As part of the General Election 2017 campaign we are now in the manifesto season which I have written about in Todays Argus newspaper. This season ensures that those of us who are interested in such matters can spend many spare moments reading the various glossy documents published by the political parties. Typically these are full of either carefully worded but vacuous phrases that will ensure the party doesn’t get caught out when in power or else wild promises that are predicated on the assumption that they will never be tested beyond the launch event and a few interviews. As a forerunner to the Tory manifesto which will of course be one of the very carefully worded versions, we have been told of a promise to offer a free vote on fox hunting. I suspect this is intended as part of a strategy that implies that we can have either a Tory Government with fox hunting or one without and that is as much choice as we are likely to have. It seems odd that a matter such as fox hunting can be revisited even after 15 years. Nothing has changed in that time in terms of animal welfare and although there have been many cases of the law being bent almost in 180 degrees, there is no indication in the rural parts of our nation of foxes overrunning the countryside.
Apart from the major parties there have also been manifestos published by smaller political parties such as NHA and Woman’s Equality Party. In many respects these contain much more interesting and important issues and themes. None of them are written in the coded language used by mainstream parties as we know that there will not be an NHA or WEP Government in the next decade or two. It would however be very exciting if the new Parliament of 2017 was to include one or two MPs from such parties. This may indicate my naivety as we know the electoral system is deeply biased in favour of the major political groups. However a Parliament with a sprinkling of WEP and NHA voices along with an increased number of Green MPs would begin to change the culture of our Parliament in a very constructive way.
Finally there are manifestos produced by organisations who are not political parties and who do not intend to be seen in that light. However they wish to promote ideas around themes such as housing economics and transport as well as the need to improve society for people whose voices are easily ignored by our politicians. One such body is the YMCA which has published manifestos at the last three elections. I recall attending a reception in the House of Commons for the manifesto launch in the run up to the 2010 election. It was a salutary lesson in political reality. I met one MP who has remained at the House of Commons ever since as the Conservative MP for Peterborough. Stewart Jackson and I spoke for some time about a Labour Party policy that the YMCA had been extensively involved in called the Future Jobs Fund. It enabled the YMCA now known as YMCA Downslink Group to help support and employ a significant number of young people who would otherwise have been left outside of the job market. I asked Stewart if he thought that the FJF would remain in place if the Conservatives were to win the election. Stewart assured me that it would remain at least for the next couple of years. Sadly for the young people concerned, his words turned to dust within days of the election. Let us hope that some of the people who are elected on June 8th are willing to read the manifestos of groups such as the YMCA and prepared to take on board some of their ideas. The fact that many of the young people don’t get a vote should not be an excuse for ignoring their needs.