Rumours of an election

One of the lowest rungs on the Westminster ladder is to become a Parliamentary Private Secretary, or PPS for short. It's the political equivalent of

One of the lowest rungs on the Westminster ladder is to become a Parliamentary Private Secretary, or PPS for short. It's the political equivalent of a graduate trainee assigned to assist the Managing Director. You've got a great chance to learn from someone who's at the top of the tree, even though you're still extremely junior. In my case I'm helping Oliver Letwin, who's one of the brainiest people in Parliament. He has to be, because he's in charge of the Conservative Party's policy review. Last week threw us a new challenge. It looked as though Gordon Brown might call an early election, so we needed to write a draft election manifesto, just in case. Oliver and I settled down in his office in Westminster and started to write. As I rapidly discovered, the problem isn't what you put into a manifesto, but what you leave out. The Policy Review has come up with lots of ideas - 1500 so far, I discovered - but election manifestos are usually only a dozen or so pages long. And even then, almost nobody reads them.But even though most people don't read the manifestos, journalists do. They pick out the juicy bits, and serve them up to the voters. So you have to choose 50 or 60 policies which are interesting. Policies which show why your Party is different from, and better than, the others. And policies which, above all, are right.In the end, after a lot of arguments and late nights, we managed it. Don't ask me to tell you what's in it, because I'm sworn to secrecy and it may not be needed anyway as the rumours of an election come and go. One thing is certain, we will have to do it all again whenever an election is finally called. Oh joy.


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