This has been the most closely fought election for four decades. Despite the fact that the electorate has become phlegmatic with politics, the next government is likely to be a rainbow of colours; potentially leaving the UK with a triumvirate. All of the parties have launched their manifestos for the electorate to pore over when deciding who to put their cross next to when they cast their votes on the 7th of May. Felix Parker-Smith, Public Affairs Executive at the BSIA, has a look at the various manifesto pledges.
Conservatives and UKIP will continue with £30 billion of austerity measures, whereas the SNP oppose further cuts. Labour and Liberal Democrats fall in between. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats expect to eradicate the deficit by 2019 and Labour will cut it “as soon as possible”. Labour have pledged no new spending paid for by additional borrowing and Liberal Democrats will increase spending once the budget is balanced. The SNP will increase spending by 0.5% above inflation.
All parties except for Conservatives and UKIP will abolish Police & Crime Commissioners, with UKIP looking at decreasing the number. Most parties will reform policing allowing forces to retain more money and to adapt new technologies. Labour has announced plans for all officers to become Chartered Officers, registering with the College of Policing. Labour will also push forward with the all-Wales policing plan, devolving responsibility to the Senedd. All of the parties have pledged varying levels of commitment to tackling cyber crime and Labour, Liberal Democrats and SNP will all conduct a Strategic Defence & Security Review. The Liberal Democrats will pass a new Freedoms Act to tighten CCTV regulation and give more powers to the Surveillance Camera Commissioner. The Liberal Democrats have also stated that unless there are strong reasons to the contrary, public servants will run detention, prison, immigration enforcement and secure units, not commercial organisations. UKIP have also expressed a similar policy with a commitment to not privatise the police. UKIP will also review the necessity of 43 constabularies with a police-led approach to release more finance into the front line. The SNP will deliver 1,000 extra police officers for Scotland, make VAT exemptions for Police Scotland and oppose the ‘snoopers charter’ like the Liberal Democrats.
There are various promises for SMEs including reform of business rates from all parties except the SNP, raises to the Employment Allowance from the Conservatives and the SNP and commitments to making public procurement easier from all parties. The SNP and the Liberal Democrats will adapt current freedom of information legislation to cover private organisations that provide public services. Finance for businesses is big in the manifestos too with the Conservatives trebling Start Up Loans and supporting 100,000 first time exporters through the GREAT campaign. Labour have pledged to crack down on disguised employment and increase more finance and the Liberal Democrats have also pledged to improve access to finance. The SNP will improve finance for Scottish businesses only. The three main parties will all deliver superfast broadband to cover between 95% to 99.9% and the SNP will give Scotland superfast broadband. The Conservatives will make the UK a world leader in the development of 5G.
Most of the parties have pledged to increase the minimum wage by varying levels of between £8 p/hr and £8.70 p/hr by 2020 with the Liberal Democrats promising to look at ways of raising it. The Conservatives and UKIP are pledging that everyone earning the minimum wage is taken out of income tax creating a tax-free minimum wage. Labour and the SNP would work to promote the Living Wage via public procurement contracts. Several of the parties would increase the tax-free personal allowance, with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats raising it to £12,500 and UKIP to £13,000. Zero hours contracts would be banned outright by Labour and the SNP whilst the Liberal Democrats would create a formal right to request a fixed contract. The Conservatives and UKIP would remove exclusivity clauses from them. The SNP would close the gender pay gap in Scotland and increase paternity leave in line with the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats and UKIP would raise National Insurance thresholds and UKIP would introduce an intermediate tax rate of 30% on incomes between £43,500 to £55,000. Labour will abolish loopholes that allow firms to undercut permanent staff by employing agency staff on lower pay and abolish the government’s employment tribunal fee system.
The Conservatives will create 3,000,000 new apprenticeships whilst Labour will guarantee every school leaver with the set grades an apprenticeship. Labour will also ensure every firm winning government contracts, every large firm employing workers from outside the EU offers apprenticeships and they’ll reform apprenticeship funding to give employers more control, re-focusing existing funding away from low-level apprenticeships and older learners. The Liberal Democrats will double the number of businesses hiring apprentices, deliver 200,000 grants to employers and introduce new sector-led National Colleges. The SNP will develop a further 30,000 for Scotland whilst UKIP will allow young people to start apprenticeships early, in lieu of four non-core GCSEs.
All of the parties will deliver the Smith Commission proposals whilst Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP would go further and create home rule for Scotland. UKIP are the only party pledging to reduce the Barnett formula and the SNP have noticeably not ruled out a further independence referendum. For England the Conservatives have pledged English votes for English laws, something the SNP are strongly opposed too. The Liberal Democrats will introduce an English-only stage to the legislative process. Cities that choose to have a directly elected Mayor will be granted powers over economic development under the Conservatives. Labour has also announced a £30 billion package of devolution for English cities and counties. The Liberal Democrats will introduce ‘devolution on demand’ for England and they will create a Cornish Assembly, along similar lines to the Welsh Assembly. The three main parties have all pledged to implement the Silk Commission proposals to the Welsh Assembly and the Conservatives would further devolve issues such as Assembly size, name, electoral system and voting age whilst Labour would devolve to Wales on the same basis as Scotland. Labour would also push ahead with the all-Wales policing plan, devolving policing to the Welsh Assembly. The Liberal Democrats would introduce home rule to Wales, similar to Scotland.