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Election manifestos – a first glance

Each of the manifestos of the three largest parties is now published. They are substantial documents, covering a wider range of issues than can be covered here but it is worth picking out the headlines on the issues they consider important and comparing what they are proposing.

Predictably Brexit is an important item. The Conservatives repeat their commitment to reduce and control immigration from Europe. Neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats follow that line. They both want us to retain membership of the single market – i.e. a soft Brexit – and they will be aware that, in the words of Angela Merkel “UK relations with the EU will pay a price if the UK takes a hard line on European immigration after Brexit “. She said she was not being malicious but Britain “cannot enjoy all the benefits” if we set an upper limit on the number immigrants from the EU following Brexit. That sets a red line in the forthcoming negotiations.

The clear headline in the Labour manifesto is a return to traditional socialism. A major programme of nationalisation would bring the railways back into public ownership as the existing franchises expire. Energy supply and water would also be brought into public ownership along with the Royal Mail. Income tax would be raised for those earning £80,000 or more and Corporation tax would also be raised. The minimum wage would be lifted and maximum pay ratios introduced in the public sector. Zero hours contracts would be effectively banned.

The Liberal Democrats set themselves out as the real Opposition by opposing Brexit and vowing to “protect Britain’s place in Europe”. They want a second referendum on the outcome of the negotiations with the EU and obviously hope that voters might then reverse the outcome of the 2016 referendum because Brexit would mean too much pain. Labour doesn’t go that far but declares that a ‘no-deal’ outcome is not acceptable.

The NHS and Social Care feature in all three manifestos. The Lib Dems propose an extra £6 billion for the NHS, the Conservatives £8 billion and Labour£30 billion over the next Parliament. The Conservatives hit the retired hard, scrapping the triple-lock on the State pension and means testing the winter fuel payments. They plan to raise the cost of care threshold from £23,000 to £100,000 but propose clawing it back from their estate when a recipient dies. Both Labour and the Lib Dems would protect the triple-lock on pensions.

The Liberal Democrats spring some surprises in their manifesto. They would legalise cannabis and introduce a regulated market to protect young people and raise funds for the Treasury. They would also ban the sale of new diesel cars by 2025, extend the vote to 16 year olds, introduce proportional representation and replace the House of Lords with a democratically elected upper chamber. The y would also give engineering graduates £10,000 to join the armed forces. The Labour Party has radical plans to abolish University tuition fees and reintroduce maintenance grants for university students. They would also extend 30 hours of free child care to all two year olds and reduce class sizes to less than thirty for children under eight.

What comes from these and the many other policy proposals in the manifestos depends on how we vote on June 8th and if the polls are any guide many of them will not happen. That’s democracy and it is every voter’s privilege and duty to decide the outcome.

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