Public Affairs: Soapbox

Regardless of recent polls, the public affairs industry has been placing too great an emphasis on influencing political party manifestos.

Practitioners are too eager to latch on to what comes out of politicians' mouths and neglect the civil service's major role of translating party political commitments into a realistic set of policies, and then implementing those policies.

Election manifesto commitments are often very general and frequently changed out of all proportion after a party is elected.

'No plan survives contact with reality' is the maxim. For example, my first major campaign was for free admission to museums and galleries - a 1997 Labour manifesto commitment that was not implemented until early 2001 because the Treasury was opposed to the policy.

No-one can doubt the importance of Whitehall under a hung parliament or minority administration.

If the polls continue on their current trajectory, mandarins' power will naturally be enhanced - they will be tasked with brokering deals between parties and trying to form some sort of consensus and direction for policy out of the muddle of different parties' competing commitments.

Whitehall will, in any case, be reasserting itself after 13 years of labouring under the yoke of the Blair and Brown administrations.

We can talk until we are blue in the face about what the Conservatives want or until we are bored stiff by analysing the internal workings of the Liberal Democrats.

But let us be realistic and get our heads round the potential power of Whitehall in the next parliament.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.