The Inside Agenda Blog

Guestblog: Thirteen rules for making political promises

by Wodek Szemberg Monday September 19, 2011

Allan Bonner is a political consultant with experience coaching and advising politicians. These are his 13 rules for making political promises. He wrote them to help politicians get the most out of their promises, but this list also provides a framework by which to judge the promises of politicians, and also illustrates how the likelihood of being elected changes the nature of the promises. Consider it while watching tonight's program on political promises.


1. The number and specificity of your promises can diminish with increasing likelihood of being swept into office.


2. The farther away from power you are, the more realistic and detailed your promise has to be to gain credibility


3. You can’t take longer to explain your promise than it takes to make it.


4. Your promise is dead on arrival if it can be mocked more quickly than you made it.


5. The more likely it is that a promise can be implemented or partially implemented, the less specific it needs to be.


6. When making promises politicians ought to refrain from words like: never, nothing, none or always.


7. A promise is a prediction. It should be sufficiently specific to seem thought through and yet be general enough for it to be fulfilled in some measure.


8. The longer a politician is in office, the less likely a promise can be kept.


9. Promises are more dangerous for incumbents because they already had a chance to implement them.


10. Promise must appeal to the base but not be seen to be catering to special interests.


11. Your ability to be forgiven is in proportion to the trivial or general nature of the promise.


12. Being forgiven is dependent on a credible or detailed excuse


13. Promise making, keeping or breaking has only a marginal effect on your place in history. As long as you appeared to keep some, few voters know or care what they were.