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Discussion: Should a winning political parties Manifesto be legally binding

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bussnapperwm

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We all know that at the moment, political manifestos are bigger works of fiction than a JK Rowling novel, politicians promising the earth during campaign season, and delivering peanuts when push comes to shove.

Do You think it's about time that the party (or coalition) that gets a majority should be legally obliged to fulfil all of their manifesto promises after an election should they get in government.

As has been seen by the latest government, the Tories put the following key highlights in their 2017 manifesto:
  • Real terms increases in NHS spending reaching £8bn extra per year by 2022/23
  • Scrapping the triple-lock on the state pension after 2020, replacing it with a "double lock", rising with earnings or inflation
  • Means test winter fuel payments, taking away £300 from wealthier pensioners
  • Raising cost of care threshold from £23,000 to £100,000 - but include value of home in calculation of assets for home care as well as residential care
  • Scrap free school lunches for infants in England, but offer free breakfasts across the primary years
  • Pump an extra £4bn into schools by 2022
  • Net migration cut to below 100,000
  • Increase the amount levied on firms employing non-EU migrant workers
Now as I'm sure we can agree, not all this has been done, and had it been done it would have caused hardship to many people in this country, but would they have done it if a winning party manifesto had been made legally binding?

On the other had a legal case from 2008 shows why none of the parties have any legal obligation to fulfil these pledges – and why judges will never force them to do so.

Helpfully highlighted by legal blogger Jack of Kent, the case of R (Wheeler) v Office of the Prime Minister will cast those manifesto bungs in a slightly different light.

Way back in 2004, Tony Blair had promised Parliament a referendum on whether Britain should ratify the new EU constitution.

That document died after “no” votes in France and the Netherlands, and by the time it reached Britain in late 2007, it had transmogrified into the Lisbon Treaty.

This time, both Blair and Gordon Brown made clear there would be no referendum – so a member of the public decided to sue the government for the breach of a promise.

There have been petitions made to the government about this, however they were closed as failing to get enough signatures.

But the question is, who would enforce these "promises" happening, as the courts and politics don't add up well, as seen in the Prorogation scandal earlier this year.

So do you think party manifesto promises should be legally binding for the winners, meaning potentially more realistic manifestos, or do you think it should be left well alone

Sources:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/election-2017-39960311
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ge...ans-for-breaking-their-election-promises.html
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/231586
 
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The Ham

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Means test winter fuel payments, taking away £300 from wealthier pensioners

That's fairly easy to do, you just do a similar thing to those who earn too much for child support payments and deal with it through the self assessment process.

I'd suggest that we should go further and auto defer the start of state pensions for anyone who is a higher rate tax payer (they stop paying national insurance, so they would see a benefit to their income anyway), they would then benefit from higher payments once they are no longer paying higher rate tax (effectively the state pension would have to be excluded from determining their income for higher rate tax purposes for the auto deferment).

However on the subject of should things be legally binding, it could be suggested that there could be a requirement to bring a bill before the house of commons which covers the key element of a manifesto during the term of the parliament.

In doing so it would have to get support from MP's to make any further progress. As such there's likely to be ways in which such a bill could be unattractive to vote for. As an example, the bill puts before the house that there should be a cut to free school lunches and provide free breakfasts, however to benefit from the free breakfast the child would have to attend a paid for before school club so that few MP's think it's a good idea. Give them a free vote and it'll get little support. Law upheld, "promise" not delivered, same net result.
 

Busaholic

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Okay, so a political party promises an extra 20,000 police officers within five years, say. What happens if fewer than 20,000 apply for those jobs? Will the government be forced to conscript some people, or agree to huge rises in basic pay? Alternatively, if 25,000 apply but 10,000 are patently unsuitable, will the latter be recruited anyway to meet the manifesto commitment? So what happens when 'the government' is taken to (presumably) the High Court in the first instance for these breaches? Which branch of government will be the defendant? In this case, presumably the Home Office. Now, let's suppose the Supreme Court eventually finds the government/state/political party/whatever guilty, what is the sentence/remedy? It's all an impossibility, no matter how desirable you feel that someone should be held to account for the promises (fantasies/lies) the parties peddle.It's an utterly imperfect situation, but merely a reflection of life itself, I'd aver.
 

