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freedom of speech and action of MPs, and in 1947 the House itself resolved
(HC Deb vol 440, col 365, 15 July 1947) that:

it is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents,
and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this
House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting
the Member™s complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating
that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any
matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a Member being to his constituents and
to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof.

The resolution was reinforced and ampli¬ed in a further resolution of
6 November 1995.
The independence of the member must however be seen in the context of
party government. The disciplined party system of our day is based on the
loyalty of MPs who have stood before the electors as representatives of parties.
(The Representation of the People Act 1969 acknowledged this fact in allowing
the party a¬liations of candidates to be stated on the ballot paper: see now the
Representation of the People Act 1983, Schedule I, rule 19 and Appendix, as
amended.) As David Judge remarks, no British MP today ˜would claim to act
exclusively as a trustee, beholden only to his or her own conception of the
national interest. Instead, the reality of modern parliamentary politics is that
MPs are primarily representatives of their party™ (Representation (1999), p 59;
see generally the author™s discussion of ˜trustee theory™ in ch 3.) Parties declare
their policies to the electorate in manifestos and public statements; electors
528 British Government and the Constitution

generally give their votes to parties rather than to candidates distinguished by
their personal qualities. David Butler and Donald Stokes observe (Political
Change in Britain (2nd edn 1974), p 28):

Before party labels were placed on the ballot paper in 1970, virtually every voter was able
to make the link between candidate and party, even though many knew nothing else about
him: they perceived that to vote for a candidate was to vote for a government of his party,
one which he would sustain in power throughout the life of a Parliament.

An election may be regarded as a choice not only between parties and
leaders but between alternative programmes or policies. This provides a
justi¬cation for a ˜principle of the mandate™ which all political parties rec-
ognise in some degree “ the principle that a party, if elected, is both autho-
rised and bound to implement speci¬c commitments included in its election
The principle of the mandate can be over-stated and some would deny its
validity. Objections to it are in¬‚uenced by scepticism about the reality of the
supposed approval given by the electorate to the policies of the successful party
in a general election. It is likely that (as in all general elections since the Second
World War) the successful party will have won the votes of only a minority of
electors. Besides, the electoral system does not provide for an expression of
views on speci¬c policies but only for a choice between entire party pro-
grammes. Policies included in a programme are selected by party organisations
and do not necessarily re¬‚ect the issues of greatest interest or concern to the
public. Moreover, there is evidence from empirical research that many voters do
not know what are the policies of the di¬erent parties, agree with only some of
the policies of the party they support, and prefer some policies which are in fact
espoused by opposing parties. (See eg, P Pulzer, Political Representation and
Elections in Britain (3rd edn 1975), pp 122“3.) Manifestos are not widely read
and in any case contain many statements of a very general nature, such as
promises to ˜return more choice to individuals and their families™ or to ˜make
Britain a fairer and freer society™.
But it would be wrong to dismiss the principle of the mandate as wholly
unfounded. Party manifestos do also include quite speci¬c undertakings: for
example, the 2005 Conservative manifesto promised to recruit 5, 000 new police
o¬cers each year and to introduce a bill to overturn the ban on hunting with
dogs; the Labour manifesto promised to increase the minimum wage to £5.05
and after a year to £5.35 and not to raise the basic or top rates of income tax in
the next Parliament. Manifesto commitments are reinforced in public state-
ments and are the stu¬ of argument in the election campaign. A party™s
programme and the terms of its appeal to the electorate help to constitute the
character or image which it has in the public view, and to generate expectations
about its behaviour in o¬ce.
529 Parties, groups and the people

Some studies have discerned an increased importance of political issues and
party policies among the factors determining voting behaviour in a more
volatile electorate, but the available evidence is problematic and a wide range of
views is held as to the relative importance of issues and other factors in the
outcome of elections. (See eg, B S¤rlvik and I Crewe, Decade of Dealignment
(1983); M Franklin, The Decline of Class Voting in Britain (1985); A Heath,
R Jowell and J Curtice, How Britain Votes (1985); R Rose and I McAllister, Voters
Begin to Choose (1986); D Denver and G Hands (eds), Issues and Controversies
in British Electoral Behaviour (1992), ch 5; Denver, ˜The British electorate in the
1990s™ (1998) 21 West European Politics 197; Franklin and Hughes, ˜Dynamic
representation in Britain™, in G Evans and P Norris (eds), Critical Elections:
British Parties and Voters in Long-Term Perspective (1999); D Denver, Elections
and Voters in Britain (2003), ch 4.) The following seems still a balanced and
compelling view.

