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With three Prime Ministers and even more Chancellors since spring, the UK’s political landscape has proved a tricky terrain in recent months. Multiple changes in policy direction, a host of new ministerial appointments, and a rocky economic outlook, have undoubtedly made it more complicated to engage with and influence policy.

But the good news for academics looking to achieve policy impact is that, despite all the recent turmoil, the real work is just beginning. With a general election just around the corner – by 2024 if not sooner – all political parties will be rolling up their sleeves to develop their manifestos, which they hope will become their programme for government in the event of an election victory.

Ready for Rishi?

Despite losing to Liz Truss in the leadership campaign over the summer, Rishi Sunak has now been selected by his fellow MPs as our next Prime Minister following Truss’ resignation last month. Sunak has promised that his tenure as Prime Minister will be characterised by integrity, professionalism and accountability. 

While the finer details of Sunak’s approach remain to be seen, we know already that Rishi as Prime Minister – strongly committed to reducing public spending – is unlikely to resemble Rishi as Chancellor during the hard months of the Covid pandemic, during which time public spending increased significantly. Rishi now faces a big challenge to build support among his party by delivering on the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, and win over the electorate with his economic policies to address the rising cost of living, while at the same time putting a stamp on his own vision for government.

Set for Starmer?

As little as a month ago, the Labour Party led by Sir Keir Starmer was riding high, following a successful party conference season and with a significant lead in the polls over then Prime Minister Liz Truss. While the polls create more of a challenge for Labour since Sunak took on the top job, Starmer and his colleagues have nonetheless continued to set out their alternative vision for a pro-growth, pro-business, pro-green approach to government. Starmer has described Labour as a ‘government in waiting’ and is looking to deliver a serious manifesto that sets out their programme for office.

The best of the rest…

While the battle between the Conservatives and Labour tends to dominate the news, there will also be plenty of activity happening among parties with a smaller number of seats in Parliament. Chief among them are the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats, who will be looking to use the manifestos as a platform to raise awareness of their policies and the ideas they represent. 

Let the race begin

At Showrunner Communications, we are passionate about the role that academics can play in shaping great policy and ideas. As the race to the manifestos begins, here are our five top tips to help you make an impact. 

  1. Consider how your research can help to address the big challenges of the day

Each of the political parties will be looking for bright ideas that will help them to address the major challenges facing the UK at home and overseas. To name a few, this might include the rising cost of living, the impacts of climate change, the levelling up agenda, and the UK’s international responsibilities for security and defence. Think about how your expertise can bring new insights to the policymaking process or provide evidence to support a policy idea.

2. Familiarise yourself with the process

The manifesto development process varies between political parties, so you will need to be familiar with the approach your chosen party takes. Labour’s manifesto development follows a process that allows all parts of the National Executive Committee – which provides strategic direction for the party – to have their say. The Conservatives, by contrast, tend to take a more centralised approach, led by their party leader and Conservative headquarters.

3. Remember the politics as well as the policy

Politicians will be mindful of the power of the ballot box when it comes to developing their manifestos – even the best ideas are unlikely to make it past the starting line if they aren’t popular with voters. Be mindful of the political implications of your proposals, and pitch accordingly.

4. Work with others

Think tanks, charities and NGOs all play a vital role raising awareness of key policy issues and campaigning for change. To maximise your impact, look for opportunities to join forces with other organisations who share your priorities for policy change. Can you provide evidence that will help them with their cause?

5. Be bold

The manifestos represent one of the most significant opportunities to engage meaningfully with the policy ideas that will shape the work of the next government. The best policies supported by strong evidence, grounded in the reality of what will work in practice. Academics are uniquely placed to provide this insight – now is the time to act!

Jennifer Harrison, Senior Associate 

As a former Chair of the Russell Group Political Affairs Network and longstanding policy engagement lead at Durham, Jennifer brings sector-leading experience and expertise to Showrunner’s policy impact team. Get in touch to find out more about the policy impact  workshops, masterclasses and personalised support we are offering this year.