Rosamund McCarthy: Your election manifesto

Now is the time to get politicians on side, says our columnist

Rosamund McCarthy
Rosamund McCarthy

Does your charity have an election manifesto? If not, why not? Perhaps your trustees are reluctant to enter the fray, or are afraid of having to register with the Electoral Commission. Maybe they are mindful that the election might yield a Conservative government and know that the Tories are ambivalent, to say the least, about campaigning.

But this is my message to you: election manifestos are not the preserve only of the usual campaigning suspects, or a luxury extra. They are an essential tool for every charity - local, national, service deliverer or grant-maker. The next few weeks are a golden opportunity for your charity to drill its policies and priorities into every prospective parliamentary candidate's head. It would be a crime not to influence the next generation of politicians.

Ask the candidates to sign up to a pledge, hold hustings meetings and encourage your supporters to put them on the spot. Make them realise the issue you are raising - whether it's the military covenant, child poverty or climate change - is a priority.

Let's get one thing clear: this is not about influencing voters' intentions. And no charity, even in the most fanciful scenario, has the power to swing votes in a marginal constituency. It is not about party politics, either, because charities have to work with whichever political party is in power. It's about taking responsibility.

You don't need to be sheepish about registering with the Electoral Commission: the Charity Commission - see the election guidance on its website - has given charities permission to do so. If you communicate only with your members, you won't need to anyway. The more charities are out there talking to their supporters and constituents, the more they will get to take a seat at the top table. And when candidates who have signed up to your pledge are elected, you will have a fantastic opportunity to push your charity's issues high up the political agenda.

So many voters are cynical and disillusioned with politics. The expenses fiasco has made them think that politicians are all the same. But the public hold charities in high esteem. Politicians know this and are in listening mode. Don't throw this away. Wouldn't it be amazing if all the major political parties signed up to support your charity?

Charities are committed to values, not to getting a political party elected. Your election manifesto could help promote these values.

Rosamund McCarthy is a partner in law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite.She writes in a personal capacity.

 

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