Getting your policies in party manifestos

We've hosted three of five Manifesto Engagement Meetings, with Alliance, UUP and Sinn Fein, across these events a number of top tips have emerged to assist groups in getting their messages across to political parties and into manifestos. 

  1. When lobbying don’t just go to the spokespeople, remember the policy officers!            

It’s really easy to see an MLA as the best route to take to get your message across to a party. However remember that in most, if not all, cases policy officers will be the people doing the majority of the manifesto drafting. Or, as it was described at one of the meetings policy officers are the people who do the “heavy lifting.”

  1. No idea is too trivial

Do you have a policy ask you’d like a party to adopt but think may be too small scale? Won’t affect many people? We asked, parties definitely want to hear these.

  1. If emailing make it clear that what you are sending is an ask you'd like included in the manifesto

Party policy officers get many emails per day and many, many more when it is manifesto drafting season, so make it easy for them. Top tip from the events was to include ‘manifesto’ in the subject line of your email.

  1. Policy documents/asks should be…

Again we asked, what do policy officers want to see when we send them policy documents/asks/suggestions? The response? “Short, sweet, subtle and, ideally costed.”

  1. Explain yourself.

Policy officers have to be across a wide range of policy detail, don’t expect them to be an expert in your area, explain your asks clearly, especially any technical terms and, crucially, “bust your acronyms.” 

At each of the events the parties outlined the process for pulling together their manifestoes. Encouragingly every party was incredibly open to further engagement with the sector, additional meetings, receiving briefings, taking phone calls etc.

Importantly each of the parties told us there is still plenty of time to influence the content of manifestos, none are finished yet. Some are still just a titled word document, others a very long list. The earliest first draft we have heard of was to be finished in time for Christmas. All final drafts are aiming for end of February or mid-March. 

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