New election rules mean that all political manifestos will be required by law to be displayed inside plain white packets with a prominent health warning. Politicians will no longer be able to publicly advertise their manifestos and shops will be expected to keep them hidden away from view under the counter.
‘This is about protecting the public from being attracted to something that is clearly bad for them,’ explained Mrs Maureen Grebe of APH, Action on Political Health. ‘All the clinical evidence shows that people who buy into manifesto pledges are taking a serious risk. It may seem harmless at the time but long term exposure to manifestos will result in anger, a sense of betrayal and ultimately the death of people's hopes and dreams.'
Under the new rules all party manifestos will be legally required to dispense with any political branding and instead feature a clear warning about the dangers of believing what politicians say. Typical warnings will include: 'Politics Kills,' 'Politicians may seriously damage your health service,' and 'This manifesto will create false hopes, crippling disillusionment and cause impotence.'
In addition, all manifestos will be legally obliged to have a disclaimer at the end that reads, ‘The value of pledges may go down as well as up. In the event of a coalition none of this actually counts.’
Politicians claim that the new rules are unfair. ‘This is a question of civil liberties,’ said one anonymous MP, who wished only to be known as Nick Clegg. ‘The public have a right to be taken in by what we say. Anyone attracted to our product already knows the risks.’
However, campaigners say the rules are designed to protect a generation of idealistic young people from being attracted to shiny, branded politicians who have been deliberately marketed to appear ‘cool’, ‘radical’ or ‘trendy’. In the last election it is estimated that many thousands of young people took up politics, not realising the long term dangers of being repeatedly let down.
MPs insist that political branding is necessary to help distinguish between the different parties. However, recent studies have shown that in blind tests the electorate found it almost impossible to tell any of them apart.
The new rules come into force next year although campaigners say they don’t go far enough. ‘This is just the start,’ said Mrs Grebe, ‘in future we want to see an outright ban on politicians making pledges in public. If they really must engage in that sort of thing then they should do it behind closed doors, in smoke filled rooms, where they can only harm each other.’