THE BLOG
11/09/2015 11:31 BST | Updated 10/09/2016 06:12 BST

The Tory Policy Development Playbook

Fresh from winning a majority at the General Election, the Conservative Government has been free to develop policies without fear of the need to comprise with a coalition partner. But rather than a clear set of policies being laid out, an agenda emerged based on the election manifesto.

Fresh from winning a majority at the General Election, the Conservative Government has been free to develop policies without fear of the need to comprise with a coalition partner. But rather than a clear set of policies being laid out, an agenda emerged based on the election manifesto.

Many believed that the manifesto was a bargaining chip for future coalition negotiations. As if to prove this was not the case, the Queen's Speech and the Bills it contained, was more or less the manifesto in full.

The defeat over the purdah rules for the European referendum shows that the position of the Conservatives is actually more precarious with a majority than it was in coalition. The majority position also means that the party is expected to move forward with a more radical Conservative agenda without being hamstrung by the Lib Dems. Under the Coalition, once the policy had been agreed then it had a clear Parliamentary majority. Under this majority, the room for manoeuvre has been curtailed. Far from being able to do what they want, there is more of a chance that votes could be lost.

So since the election, and with this view of Parliament in mind, we have started to see what the Tory policy development playbook looks like.

1) The 'announce a policy and then work out the detail later' approach - the Budget provided some clear policy ideas and it was thought that the Productivity Plan to be issued a few days later would provide more detail. Whilst the paper was released, the level of policy detail was cursory. Instead, the policies appear to be being worked up based on initial reactions with further papers promised at a later date.

A similar approach has been adopted for some legislation as well. For instance, the Buses Bill mentioned in the Queen's Speech came as a shock to many in the Department for Transport. They now have the task of developing a piece of legislation from, by and large, a blank sheet of paper in line with the Treasury's position on devolution.

2) The 'big reveal' approach - the approach on Europe is based on a strategy of a grand unveiling. The Government isn't giving too much away on what negotiations are taking place or on what issues. They are also keen to keep pro-European supporters, especially amongst the business community, quiet.

3) The 'big bang' approach - often adopted in response to Daily Mail type headlines. Facing a shout that 'something must be done', immediate outrage is expressed and a commitment made that the Government will take action. Action can take a variety of forms ranging from promises to force particular sectors or companies to act differently through to legislation.

4) The 'gentle' approach - a less adopted option following a call for something to be done is initial silence to see how the story or issue develops then to speak in outraged tones. This approach is often favoured when there is no obvious policy response, if the potential policy response cuts across existing policy or if the Prime Minister is on holiday. This approach has been favoured initially during the refugee crisis.

5) The 'lets get Labour' approach - added to Queen's Speech was the commitment to a Living Wage. This was widely seen as direct attempt to steal ground from the Labour Party. A way of making good on Cameron's immediate post-election promise to govern as a party of one nation whilst also ensuring that Labour has no-where to go. Some of the moves on welfare and trade union reform follow this same approach. This Conservative Party hopes that this approach could be further boosted by a Jeremy Corbyn victory in the Labour leadership election.

There is no doubt that the Conservatives have learnt from the New Labour playbook. Blair and his Ministers would often flag a potentially radical policy in the Sunday papers to see what the reaction was. If there were generally positive noises then it could find its way into the party's policies. If the reaction was negative and it all looked a bit too difficult, like charging for plastic bags did, then it went away.

New Labour also relied on a total consistency of message that the Conservatives have adopted as well, especially during the General Election campaign.

Cameron and Osborne have built a formidable playbook that they are currently using to great effect.