Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Sunday 25th June 2017 | Manchester, UK

UK General Election preview

On 18 April 2017 Theresa May declared there would be a General Election held on 8 June. This shocked the nation, because on 20 March, Mrs May’s spokesperson firmly said “there isn’t going to be one. It isn’t going to happen. There is not going to be a general election.” Theresa May became leader of the Tory Party and Prime Minister following the unexpected result of Brexit, which saw 51.9 percent of the British population vote in favour of leaving the European Union, a Union which had been in place since 1993. Many taunts have been hurled towards Mrs May, mocking the fact that she is an unelected leader. Yet here we are, and in less than a month we shall utilise our constitutional right and flock to vote once more. With this, Theresa May has given Great Britain the chance to vocalise whether indeed they want a “strong and stable leadership”, or whether in-fact that adhere to a doctrine which is there “for the many, not the few.”

The political parties have been campaigning vigorously and hopping from town to town in a bid to rally and mobilise support for their campaign. Jeremy Corbyn himself was in Manchester last week, appealing to Labour voters. Inevitably, The Conservative Party and The Labour Party are the front runners within the General Election. Recently, (following a leak of Labour’s Manifesto), their official manifestos were released. Looking at Workers’ rights, Brexit, Education, Health, Immigration and Democracy, here is a side by side comparison of the Labour and Conservative Manifestos.

Immigration:

Labour: “Believes in fair rules and reasonable management of migration” and will not resort to “bogus” immigration targets. Scrap income thresholds for spouses of migrants who want to come to the UK Creation of a Migrant Impact Fund to support public services in host communities. It will be funded by visa levies and a contributory element from residence visas for high net worth individuals.

Conservative: Commitment to “bear down on immigration from outside the EU” across all visa routes. Immigration cut to under 100,000. Foreign students expected to leave the country at the end of their course unless they meet new “higher” requirements allowing them to stay. Overseas students to remain in the immigration statistics.

Brexit:

Labour: “accepts the referendum result” and intends to build a close new relationship with Europe “not as members but as partners”. Retain benefits of single market and customs union. Immediately guarantee existing rights of EU nationals living in Britain and secure reciprocal rights for UK citizens living in another EU country. No “no deal” option at the end of Article 50 negotiations, with “transitional arrangements” negotiated instead to avoid cliff-edge. Scrap Great Repeal Bill and replace with EU Rights and Protections Bill.

Conservative: Exit the European single market and customs union but seek a “deep and special partnership” including comprehensive free trade and customs agreement. Vote in both Houses of Parliament on “final agreement” for Brexit. Assess whether to continue with specific European programmes and it “will be reasonable that we make a contribution” to the ones which continue. Agree terms of future partnership with EU alongside withdrawal, both within the two years allowed under Article 50 to convert EU law into UK law and later allow parliament to pass legislation to “amend, repeal or improve” any piece of this. Remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the next parliament. Repeal or replace the Human Rights Act “while the process of Brexit is under way” ruled out, although consideration will be given to the UK’s “human rights legal framework” when Brexit concludes. Reduce and control immigration from Europe after Brexit. Seek to replicate all existing EU free trade agreements. Support the ratification of trade agreements entered into during our EU membership. Introduce a Trade Bill in the next parliament. Create a network of Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioners to head nine new regional overseas posts. Reconvene the Board of Trade to increase exports from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.

Education:

Labour: Tuition fees abolished and maintenance grants reintroduced for university students.

Conservative: Pump an extra £4 billion into schools by 2022. Scrap free school lunches for infants in England, but offer free breakfasts across the primary years. No school will have its budget cut as a result of the new funding formula. At least a hundred new free schools a year. End ban on grammar schools – conditions would include allowing pupils to join at “other ages as well as eleven”. Ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools. A specialist maths school to be opened in every major city in England due to new funding arrangements. Every eleven-year-old expected to know their times tables off by heart. If universities want to charge maximum tuition fees, they will be required to “become involved” in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools Introduce T-Levels. Change the rules to allow the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools. New faith schools will now have to prove parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school. Work to build up the investment funds of universities across the UK.

Health:

Labour: More than £30 billion of extra funding for the NHS through increased income tax for top five percent earners, increased tax on private medical insurance and halving management consultants’ fees. Pay cap scrapped. EU NHS workers’ rights immediately protected. NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans halted.

Conservative: Real terms increases in NHS spending reaching £8 billion extra per year by 2022/23. A new GP contract and changes to the contract for hospital consultants. Retain the ninety five percent four hour A&E target. Require foreign workers and overseas students to pay more to cover the cost of NHS care.

Workers’ rights:

Labour: Creation of a Ministry of Labour to deliver investment in enforcing workers’ rights. Repeal Trade Union Act and introduce “sectoral collective bargaining” through unions. Zero hours contracts outlawed. Unpaid internships banned. Employers stopped from only recruiting from overseas. Bring minimum wage in line with living wage – at least £10 an hour by 2020. Rights for all workers to have access to trade union. Paternity leave doubled to four weeks and paternity pay increased. Protections for women on maternity leave strengthened. Four new public holidays to mark patron saints’ days. Public inquiry into blacklisting notification.

Conservative: Increase the National Living Wage to sixty percent of median earnings by 2020. Ensure people working in the ‘gig’ economy are properly protected. Change the law to ensure listed companies nominate a director from the workforce, create a formal employee advisory council or assign specific responsibility for employee representation to a designated non-executive director. Introduce a right for employees to request information relating to the future direction of the company.

Democracy:

Labour: Lower voting age to sixteen.

Conservative: Provide clarity across England on what devolution means for different administrations so all authorities operate in a common framework. A referendum on Scottish independence cannot take place until the Brexit process has played out and it should not take place unless there is public consent for it to happen. Protect the interests of Scotland and Wales as new UK farming and fisheries policy develops. Recognise Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances as UK leaves the European Union and will seek to ensure its interests are protected.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who you chose to vote for. What is important it becoming informed. Too many people say “Politics is boring, it has nothing to do with me”, but the truth is that it has everything to do with you. We are lucky enough to reside within a country where democracy is valued, and in this it is important that we make an informed decision. Most importantly we have a civic duty to go to the ballots and cast a vote in accordance with that decision.

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