Shaw S Hunter

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If the OP is so concerned about elected politicians failing to deliver their promises perhaps they should consider refusing to vote for such politicians in the future and instead vote for someone who has yet to have the chance to blot their copybook. And if more of us did likewise we might have rather different looking parliaments. Sadly too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads.
 

edwin_m

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That's fairly easy to do, you just do a similar thing to those who earn too much for child support payments and deal with it through the self assessment process.

I'd suggest that we should go further and auto defer the start of state pensions for anyone who is a higher rate tax payer (they stop paying national insurance, so they would see a benefit to their income anyway), they would then benefit from higher payments once they are no longer paying higher rate tax (effectively the state pension would have to be excluded from determining their income for higher rate tax purposes for the auto deferment).
By doing that you create a situation where people who get a small pay rise that pushes them into higher rate are actually losing out (at least in the short term). That would have been the result with the original proposal for the child benefit change, when it would just have been cancelled for any couple where either partner was paying higher rate. It was changed to a tapered clawback between £50k and £60k which avoided that particular problem but did make several tens of thousands of people do tax returns for the first time, with attendant hassle for those people and costs for HMRC to process.

On the wider issue I don't think manifesto promises can be legally binding, because there's always the possibility of events throwing things off course so it's no longer sensible to do what was intended. For example if the government had been near the start of its term when the financial system collapsed in 2008 rather than towards the end. This does of course create a loophole for parties to wriggle out of their promises, but I don't see any way round that other than to hold them to account at the next election.

I have a different view for statements made during a campaign that are factually incorrect, when the person making them should reasonably know this at the time. I believe a retraction of equal prominence should be required, and if they refuse the person should be punished, and disbarred if a candidate.
 

JamesT

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An obvious major issue is what happens when you get a coalition government. Whose manifesto is binding? If it’s both then what happens if the two parties have contradictory promises?

The best way to deal with politicians is at the ballot box. What might help is a document being published which details the manifesto promises which were kept and broken before each election to help voters make up their mind. Of course, that does require voters to make their mind up based on evidence, rather than blindly voting for the same coloured rosette every time.
 

richa2002

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If the OP is so concerned about elected politicians failing to deliver their promises perhaps they should consider refusing to vote for such politicians in the future and instead vote for someone who has yet to have the chance to blot their copybook. And if more of us did likewise we might have rather different looking parliaments. Sadly too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads.
Spot on. Won't get fooled again comes to mind but it seems people do over and over and over again.
 

FelixtheCat

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It’s your own fault if you believe a politician.
Then how should people vote, if not on what political parties say they will do?


This roll-over view that "all politicians lie, so hey ho" is just as problematic (if not more so), because it means that politicians will continue to get away with spewing the most outrageous nonsense knowing that nothing will happen to them. When we have journalists/columnists (which are supposed to keep checks on politicians telling lies) saying the Prime Minister of this country is lying to the electorate and that it is a good thing, it's even more problematic. And that is the natural continuation of your comment.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-7409005/RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN-Melting-Pot-2019.html
Richard Littlejohn said:
Haven’t stopped laughing since Boris bowled the Remoaners a short one which would have done Jofra Archer proud.

Get that in the lower abdomen for a start, mate.

Goodness knows how he’s managed to keep a straight face, pretending that proroguing Parliament is all about preparing for the Queen’s Speech.

And nothing to do with making sure Brexit actually happens on October 31 — cross my heart, hope to die, stand on me, guv, my word is my bond.

In the words of the McDonald’s advert: I’m lovin’ it! What an unbridled joy it is to see someone at last sticking it where it hurts to self-righteous Remoaners.

