PRIME minister Theresa May has had a wobbly campaign in this snap general election, but as we enter the final stretch, the Conservatives still look like they’ll win an increased majority. Still, if we have learned one valuable lesson from 2016, it’s that anything can happen in politics, and in a narrowing race, every single vote counts. Here’s a look at what the political parties have to offer the electorate:
The Conservative Party manifesto
Key theme: Brexit means Brexit and “It’s the economy, stupid”
Theresa May wants to win a larger majority to deliver a clean Brexit. Her manifesto commitment is to deliver a deal that regains control of borders, reduces net migration, ends membership of the single market, but seeks frictionless access to the single market without accepting freedom of movement. She’s going to have a harder time with all of that now that Emmanuel Macron has been elected President of France: he wants a stronger EU that puts the UK firmly outside.
The Conservatives will loosen the triple lock on pensions, require those who need social care to pay for it from the value of their homes down to the last £100,000 of value, but after a row over the “dementia tax” they will cap these fees to an unknown amount. The Conservatives will provide “granny leave” to care for elderly relatives, and introduce means-testing for winter fuel payments.
The international aid budget will remain at 0.7 per cent of the total government budget, and the Conservatives are committed to slashing energy bills by up to £100 for around 17 million Brits who don’t regularly change their energy tarrifs. The new energy policy has largely been pinched from former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Back when Ed suggested it, the policy was described as “marxist” – this move is a sign of how comfortable Theresa May is to campaign from the centre ground.
Theresa May is scrapping the fixed terms parliament act, going ahead with the boundary changes to reduce the number of MPs to 600. On taxation, the personal tax allowance will be increased to £12,500, the higher rate threshold increased to £50,000 over the next three years, and to make Britain more competitive post-Brexit, Corporation tax will be cut to 17 per cent by 2020.
This manifesto isn’t an easy, comfortable proposition for the Conservatives: it’s written in the full expectation of being in government, and goes after the intergenerational inequalities currently promulgated by the benefits and protections given to pensioners. As such, it is not an ideologically-motivated manifesto, but one that seeks to undertake heavy lifting while the Conservatives have such a clear electoral advantage.
The Conservatives have refused to rule tax increases out entirely. Theresa May have pledged to reduce levels of immigration to the tens of thousands, and the Conservatives are pledging greater focus on mental health issues with 10,000 more NHS mental health staff by 2020 and mental health first aid trained staff in every school
Why vote Conservative? You support Brexit, trust Theresa May to deliver it, and quite like how things have been going for the last seven years, thank you very much.
The Labour Party manifesto
Key theme: Funding the NHS and education, increasing the size of the state.
Having survived the unprecedented embarrassment of having their draft manifesto leaked, the Labour Party is offering the British public a genuinely radical set of policies under an old slogan. Taking Tony Blair’s “for the many not the few” Jeremy Corbyn is offering bold, hard-left policies to the electorate to give them a clear choice for a Labour party that wants to expand the responsibilities of the state.
Almost fifty billion pounds a year of extra spending will be paid for by increased taxes on the wealthiest in society, including a 45p rate on earners above £80,000 and a 50p rate on those earning above £123,000 a year. Jeremy Corbyn is promising voters that these tax increases will pay for the scrapping of tuition fees, increased free childcare, the maintenance of the costly triple-lock on pensions, and ten thousand new police officers. This is a proudly redistributionist manifesto that will be attractive to many struggling with the costs of education and childcare.
What is not costed, because Labour will pay for capital expenditure from increased borrowing, are Labour’s pledges to re-nationalise the rail lines as the franchises end, bring Royal Mail back into public ownership, and nationalise water. Labour also want to get the government into the energy game to increase competition and to ensure greater green energy usage by taking back control of energy supply networks and creating publicly owned energy companies in every region of the UK.
Labour will end zero hours contracts, and charge companies a levy on salaries above £330,000, as part of a manifesto that is unashamedly about redistributing wealth away from the richest in society, excluding pensioners.
Corbyn has warned of a Brexit “hijacked” by the “elites” and has said that: “Labour wants a jobs-first Brexit, a Brexit that safeguards the future of Britain’s vital industries, a Brexit that paves the way to a genuinely fairer society, protecting human rights and an upgraded economy.”
Jeremy Corbyn wants the “tax cheats” and “bankers” to be subjected to a “reckoning” after a Labour Party victory, The Labour leader’s pledge to build a better, fairer Britain with big infrastructure spending to the tune of £500bn to guarantee jobs, a million new homes, stronger employment rights and an end to the health service privatisation pioneered by Tony Blair. Council-run leisure and transport services will be expanded, funded by progressive taxation that seeks to reduce pay inequality. Corbyn is committed to Trident renewal and NATO levels of defense spending.
Corbyn’s policies will see a watered-down version of his avowedly socialist, anti-elite politics field-tested in a general election. He may be behind in the polls, but after a series of surprise political outcomes over recent years, his supporters believe that anything is possible, and he has certainly closed the gap in recent days.
