UK Election Manifestos as Business Types... Or Ready Meals

Last Updated Apr 13, 2010 11:01 AM EDT

Today's Tory manifesto, "Building on a Big Society", sounds a JFK-like call to Britons to ask what they can do for their country -- inviting people, as as the BBC's Nick Robinson puts it, to be their own boss -- "setting up co-operatives to run public services, to run their own schools..." and so on. It includes initiatives such as Big Society Day and a Big Society Bank, which would be funded from unclaimed bank assets, would be funnelled into social enterprise, NGOs and other neighbourhood projects.

This is pitched against the Labour party manifesto's denser, more paternalistic approach. As you'd expect, each party's 'brand' is encapsulated in its manifesto -- even down to the cover art (Labour's Constructivist-style cover vs. the Conservative's plain blue cover.)

If you imagine the parties as business types, the Tories are the trendy, digitally-influenced 'challenger brand' using crowdsourcing and 'empowering' employees (or voters) to take the initiative.

Labour's more like a traditional, process-driven organisation, where transformation is presented as a top-down vision and past performance can be used to assess risk and drive financial decision-making.

Or you can, as BNET UK's deputy editor, Julian Goldsmith, suggests, think of each as a meal: Labour's ready meal, replete with five-a-day, compared to a Conservative choice of ingredients that you put together yourself.

Either way, the point is, the manifestos are a clear way of differentiating two of the UK's main political 'brands' more clearly, but is either fulfiling what people -- employees, senior executives, owner-managers -- need? The Tory manifesto, with its close alignment to modern management thinking and image of the voter as entrepreneur, may seem more business-friendly, but does everyone want to front a start up?

Voters may still feel mistrust towards politicians in general -- antipathy that could mean they view the manifesto pledges as more 'spin'. But as exercises in branding, the manifestos have done their job -- now it's a case of hammering home their key messages till election day.

We'll be looking more closely at the content and what they mean for employers and employees, but let us know if you have a view on the manifesto pledges.