It’s the kind of decisive gesture which Tungsten-tipped Brexiteers like me have been hoping for ever since 17.4 million of us voted Leave more than three years ago.

Watch and listen to them squealing like stuck pigs.

This is the same anti-democratic rabble who earlier in the week were planning to set up their own ‘People’s Parliament’ specifically to thwart the will of the people.

In the words of the McDonald’s advert: I’m lovin’ it! What an unbridled joy it is to see someone at last sticking it where it hurts to self-righteous Remoaners.
 

Bantamzen

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Should a political party's manifesto be legally binding? Quite simply no. Should political parties be more realistic with their manifesto? Absolutely yes!

Of course the second statement there is a little bit in la-la land, but at the end of the day it is up to the voting public to scrutinise each political party, particularly those that have been in power & when parties fail to live up to their pledges, vote them out, even if it means voting against the party people would normally be inclined to support. And whilst this might risk being even more rooted in la-la land, it is how we should deal with politics instead of having a favourite and sticking by them no matter how badly off the reservation they go.
 

AlterEgo

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Then how should people vote, if not on what political parties say they will do?

On how they have acted in the past and in the present. Don't believe politicians; representative democracy with full-time representatives is a flawed system and most of them will over-promise to win your vote. Disregard promises and work out for yourself where parties' stances really lie and what can realistically be delivered.
 

FelixtheCat

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On how they have acted in the past and in the present. Don't believe politicians; representative democracy with full-time representatives is a flawed system and most of them will over-promise to win your vote. Disregard promises and work out for yourself where parties' stances really lie and what can realistically be delivered.
I agree that the system is flawed. I agree that most parties over-promise to win votes.

But...
1: What happens when the party is new?
2: What happens when the person is new?

On a second point, more to do with the philosophical side:
Surely methods to ensure that politicians stick to their promises, or are royally screwed if they don't should exist. That was a thing in 2015 (Liberal Democrats), but seems to have died since then because the political situation has become so polarised. One way to try to end said polarisation is to at least get everyone to read off the same list of facts, and to not tell outrights lies (and to call it out when it happens). The type of journalism I cited previously didn't really exist in this country...
 

Bletchleyite

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So do you think party manifesto promises should be legally binding for the winners, meaning potentially more realistic manifestos, or do you think it should be left well alone

It's a nice idea, but not overly practical as things change all the time which can require changes to policies. I would imagine the closest you could reasonably get would be to apply the Advertising Standards rules to it, which I would support.
 

Starmill

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Most policy proposals are objectives rather than legally binding standards. Policy objectives are sound ways to carry out the work of government. In many matters, including most of the ones listed, they would matter more than the standards set. For example, why set a standard for a number of police officers rather than a crime reduction target? Why bother to set a standard for net migration at all? It's basically pointless as an indicator.

Standards fit for some things, for example the level of the minimum wage. This is easy to set as a standard in law and easy to make a promise on and follow through with.
 

riceuten

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Any party could argue that

a) the circumstances have changed since the election
b) they were not made aware by the previous administration of issues that would affect the manifesto

This particular issue seemed to get the Brexiteers PARTICULARLY agitated, when it looked like Brexit could be further delayed.
 

The Ham

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Any party could argue that

a) the circumstances have changed since the election
b) they were not made aware by the previous administration of issues that would affect the manifesto

This particular issue seemed to get the Brexiteers PARTICULARLY agitated, when it looked like Brexit could be further delayed.

c) they have consulted on the proposal and found that there's not support for it.

Party A have a Manifesto had a policy of getting rid of the NHS whilst Party B had a Manifesto with policies on improving the NHS, improving education and giving everyone a gun.

Clearly Party B get elected (despite the gun policy), however when they consult on their gun policy it is widely condemned. Should they then be forced to implement it?
 

DerekC

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It's not realistic for manifesto promises to be legally binding, for all the reasons stated by others - nor should they be. I wonder if we could have an "Office of Political Responsibility" which keeps a record of what parties promise and what they actually deliver!
 
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