to all local papers, TV and radio stations. This needs care. An objective and truthful comparison that focuses on the credibility of candidate answers is the best approach. Focus on policy, not party differences.If a summary document so obviously leans towards one party over another, in effect urging people to vote for a given party, you are likely to alienate a significant section local people and lose credibility for this initiative.
Optionally, step 3 above could be combined with a hustings event with the press release afterwards depending on the time and resources at your disposal
Plan B – as above but on a smaller scale
If you cannot win consensus for a town or area wide local manifesto, then make it your own and be clear that it represents a specific group or society, e.g. Lewes Civic Society Manifesto. Whatever you do, make your approach a very public conversation with use of a website or blog as a record of what is said and done.
Two or more local residents association could combine to set out a common agenda to do with unused brownfield sites for proposed property development. A local church might work with their Churches Together network to raise issues to do with inequality, food banks and the Living Wage. A local conservation group might work with its wildlife trust to set out a series of issues and questions to do with damage to local ecosystems, global warming and a proposed new transport highway.
In every case the aim is to link local issues to national ones in order to avoid a response by candidates that ‘the question posed is really a matter for your local authority to anwer, not your MP’ This neat evasion ignores the fact that local authorities are constrained by the policy and legislative framework which MP’s debate and vote on. So do not accept that as an answer.
As other local groups and movements may wish to develop their own manifesto, it is still worth gaining their agreement in creating an independent Manifesto Website that allows different groups to post up their own set of concerns along with records of meeting with party candidates and the commitments those candidates made. The website then stands as a useful public record of commitments made by their candidate (now MP) and can be used to call them to account should their later actions and voting record fall far short of the promises made at election time.
- Set up a hashtag campaign using the name of your town, neighbourhood or constituency and append GE2015.
- Encourage people to use this to append questions and conversations relating to the election across Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram etc.
- Party candidates can of course use this to conduct live chats on twitter and it can also be combined with hustings
- Embed any key conversations, commitments and announcements made by parliamentary candidates in your Manifesto blog