Ask The Independent: Do parties have to keep their election promises?

Our experts tackle the questions that are perplexing readers

Are parties legally bound to make good their election promises?

Louis Skelton, Norwich

The law lord Lord Diplock explicitly stated that: "Elected representatives must not treat themselves as irrevocably bound to carry out pre-announced policies contained in election manifestos." As such, when an elected party fails to deliver its election promises the ramifications are political rather than legal.

But does this mean that elected governments use this as an excuse not to act on their election promises? The answer would appear to be no. Research conducted by the prominent social scientist Richard Rose from the University of Aberdeen found that elected governments do generally make good their election promises.

Other evidence also suggests that more policies are followed through than not. François Petry and Benoît Collette concluded that parties around the world fulfil, on average, 67 per cent of their promises. You could argue that this is a small majority however, Petry and Collette contrast US cases, with a low average rate of fulfilled promises (65 per cent), with cases from Britain and Canada which have a significantly higher average rate of pledges fulfilled (74 per cent). It is reasonable to assume that an electoral system like that in the UK is likely to favour an elected government's keeping its promises. This is because it tends to deliver strong majorities rather than hung parliaments – making a prime minister less in hock to rebel backbenchers. In the US, the promises of a presidential candidate may be stymied by a Congress which he or she does not control.

Interestingly, there have been cases where the Court of Appeal ruled that keeping pre-election promises could be adverse to good government. In the May 1981 election for the Greater London Council (GLC), the Labour Party outlined plans to cut the fares on London's buses and Tubes by 25 per cent. It won the election and was as good as its word. However, £69m had to be raised to pay these cuts. To raise the funds, all 35 London boroughs were required to levy a supplementary rate of 6.1p in the pound. The London Borough of Bromley challenged the validity of the whole procedure. The House of Lords held that the GLC was in error in believing itself bound to implement the manifesto approved by the electorate.



How important will tactical voting be in the election?

Hollie Chaggar, Sheffield

Tactical voting must be distinguished from protest voting. Tactical voting can be defined like this: A voter prefers one party which is very unlikely to win in their seat, but strongly dislikes the party that is likely to win, and therefore votes for a third party that can win over the disliked party with the intention to keep the disliked party out of power. In the last three elections, this has been most prominent among Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters to keep the Conservatives out of power, but there is no relation between party allegiance and tactical voting. It is also often seen in by-elections.

In contrast, protest voting is like choosing 'none of the above' option, and either spoiling the ballot or voting for a party that stands no chance of getting in to government in order to show dislike for the system. Tactical voting is an issue particular to the UK's "first past the post" electoral system .

It is difficult to assess the effects of tactical voting, and academics do not agree on the matter. According to Professor Gerry Stoker at the University of Southampton, the likely effects on either the turnout or the result of the election are limited. This is because the voters who vote tactically are few, approximately 9 per cent of the electorate, according to the UK General Election Survey.

In contrast, Dr Stephen Fisher at the University of Oxford argues that these 9 per cent can have substantial effects on the outcome, and in recent elections they have affected the results of about 40 seats. In a tight election like this one – if Dr Fisher is right – it could be crucial.



Does celebrity support affect whether people vote for a certain party?

Chloe Starling, Southampton

It is difficult to assess the effect of one single variable on the result and turnout of an election, as many different factors influence voting behaviour. However, as Gary Barlow became the latest celebrity to be wheeled out by the Conservatives, and J K Rowling nailed her colours to the mast of Labour, political parties must believe that there is something to be gained from "celebrity politics".

Academics see two reasons for the collaboration between politicians and celebrities. Firstly, the logic behind the success of celebrity politics is based in Dr Jennifer Lees-Marshment's argument that politics is marketing, and so is celebrity. Therefore if the two are combined it should be a recipe for success. Secondly, celebrities might attract voters who do not identify with politicians, and would therefore be remote from the normal political marketing by the parties.

There is evidence of this working in practice. One study conducted by Cartwright and Moore on the US 2008 primary elections suggests that Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Barack Obama served him at least 1 million votes. But what is less sure in a British context is whether the likes of Michael Caine will have a similar effect.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Glazier

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot