Parties unveil manifestos as election fever grips the nation

Anusha Singh Wednesday 12th June 2024 07:54 EDT

As the nation gears up for the upcoming national election slated for July 4th, the political sphere is electrified by the release of party manifestos. With both the Conservative and Lib Dem manifestos already unveiled, Asian Voice dives into the core commitments, featuring commentary from stakeholders, dissecting campaign strategies, and offering insights into the anticipated contents of Labour's manifesto.

As the countdown continues, parties navigate the complexities of campaign strategy and policy formulation. With each manifesto release shaping public discourse and influencing voter sentiment, the stage is set for a riveting electoral showdown. Will the detailed Conservative manifesto win voters over, or will Labour's keep up the lead with their cautious, measured approach and pave the way for a resurgence? The coming days hold the answer.

Will the detailed Conservative manifesto win voters over?

Currently, Rishi Sunak’s campaign strategy is focused on seats with significant Tory majorities, indicating a defensive approach by the party.

Top cabinet and shadow cabinet members have made around 100 constituency visits, primarily targeting previously secure Tory areas. Seats visited by leading Tory ministers were generally won by the party by 20 points in the last election, with an average majority of over 10,600. Only three out of their 49 visits were to non-Conservative-held seats. Whether this will be sufficient to mobilise their supporters remains to be seen.

While a lot remains uncertain, the extensive Conservative manifesto, spanning seventy-six pages and encompassing nearly £20 billion in tax and spending announcements puts the Conservatives’ plan for the country forward and answers some questions. It features numerous pledges designed to appeal to a wide range of demographics.

Key promises include a 2p cut to national insurance for workers, income tax cuts for pensioners, and child benefit for high earners, along with significant policies like compulsory national service for 18-year-olds and the elimination of facade degrees. The party is also pledging to introduce a “triple lock plus” for pensioners, ensuring that the state pension remains untaxed. This plan includes a provision where the tax-free personal allowance for pensioners would increase by the highest of three metrics: inflation, wages, or 2.5 percent.

The manifesto also encompasses a goal of constructing 1.6 million new homes within a span of five years. While the figure is slightly higher than what Labour has pledged, it isn’t enough, according to Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB. He said, “Britain is currently experiencing a housing crisis, and today’s Conservative Party manifesto launch was an opportunity to set out a plan to deliver real change over the next five-years. The pledge to support smaller local builders, by requiring councils to set land aside for them, will be welcomed by FMB members, as will proposals to lift Section 106 requirements for smaller sites. However, if the housing crisis is to be successfully tackled reform of the planning system is urgently needed, something the Conservative Party has consistently failed to address.”

A key debate around the manifesto is its affordability with two main sources of funding outlined: saving £12 billion by reforming welfare and raising £6 billion by targeting tax avoidance and evasion. Additional funds would come from "quango efficiencies" and reducing the civil service headcount. However, economists are sceptical about these revenue sources. Historically, welfare spending has increased under Conservative governments and is projected to rise further.

The manifesto has also failed to address some of the Conservative Party's internal concerns, particularly from the right wing, about a firmer stance on leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. Sunak has kept the option open but has not made the firm commitment that hardliners desire.

With twenty-three days to go, it remains uncertain if these measures will significantly boost support for Sunak and the Conservatives. The campaign has faced various setbacks, including the decision to call an early election under less than ideal circumstances and Sunak's early departure from D-Day commemorations. While the individual measures are popular with voters, they haven't yet translated into increased support for the party, with Labour maintaining a consistent lead of over 20 points in the polls.

Commenting on the manifesto, Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said, “There is a glaring black hole in the Conservative manifesto launched today with next to no mention of democratic reform.

“The commitment to English regional devolution is welcome but it is undermined by the recent change to the voting system for mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners which means they now operate under a reduced mandate. Maintaining the status quo of First Past the Post over a proportionally representative voting system is misguided and continues to undermine any mandate a government may achieve. It also means perpetuating a politics that places the focus on the few ‘swing seats’ that change hands between parties at elections but leaves many other areas of the country politically ignored and left behind. 

