On Thursday, the government leading Parliament will either be a minority government led by either the Conservatives or the Labour Party or it will be a Coalition likely led by either of those two parties. So, what policies are we likely to have to put up with following this election? Here is our analysis of the main Tory Policies, and the Labour policies are analysed here.
Labour Party Policy Analysis
In a highly uncharacteristic move, Labour’s economic manifesto pledges state the Party’s primary aim to be that deficit reduction, to be funded through the dual approach of tax rises and spending cuts. With regard to the latter, as with the current government, there shall continue to be three ‘protected’ areas of public spending whereby no cuts will be made: International aid, health and education. The announcements of specific cuts are quite clearly politically loaded, and leave much room for the implementation of unannounced unpopular cuts should Labour form a government. Whilst cutting the Winter Fuel Payments given to the richest top 5% of pensioners is indeed a sensible and much needed bout of austerity, its feature in the manifesto as a key policy is not justified by the amount of revenue it will actually save; with the same applying to the cutting and freezing of Minister’s pay. Their value is not based upon economic effectiveness but rather in their ability to reaffirm that Labour is the party dedicated to achieving fairness for the young and disadvantaged.
On taxes, this veil of opaqueness lifts and policy specifics are championed. Again, almost exclusively the pledges aim to reassure that the Party will not stand for a ‘rich bias’. The 50% top rate of income tax would be reinstated and a mansion tax on homes valued at over £2 million would be introduced; undoubtedly though, it is the policy of abolishing the infamous ‘non-domicile’ status that has been styled as the flagship policy, further driving home the “robin-hood rhetoric” regarding fairness and increased equality that has driven Labour’s economic policy proposals. On the flipside, Miliband and his merry men are heavily endorsing tax cuts for the very poorest, promising to strictly ensure there will be no rises on major indirect taxes such as VAT, to scrap the Bedroom Tax and introduce a new minimum wage of £8 per hour by 2019.
Unmistakably, these economic pledges are a great political gamble. In terms of appealing to its core working class voter base, this is Labour’s strongest manifesto for years, one ensuring that a mass exodus of its members to the Greens or even UKIP is kept at bay. Yet it might just prove that by the Party shuffling slightly leftwards will, in these last few crucial weeks, drive further away many of those of the centre/centre-right who were hard won over by Blair’s New Labour and had remained somewhat loyal since. But in looking beyond electoral value, the manifesto does contain on the whole a reasonable amount of common sense and compassion. Constant attacks upon the rich might prove to be costly should vast swathes of investors take flight, carrying with them the jobs and revenue their businesses create. But this is not a certainty, and might well just never happen. What is a definite however, is that the Conservative’s trust in trickle-down economics has failed to deliver for the society’s neediest in the past 5 years; a wrongdoing which Labour’s manifesto almost promises to amend.
It is within the arena of social policy that the contemporary Party’s retreat from the New Labour image can be seen most evidently. Out are tough stances on welfare, law and order and an adherence to the market; in come redistributionist policies and a rejection of the dogma of individualism. Constituting the vanguard of Miliband’s subtle socialist push the issue of welfare; its flagship pledge which unfortunately overtly stinks of fraudulent populism: should they be elected Labour have promised to provide a job for every under-25 who has been unemployed for over a year and for every unemployed adult of more than two years; to be paid for by taxing bankers bonuses. Detectable here is a shameless effort to play upon what has become a popular national gripe by taking a swing at the bankers. Yes the bonuses they received, especially during the financial crisis, were immoral and obscene; but how do Labour expect the relatively negligible returns that this tax promises to provide should even come close to covering the cost of creating jobs for hundreds of thousands of people? The rogue pledges do not end there: for housing, 200,000 new homes are promised annually until 2020 without any indication as to where the funding for this would come from; whilst with regard to the High Speed 2 rail link between the North and South vows are made to ‘keep costs down’, leaving all readers puzzling as to what this entails exactly. Once you manage to wade through all the murky assurances however some policies of real quality can be found; namely the introduction of a victims law, a tougher stance on domestic and sexual violence and the raising of tax credits for those on benefits in line with inflation.
Labour has yet again pulled off a stunning coup when it comes to beating all other parties on the NHS issue. In the spirit of awarding credit where it’s due, Labour have been efficient in continuing their reputation as the best party for health. Their pledge for NHS funding offers the electorate £2.5bn per annum to pay for a huge increase in the number of staff (20,000 nurses, 8,000 doctors and 3,000 midwifes); whilst also sourcing their funding for this project as being the revenue collected from the mansion tax, a levy on tobacco companies and the clampdown on tax avoiders. In tandem with this aim Labour is also promising to roll the three traditional administrative pillars of physical, mental and social care within the NHS into one all-encompassing process of treatment. This promises not only to streamline the inefficient bureaucracy that we currently possess; it more importantly seeks to humanise the NHS, by allowing for easy access to patient documentation and eases the cohesion of patient treatment processes.
Soft and severely lacking bite given the turbulent time within which we live. The main focus is not as it should be upon restoring Britain to a great global power or regaining our foothold at the helm of diplomatic affairs. In fact it fails to mention any of this at all, bar a pledge to claw back some of Britain’s influence within the EU (a subject upon which it is almost indistinguishable from the Tories, not that anyone’s noticed). What can be seen instead is the dressing up of Labour as a cosmopolitan and humanitarian bunch, with their goals not concerning the realism of international relations but LGBT rights, religious freedom, inequality and the environment. All this is perfectly fine, moreover quite refreshing given the desperate lack of attention nations often give these issues. But in a period like the present, so riddled with uncertainty and trepidation, Putin and ISIS; to place the entire focus of a manifesto upon issues that can be solved in the equivalent of national spare time sends the completely wrong message.
At least they still support Trident.
It is indeed a shame that those who claim to be true social democrats refuse to speak out explicitly against the toxic anti-immigrant rhetoric that has seeped into our national discourse as of late. In a world of purely ideological politics, it is likely that a Labour manifesto would offer an alternative message of acceptance and positivity to counter the demonization of migrants that Farage and the fear-mongers have successfully peddled. Yet electoral considerations must be made, hence why the manifesto pledges on immigration are somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand pledges are made to cut low-skilled migration, expand the size and scope of border agencies and to prevent migrants claiming benefits for two years. In an attempt to snatch back some of those voters who have floated over to UKIP, Labour has tossed away some key features of its traditionally welcoming and open attitude to immigration. Aside from these minor shifts; on balance, Labour’s immigration policies look to be the best of all mainstream parties. It makes a huge effort to highlight proposed reforms to the refugee/asylum system; whereby it aims to allow an increase in the intake of refugees from Syria and other conflict zones, whilst concurrently ridding Britain of its embarrassingly draconian detention system. Even better are its plans to prevent the undercutting of the wages of Britons in low-skilled jobs by clamping down on the exploitation of cheap migrant labour by employers and traffickers. Rather than merely conforming to the status quo by blaming the migrants themselves and accordingly attempting to curb immigration inflows; this is a highly progressive policy advocated by a vast number of economists and political scientists, which deserves to be not just nationally but globally emulated. Top marks here for Labour.