As you may be aware, there is a UK General Election (and most Local Elections) due to be called on the 6th of May 2010 (if you aren’t already registered to vote, have a look at About My Vote: you need to have registered to vote before the 20th of April). And although the candidates have until the 20th of April to register with the Electoral Commission, as registered voter I thought I’d see how easy it is right now to find each of the 3 major parties and 4 minor parties (which are either standing in the Harrow West constituency or have had quite a bit of publicity the last week or two) manifestos.
I started by looking on Google UK for the common party name (i.e. for the United Kingdom Independence Party I searched for “UKIP” as that is what they are commonly known as) and tried to see if their manifesto was listed on the first page. I was only looking for “official sources” (i.e. directly from the party’s website) – not commentary on mentions by third parties. I then tried to find the manifesto from their own website by searching the front page for the word “manifesto” and/or using any site search facilities. I was shocked at how difficult this actually was and disappointed that the parties make it so difficult to find out what you are meant to be voting them in for.
Anway, here’s the results from HARDEST to find to EASIEST. Note, I am only reviewing how easy it was to find the manifestos – not the contents of them(!).
Joint 6. British National Party: No manifesto found at all
Google Search: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=bnp+manifesto
The 2nd result was to http://bnp.org.uk/manifestos/eu-manifesto-2009/, but this is for the European 2009 election. I saw no other relevant links on the first page of the Google results.
The 4th item on their top menu bar was labelled “Manifestos”, but only listed the “EU 2009″, “County Council 2009″, “London 2008″ and “Mini Manifesto 2007″ – nothing for 2010. I saw no other mention of manifestos. They did have a site search facility (“hidden” half way down on the right hand side of the site: despite three other text entry boxes at the top – on, in fact, labelled “Search” but only searched for certain things – the right hand search box was labelled “Search website”). There was a page of results, but no relevant results.
Joint 6. Liberal Democrats: No manifesto found at all
Google Search: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=liberal+democrats+manifesto.
The 3rd result for this search was for http://europe.libdems.org.uk/full-manifesto which is the “Liberal Democrat manifesto for Europe”: the European elections were held on the 4th of June 2009. The 5th result was for http://manifesto.libdems.org.uk/ labelled “Liberal Democrat Manifesto Consultation” which had the text “Although the next General Election does not have to take place until 2010″ – to me this looks like an outdated page (if it is current, why not have the exact date or at least the month?), but no mention of the full manifesto. I saw no other relevant results on the front page of the Google results.
From the front page of http://www.libdems.org.uk, I found no mention of the word “manifesto” (confirmed by a page search using Firefox) and whilst the site did have a “Site search” option in the top right hand corner – a search for “manifesto” returned 294 results: none of which appeared the be the current UK General Election manifesto.
5. Labour Party: No manifesto found at all (although Google Adword did link)
Google Search: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=labour+manifesto
Labour are currently running a Google Adword text advert/sponsored link at the top reading “Labour’s 2010 Manifesto / www.labour.org.uk/LabourManifesto – Read Labour’s election pledges in advance of our 2010 manifesto”, however the Conservative party are also running an Adword which was triggered which read “It’s Time For Change / Our country can’t afford another 5 years of Gordon Brown www.youtube.com/webcameronuk” . However, I do tend to be distrustful of paid results and I’m concentrating on the “organic non-paid” results.
The second result was headed “[PDF] Winning the fight for Britain’s future“: but again, this was aimed at the 2009 European Election. I saw no other relevant results on the front page of the Google results. However, there were two links to the Conservatives.com website.
From the front page of http://www.labour.org.uk, I found no mention of the word “manifesto” (confirmed by a page search using Firefox) and there was no “Site search” option to help me quickly find this important document.
4. Pirate Party UK: Found on Google, but not on site
Google Search: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=pirate+party+manifesto
This search result returned the 4th result as http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/blog/2010/mar/22/pirate-party-uk-launches-its-2010-election-manifes/ which linked directly to their complete manifesto.
There was a link to their manifesto from their “Latest tweets” column on the right hand side of the front page of http://www.pirateparty.org.uk – but when I compiled the information 2 hours ago, it was at the top of their 4 tweets and had already dropped to 2nd place by the time I wrote this sentence: it is likely to have dropped off together by the end of tomorrow, therefore I’m disregarding it. There was no other link on the front page to their manifesto nor was there a site search facility.
3. Conservatives – Found on front page of site, but not on Google
Google Search: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=conservative+manifesto
This search result returned the 2nd result as http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/03/Conservative_Technology_Manifesto_launched.aspx which details their “technology manifesto” and the 3rd result of http://www.conservatives.com/Policy/European_Election_Manifesto.aspx (again the 2009 European Election!), but no mention of their currently full 2009 manifesto. I saw no other relevant search results on that page.
Straight on the home page of http://www.conservatives.com/, the second link on their top menu bar was labelled “Draft Manifesto” – ok, not their full final manifesto, but it’s a draft copy which is publicly accessible and up to date and relevant for this election.
2. Green Party – Found via site search and 1st Google result
Google Search: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=green+manifesto
The first result was for http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/ which looks spot on and is headed “Green Party of England and Wales Policies for a Sustainable Society”. Page details each section of the manifesto, the date it was updated and record of policy statements.
There was no link from the front page of http://www.greenparty.org.uk, but there was a a site search option in the top right hand corner. Searching for “manifesto” returned the first result as the previously mentioned http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/ .
1. United Kingdom Independence Party – Found via site search, 1st Google results and front page of website
Google Search: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ukip+manifesto
The first result was for http://www.ukip.org/content/ukip-policies labelled as “UKIP Policies – UK Independence Party” with the text “The UKIP Election Manifesto is now available as a Mini Manifesto”.
On the front page of http://www.ukip.org, there is a link labelled “UKIP’s manifesto and range of policies” on the right hand site and whilst most of the links in that section were labelled “This paper is to be launched shortly during the General Election”, the “UKIP Election 2010 Mini Manifesto” was downloadable as a PDF. A search using the search box in the top right hand corner for the word “manifesto” returned the Mini Manifesto as the first result.
I just hope as we get closer to the election, that ALL parties make their manifestos easier to find for the electorate. I see no reason why they can’t all have a “Current manifesto for UK Elections – Last updated XXX” section which is continually updated with an “Archived manifestos” section: so we can see how they’ve changed and when – but I would suppose this would be too “open” for us voters.
Disclaimer of interests: Within the past year, I was a paid member of the Liberal Democrat party, although my membership did lapse at the end of March, and I have contributed financially to The Pirate Party today (just over £10).