The three major political parties in the UK released their public declarations of strategic direction and intent, also known as their manifestos.
On the day of the climate spokesperson debate and on the eve of the next Leaders debate, what can we divine from these documents about the parties approach to global development? (Find a summary table comparing the 3 manifestos here.)
1. 2005 vs 2010: All three 2010 manifestos devote roughly the same amount of space to the combined issues of international development and climate change. But compared to 2005 the Conservatives have dramatically increased their coverage of both issues and the Lib Dems have increased their coverage of the former. The Labour manifesto was by far the strongest in 2005. In 2010 the differences between the parties on these issues, at least in terms of print space, are much smaller.
2. Emphasis on climate change: all the parties give significant emphasis to green and climate issues. The Conservatives have made up the most ground. In 2005 they mentioned climate change only once. And even in their 2009 Development Green Paper, climate change was given too little prominence. This has changed.
3. Framing climate and development: While all three parties may talk about climate change, the ways in which they frame it are different. The Labour manifesto mainstreams climate change throughout the document. The Lib Dem manifesto blends climate change with global affairs. The Conservative manifesto headlines the issue more, but it is a little more isolated from other issues.
4. Low carbon: Again, the framing differences are interesting. Labour links low carbon efforts to economic recovery and emphasises fairness. The Conservatives stress energy security and incentives to change behaviour. The Liberal Democrats stress the need for Britain to be a world leader on the issue.
5. Framing International Development: Labour stresses Britain’s world role in a global era, the Conservatives frame development around promoting national interest, and the Liberal Democrats frame development around working together with partners to meet challenges the world faces
6. Differing language on Development: Britain’s obligations to the developing world (Lib Dems); moral duty, common interest and poverty emergency (Lab); and enlightened self interest and commitment (Cons)
7. Surprises? No really big surprises, but some interesting emphases:
a. Conservatives: The commitment to legislating the 0.7 goal in the first Parliament (as Labour); an apparent commitment to the 10:10 carbon emission reductions and an interesting aspiration to form a new special relationship with India
b. Liberal Democrats: Similar commitment to enshrining the 0.7 goal into law and a Global Fund on Social Protection
c. Labour: A “radical” focus on reforming international institutions, a new (?) focus on the Commonwealth, and at least 5% of transfers to developing country budgets for strengthening parliaments and civil society
So what can we divine?
• The differences between the parties on global development and climate change, at least on paper, have narrowed substantially from 2005
• The three parties have framed the global issues in ways that seem true to their core values and constituencies
• There are no big surprises in the manifestos but a few interesting things that were not in earlier policy papers
Perhaps the Leaders debate tonight will give us a better sense of how similar these platforms really are.
What have I missed? What have I got wrong? Let me know.