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Election agendas 2017

We are in the second week of the General Election campaigns. The parties are still drafting their manifestos but there are already clues as to what they will include. The local elections showed large gains for the Conservatives whilst Labour lost ground in its heartland constituencies. 

Even so they won two of the new Metro-Mayoral elections in Manchester and Liverpool. The Liberal Democrats would have been disappointed with their results and the writing was on the wall for UKIP who lost all the seats they held and gained only one. These results match the latest polls that put the Conservatives (46.6%) ahead of Labour (28.9%) and Lib Dems (9.5%).

So what will they do to sustain or change these ratings? The Conservatives wanted it to be a Brexit election but Theresa May seems to be making it about leadership, exploiting her personal ratings (62%) compared to Jeremy Corbyn’s (25%). He is responding by claiming that Labour is for the many whereas the Conservatives are for the few – the greedy bakers, the fat cats and asset strippers – promising to increase taxes on those who earn more than £80,000 and increase Corporation tax. He has also vowed to spend £5.6 billion more on schools and is expected to make similar commitments to the NHS and social care when their manifesto is published. These services do need increased funding but it doesn’t seem the voters are keen to back a Corbyn led Labour party.

Their poll lead does not mean that the Conservatives are cruising to victory. They are aware that their lead could cause complacency especially amongst those who are not traditional Conservatives. There could still be incidents or statements that cause recent converts to think again. The Crown Prosecution Service is about to announce the outcome of its investigation into Conservatives who failed to properly disclose their local spending during the 2015 election.  Theresa May has also said she supports fox hunting and if her party wins the election she would repeal the legislation that banned it. A majority of the electorate oppose that. Moreover, the funding of the NHS, social care, schools and the shortage of affordable housing are real concerns for many voters and could cause a rethink about how to cast their vote.

Of course Brexit is the biggest issue and the Liberal Democrats won’t let us forget it. Theresa May’s commitment to reducing immigration to tens of thousands will satisfy some but the need for immigrant labour in hospitals, agriculture, the building industry and the Universities could cause some to turn to the Lib Dems.  Their pitch that Mrs May is making enemies of friends might move some committed Remainers to vote for them.

There are other serious agendas that ought to be addressed but are unlikely to be a priority in this election. Global warming and climate change is one, as are energy supply and security, air quality and pollution. The high level of household debt is another. An economic downturn in the event of a hard Brexit could leave many households in dire straits and if the Lib Dem campaign awakens their fears May’s lead could be cut. Terrorism and international crime are unlikely to receive much attention but they are serious matters and if Brexit means leaving Europol our ability to deal with them would be weakened. Technological advances and the replacement of workers by machines, artificial intelligence and robotics are no longer the stuff of science fiction and pose a threat to jobs that cannot be ignored indefinitely. Nor should the issue of refugees be forgotten.

The need for wisdom about how to vote in this crucial election makes the need for serious prayer a high priority for people of faith.

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