Jack Lively, Democracy (1975), pp 39“40

Does the claim that the primary function of the electorate is to produce a government mean
then that the consideration of ˜issues™ never determines the voters™ choice? . . . [T]he claim
is implausible. A preference for one party rather than another can hardly be divorced from
beliefs about what the party stands for or expectations about how it will act if it forms a
government. There may be various grounds for these expectations “ promises made by the
parties, their past performances in office or their general ideological stances. There may be
various motives inspiring voters™ preferences “ self-interest, prejudice or general ideological
commitment. Even if a voter™s expectations are quite unreal, even if he is unaware in detail of
the policy differences between parties, even if he is dominated in his choice by prejudice
or impulse, his vote may still be decided by a preference for one sort of government or set
of policies rather than another.

Perhaps it is not unreasonable to interpret the result of an election as
a demand addressed by the electorate to the winning party to govern broadly
in terms of the party programme, as presented in the manifesto and in public
declarations by the party leaders. The parties themselves take pains over
the drafting of manifestos and evidently believe that they are presenting
the electorate with a choice of policies. The principle of the mandate
formerly had greater potency in the Labour Party than in other parties, but
Conservative Party manifestos now also include many speci¬c policy
commitments, and these are not regarded by Conservative Governments
as merely rhetorical. In 1984 Mrs Thatcher defended the Government™s
policy of abolition of the GLC and metropolitan county councils against Tory
rebels by an appeal to the mandate (The Economist, 14 April 1984, p 32). It
was a Tory peer (Lord Salisbury) who enunciated the doctrine that the
House of Lords should not exercise its powers of delay in respect of legislation
which was part of the electoral programme of the government. Graeme
530 British Government and the Constitution

Moodie summed up in saying (The Government of Great Britain (3rd edn
1971), p 211):

[I]t is clear that a government™s electoral program is and should be neither a straitjacket
nor even a complete blueprint, and that the idea of a mandate is vague at best and must
be handled with extreme caution. It is nonetheless significant. The doctrine reflects a
widespread belief that a party program should be reasonably full and that for the successful
party subsequently to depart radically from its spirit and intentions is dishonourable. The mere
existence of the doctrine, moreover, suggests that, for much of the time, these expectations
are satisfied, and emphasizes that the parties normally possess distinctive general approaches
of which the parties™ programs and behavior are interconnected manifestations.

(See also I Jennings, Cabinet Government (3rd edn 1959), pp 503“9; D Judge,
Representation (1999), ch 4.)
Manifestos do not cover everything: some issues are left vague or unmen-
tioned, and governments have to deal with problems that were not foreseen. The
realism of manifesto commitments is put to the test in government, and adjust-
ments may have to be made. But in general governments take their manifestos
seriously. This is illustrated by Dennis Kavanagh (˜The politics of manifestos™
(1981) 34 Parliamentary A¬airs 7, 14):

In spite of the charges about broken promises, there is an impressive degree of correspon-
dence between [a] party™s election pledges and subsequent performance when in office (in
terms of legislation, reviews of policy, committees of inquiry and regulation). In 1964, the
Conservatives could boast of having kept 92 of the 93 pledges made in 1959 and by 1974
many of the 1970 manifesto™s specific proposals had been acted on. By 1979, in spite of
Labour™s lack of a clear majority in the Commons for much of the Parliament, more than half
of the manifesto pledges had been fulfilled.

More circumspectly, Judith Bara concludes in ˜A question of trust: implement-
ing party manifestos™ (2005) 58 Parliamentary A¬airs 585, 597:

Parties can be said to keep some of their important promises and these are related to the
areas regarded as important by the public, notably concerning the economy, public services
and law and order, but they make too many promises which cannot easily be traced through
to implementation and are open to manipulation and false claims of success. Greater
economy and transparency in terms of promises and claims of fulfilment could go some way
towards restoring trust.

The courts have had occasion to pronounce on the principle of the mandate in
the context of local government. In Bromley London Borough Council v Greater
London Council [1983] 1 AC 768, the principle was summarily dismissed by the
Court of Appeal, Oliver LJ saying that ˜whatever other considerations may be
531 Parties, groups and the people

taken into account by a statutory body such as the council in exercising its powers,
an advance commitment to or so-called mandate from some section of the
electors who may be supposed to have considered the matter is not one of them™
(at 789“90). In the House of Lords a more measured judgment on the question
was given by Lord Diplock in saying (at 829) that members of a local authority
must not:

treat themselves as irrevocably bound to carry out pre-announced policies contained in
election manifestos even though, by that time, changes of circumstances have occurred that
were unforeseen when those policies were announced and would add significantly to the
disadvantages that would result from carrying them out.

A di¬erent emphasis was given by the House of Lords to a local mandate in
Secretary of State for Education and Science v Tameside Metropolitan Borough
Council [1977] AC 1014, in which Lord Wilberforce, referring to the electoral
commitment by the Conservative majority on the local council to retain the
grammar schools in its area, said (at 1051) that the council was ˜entitled “
indeed in a sense bound “ to carry out the policy on which it was elected™.
(See also Lord Dilhorne at 1055 and Lord Salmon at 1067, and the comment
by McAuslan, ˜Administrative law, collective consumption and judicial policy™
(1983) 46 MLR 1, 14“17.)
It might be said that a government can claim a mandate only from those
who turned out to vote and gave their vote to the winning party. Pippa
Norris remarks of the 2001 general election: ˜Four out of ten voters stayed home
so that any electoral mandate was grudging and tepid™ (˜Apathetic landslide™
(2001) 54 Parliamentary A¬airs 565, 569). As we saw above, of those voting
in the general election of 2005 only 35 per cent cast their votes for the victori-
ous Labour Party.
What would be the role of manifestos in a system of multi-party politics
and coalition governments? Richard Holme suggests that ˜In a multi-party
Parliament the manifesto will have to take on less of the character of a prospec-
tus and more that of a negotiating brief ™: The People™s Kingdom (1987), p 121.

3 The people and government
Do the people exercise any in¬‚uence or control over government between
general elections? Are governments ˜responsive™ to the views and demands of
the people?
It seems clear enough that governments are not indi¬erent to public opinion
and pay some regard to it in their decision-making. A government is, in a sense,
engaged in a continuous election campaign and is in¬‚uenced, throughout its
term of o¬ce, by its assessments of electoral consequences. The ˜rule of antici-
pated reactions™ (Carl Friedrich, Constitutional Government and Politics (1937),
pp 16“18) may lead a government to refrain from actions which it is thought
532 British Government and the Constitution

would provoke widespread unpopularity, evasion or non-cooperation among
the public. As Jock Bruce-Gardyne and Nigel Lawson say (The Power Game
(1976), p 184):

All governments are continuously influenced by anticipated public opinion. The act of defer-
ence, however, occurs within the secrecy of the Cabinet room, so the people never learn of
the triumphs they have won. The people complain that their opinions are ignored, while
ministers are frustrated by the constraints of (real or imagined) popular sentiment.

Of course the government may be wrong in its assessment of public opinion.
On many speci¬c issues the public will be sharply divided in its opinions, on
others it will be generally indi¬erent, and again a widely held opinion may fail
to be publicly expressed, or what is represented as public opinion may be only
that of an articulate minority. But this is not to say that public opinion, however
crudely expressed or interpreted, has no impact on government.
By-elections may give the government an idea of its standing with the public,
and have been known to stimulate policy initiatives or changes of course. The
Crowther (afterwards Kilbrandon) Commission on the Constitution was set
up (in 1969) at least partly in response to by-election gains by Scottish and
Welsh Nationalists in 1966 and 1967. By-election losses in 1990 and 1991 were
perceived as attributable to the unpopular poll tax and the decision was taken
in the latter year to abolish it.
Lines of communication lead from the constituencies to the government
through the party organisation and MPs™ post-bags, but a more reliable source
of information about public opinion on particular issues is nowadays provided
by opinion surveys. Although by no means an exact science, the technique of
opinion polling has been greatly re¬ned in recent decades, and political parties
commission opinion surveys and make use of polls in planning the tactics of
election campaigns. Governments carry out research into public reactions to
existing and proposed new policies, employing consultants, setting up citizens™
panels, task forces and ˜focus groups™ or publishing Green Papers. The Home
Secretary said on 3 July 1998 (HC Deb vol 315, col 287 WA): ˜In line with
the practice of successive administrations, the Department routinely consults
the public, interested parties and client groups by way of consultation papers
and research projects on a wide range of policies and proposed legislation™.
Advisory bodies on which outside interests are represented provide further
channels of communication.
Ordinary citizens can participate in governmental decision-making in
limited ways, using the opportunities provided by land-use planning proce-
dures, or taking part in campaigns against unwanted local development or
controversial national legislation (such as the Shops Bill 1986, defeated after
˜some of the most extensive and e¬ective lobbying of MPs ever seen in Britain™:
Peter Riddell, Financial Times, 16 April 1986, p 17). It is, however, mainly
through political parties and organised interests or pressure groups (see below)
533 Parties, groups and the people

that the citizen can participate in government. Exponents of a ˜participatory
democracy™ envisage a greater role for the individual citizen in workplace, local
community and political parties, and a resulting heightened public awareness
of national political issues. The democratic principle, as Anthony Arblaster


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