Why vote Labour? You like the cut of Jeremy Corbyn’s jib, you want rail re-nationalised, are fearful of “hard Brexit” and would prefer we focused on properly funding an increasingly strained NHS and education system after years of austerity.
The Liberal Democrats manifesto
Key theme: Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats are going big on stopping Brexit.
There is a gap in the political landscape for an anti-Brexit party, and the Liberal Democrats fight this election on a platform to reverse the decision of June 2016. A second referendum is their distinctive, flagship policy. Being anti-Brexit feeds into their economic policy, where they will argue that Britain must remain a member of the single market. Membership is booming, but the Lib Dems’ struggle to replace Labour in many areas isn’t going as well as many had hoped, with only 22 per cent of the public still opposed to Brexit.
Of the three main parties, the Liberal Democrats have the boldest tax plan to invest in the NHS and social care: they want to add 1 per cent to the income tax brackets to raise an additional £6bn a year to plug the gap in NHS and social care spending. They’d end the 1 per cent public sector pay increase cap, spend around £7 billion more on education, and scrap plans to expand grammar schools.
The Lib Dems would spend £100 billion on additional infrastructure, and aim to eliminate the deficit on day-to-day spending within the next three years. They’d install “hyper fast” broadband across the UK, build 300,000 new homes a year by 2022, creating at least 10 new garden cities. The Liberal Democrats want to introduce a regulated market for cannabis in the UK to raise £1billion in taxes a year, permitting the purchase of cannabis for recreational use by over 18s and ending imprisonment for possession of illegal drugs when they are for personal use. The Lib Dems would bolster the UK’s welfare system, and campaign for proportional representation to replace our current voting system while reducing the voting age to 16 and reforming the house of lords.
Why vote Lib Dem? You’re adamantly opposed to Brexit, and you aren’t worried by Tim Farron’s religious beliefs. They’re the only party which will campaign against Brexit.
The Green Party manifesto
Key theme: a just, equitable and sustainable society.
Don’t like going to work? The Green party might just be for you: they want to move the UK to a four day working week. The Greens want a second EU referendum, and to protect both our membership of the single market and free movement.
The Greens want to lower the voting age to 16, and to build a “fairer more equal society,” and to attract the youth vote they’re pledging to scrap tuition fees. That’s not just all they’re scrapping, they would abandon Trident renewal, saving over £100 billion. They’d bring in new wealth taxes and a “Robin Hood” financial transactions tax. The money from this would go towards a universal basic income.
The Party’s co-leader Caroline Lucas has called for the left to oppose departure from the EU, and the Greens intend to run their “boldest campaign ever” in a bid to win over disillusioned Labour voters and angry Remainers.
Why vote Green? You dislike the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and you don’t want Brexit.
The Ukip manifesto
Key theme: Making sure Brexit happens
Calling it a “patriotic agenda” UKIP’s manifesto is a search for relevance in a post-referendum Britain. Ukip’s pitch to the electorate in this election is to hold the government’s feet to the fire to ensure that Brexit delivers on what Leavers voted for. Ukip want to reduce net migration to zero within five years. UKIP would cut VAT on household bills, raise the inheritance tax threshold to half a million pounds, and reduce taxes for middle-income earners. UKIP would introduce four new bank holidays, halve the number of MPs and abolish the house of lords. UKIP are also campaigning for a ban on face-coverings like the burqa. The party’s “integration agenda” would also put in place checks to ensure that school-aged girls aren’t being subjected to female genital mutilation. UKIP are resisting accusations that their policies are anti-muslim.
The party’s leader Paul Nuttall wants a “quick and efficient” Brexit. Although traditionally the party doesn’t put much stock by manifestos – former leader Nigel Farage once famously boasted that he hadn’t read the party manifesto – Ukip has slowly morphed from a libertarian grouping into something more populist.
Why vote Ukip? You support Brexit at any cost, and you don’t trust the Conservatives to deliver it.
The SNP manifesto
Key theme: An alternative to austerity
Nicola Sturgeon’s main line of attack for the Westminster elections has been the Conservatives economic policies, as appetite for independence in Scotland has diminished. “A vote for the SNP will strengthen Scotland’s hand against further Tory cuts” Nicola Sturgeon insists.
The SNP want higher living wages, more progressive taxation, the universality of disability payments and the removal of the “Bedroom Tax.” In the short term, the SNP seek greater powers for Scotland to control spending, and seek greater investment in Scottish childcare and education. The second referendum pledge “at the end of the Brexit process” is designed to keep Scotland in the European Union and break away from the Union with the rest of the UK. Sturgeon has barely talked about independence though, preferring to stop planned cuts to the winter fuel allowance, protect the pensions triple lock, and increase the living wage. The SNP would increase the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent above £150,000.
Why vote SNP? You support Scottish independence, or you don’t like the Conservatives and lack faith in Labour.