James Forsyth

How the Tories intend to avoid a repeat of the 2017 manifesto disaster

How the Tories intend to avoid a repeat of the 2017 manifesto disaster
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The Tory plan was to fight the 2017 election as a Brexit election. But that strategy was derailed by a disastrous manifesto that alienated the Tory base and allowed Labour to change the subject to domestic policy.

One of the problems with that manifesto was that it was written by a very small clique, meaning that problems weren’t spotted or ignored. To try and avoid a repeat of this, Boris Johnson has put a committee of Cabinet ministers in charge of overseeing the manifesto, I report in The Sun this morning.

In line with the Pickles Review into what went wrong at the 2017 election, the Chancellor, the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the party chairman and the chief whip will all sit on this panel. Boris Johnson has chosen to add to it the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the Trade Secretary Liz Truss, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Michael Gove, who is in charge of Brexit preparations, on the basis that their areas are his priorities for the next parliament.

Munira Mirza, who was one of Boris Johnson’s deputy mayors in London and is now the head of the Number 10 policy unit, and Rachel Wolf, who has worked for both Johnson and Cummings in the past, will hold the pen. While the party’s deputy chairman for policy Ranil Jayawardena will liaise with MPs on what should be featured.

I am told that the manifesto will be very much along the lines of ‘let’s get Brexit done and then focus on crime, the NHS and education’. I strongly suspect that it will avoid embracing any ‘eat your greens’-style reform ideas. It’ll also reflect one of the lessons that the Tories learned from their failure in 2017: if you are going after seats that have been Labour for decades, you can’t do that with a typical Tory economic message. So, it’ll be a less fiscally conservative document that most Tory manifestoes.