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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Voices
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Life and Style
Gold timing: the Apple Watch Edition
tech
  • Get to the point
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

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you qualified accountant with previous exp...

Richard Bishop: Accounts Payable Clerk

£11 - £13 Hourly Rate: Richard Bishop: Are you looking for a purchase ledger r...

George Parlour: Accounts Assistant

£13 - £15 Hourly Rate: George Parlour: Do you want to give something back? Th...

Danielle Degan: Cash Allocations Clerk

£10 - £13 Hourly Rate: Danielle Degan: Are you an experienced Accounts Assista...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor