Nationalisation, Nurses and Net-Zeros – a Guide to the 2019 General Election Manifestos
29 November 2019
With just over two weeks to go, the Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Lib Dems and Greens have now all set out their stalls and delivered their manifesto commitments for the General Election. But who’s promising what and which voters are they trying to sway?
‘Get Brexit Done’ is the pitch the Tories are convinced will sail Boris Johnson back to Number 10 with that crucial majority.
Boris Johnson has once again given his personal guarantee that he will get Brexit over the line, if he wins a majority. The Conservatives also promising not to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond December 2020 – a very short amount of time to finalise what one would expect to be an ambitious trade deal with the bloc, but an attractive policy to many Brexit voters.
But what else are the Conservatives promising Britain?
The Tories have faced criticism for “playing it safe” in their manifesto. Firstly, there will be no income tax, VAT or National Insurance rises, meaning that spending will only increase slightly. And with the ‘Ghost of Social Care Policies Past’ still visiting on dark nights, the manifesto contains only a guiding principle that no-one will have to sell their home to pay for care, despite Boris Johnson promising to fix the crisis.
There are also commitments to increase the number of nurses, increase pensions by at least 2.5 per cent each year, spend £6.3 billion on 2.2 million disadvantaged homes, and introduce a points-based immigration system – all potentially attractive policies to working class Brexit voters that they believe to be crucial in this election.
It’s a manifesto that not many will criticise for lacking ambition. Labour is pitching a massive shake up of Britain’s business model and the way the economy works, including commitments to vast public spending and investment.
At around £600 billion more in spending promises over the next five years, Labour has drawn a line between themselves and the other major parties. The NHS, social care and education would be some of the main benefactors. Nationalisation has also featured heavily, with the party committing to bring swathes of the energy, utilities and transport sectors into public ownership.
Labour has gone all-in on a spending programme that they hope will cut through the Brexit debate. While their updated policy of renegotiating a new Brexit deal within three months, and holding a referendum on the deal or Remain within six months, has slowly improved the electorate’s understanding of their position, they are facing persistent criticism for Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge that he would remain neutral on that referendum.
Speaking of referendums, Labour has been criticised for its wobbly position on indyref2. Against holding a second referendum on Scottish independence before the election was called, Scottish Labour has now moved in line with Jeremy Corbyn and the UK party – that indyref2 would not be agreed to in the “early years” of a Labour Government.
Brexit and Scottish independence are front and centre of the SNP manifesto and campaign, with Nicola Sturgeon pledging to “escape Brexit and put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”. Scots voting 62 per cent in favour of Remain in 2016, supporting a second Brexit referendum is a sensible stance for Scotland’s major party to adopt. However, it’s worth noting that over a million people voted Leave in Scotland, and of these a third were also supporters of Scottish independence.
Unsurprisingly, the SNP are pushing for a second referendum on Scottish independence as their central plank in the General Election campaign. Nicola Sturgeon has argued that taking the majority of Scottish seats will be the mandate she needs to hold a new poll, and that a minority Labour Government will pay this price once they do the arithmetic on 13 December. But with the Tories completely ruling out indyref2, and Labour ruling it out in the “early years” of government, it appears unlikely the First Minister will get her 2020 wish.
The party also set out ambitious policy asks that will likely be crucial bargaining chips in any SNP-supported minority government, including an increase in health spending, the scrapping of the Trident Nuclear Deterrent and for the devolution of Network Rail.
The Lib Dems leading policy is summarised into two capitalised words stamped on the front cover of their manifesto – “STOP BREXIT”. They are now the only UK-wide party promising to revoke Article 50 immediately, putting a stop to Brexit without holding another referendum.
It’s a move that aims to sweep up votes from two separate sources – Labour-Remainers who may view Jeremy Corbyn’s stance over Britain’s membership with the EU as being unclear, and disgruntled Tory-Remainers who are unable to support a Leave-backing PM.
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Importantly, their leading policy also underpins their plans to increase public spending, claiming that staying in the EU would deliver a £50 billion “Remain bonus” to the economy, helping the party offer attractive increases in health, education and other public spending.
Their Scottish leader, Willie Rennie, has emphasised that the Lib Dems are the only party committed to “stopping Brexit and stopping independence”, vowing to end the “constitutional chaos” if they play a role in government.
The party has committed to spend £100 billion a year to cut carbon emissions and set an ambitious deadline to bring the UK’s emissions down to net-zero.
With the Conservatives aiming to halt greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Labour and the Liberal Democrats marginally earlier, the Greens have trumped all others by declaring that all emissions must be eliminated by 2030.
Aside from climate commitments, the Greens have also pledged to increase NHS and social care funding, abolish tuition fees, and scrap the first past the post voting system. Though the latter may come slightly too late to aid the Greens in this election, with Caroline Lucas likely to be returned as the party’s sole MP.
So, there we have it. As the canvassers and activists take their newly forged messages to the streets, the rest of us can now only wait patiently to see if it makes any difference to the polls.
Will Little, Public Affairs Account Manager, 3×1 Group