When it comes to pending legislation, several key policies personally linked to Sunak have been left out. These include a gradual ban on tobacco, a crackdown on vape sales, and making maths study mandatory until the age of 18. Another long-held Tory proposal that has not been revived is the ban on so-called conversion therapies. Although the manifesto condemns these practices as “abhorrent,” it also notes them as a “complex issue, with existing criminal law already offering robust protections.”

Honestly, the Conservative campaign appears focused on preventing a Labour landslide rather than securing a victory, with social media ads cautioning voters that supporting other parties could lead to a "massive majority" for Starmer.

Lib Dem manifesto making way for comeback?

The Liberal Democrats, on the other have unveiled an ambitious £8 billion health and care package for England in their election manifesto, aiming to prioritise the wellbeing of citizens. At the manifesto launch, party leader Sir Ed Davey emphasised the significance of carers, drawing from his personal experiences caring for his disabled son and mother.

Funding for the proposals would come from reversing tax cuts for banks and closing tax loopholes exploited by the wealthiest individuals. Key initiatives include ensuring access to GPs within seven days and providing free personal care for older or disabled individuals at home.

The manifesto, titled "For a Fair Deal," is the first in the party's history to include a dedicated chapter on care. Sir Ed's plan aims to alleviate pressure on the NHS by supporting carers, freeing up hospital beds, and investing in preventative health measures.

Reacting to the health care pledges, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said, “Any incoming government must make health its number one priority so it’s good to see the Lib Dems putting health and care at the front and centre of their manifesto launch.

“There are signs in this manifesto that the Lib Dems do understand some of the huge challenges our health and care system faces and are prepared to rectify the managed decline of our NHS and dismantling of general practice through wanton neglect. Their focus on population health and measures to help people live healthier lives is refreshing after repeated failures to take public health threats such as smoking, obesity, air pollution and climate change as seriously as they should.”

The manifesto outlines several key social care pledges, including increasing wages for care workers, boosting Carer's Allowance, and raising the earnings threshold for carers. Additionally, the party proposes measures to address the cost of living crisis without burdening struggling families with increased taxes.

To fund these initiatives, the party plans to close tax loopholes, introduce new levies on banks and frequent fliers, and invest in HMRC to crack down on tax avoidance. Other manifesto policies include overhauling the water industry, improving mental health support in schools, and ensuring proper investigation of domestic burglaries.

About the part manifesto, NUS UK Vice President for Liberation and Equality, Nehaal Bajwa, said, “The policies contained in the Liberal Democrat manifesto are a welcome first step; however, for meaningful change, we must go further. We need free education, high quality, green and affordable housing, and commitments on the rights of international students. It is now for the other parties to respond to the challenge and offer students and young people something to vote for. Students are increasingly politicised and angry, and no politician or political party should take us for granted on polling day."  

Labour's manifesto to follow competitors' lead

As the Conservatives and the Lib Dems shared their vision of the future, the Labour Party chose to release their manifesto later in the week, on Thursday, June 13.  It seems that Sir Keir wanted to gauge what is being offered by his competitors and how the public reacts to it before putting his vision out there. The leader has already been described as someone who isn’t very forthcoming with his plans in  this general election.

According to polls, Labour is currently positioned to secure victory in the national election scheduled for July 4, with Starmer's party holding a significant lead of approximately 20 points over the ruling Conservative Party.

Tensions between the two parties have been rife following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s claims that Labour would impose tax hikes of £2,000 ($2,500) per household if it assumed power. With Labour vehemently denying this assertion.

Starmer  further asserted that Labour's plans were thoroughly costed and funded. He stated, "Our plans are fully costed and fully funded. They do not necessitate tax increases beyond those already outlined. Therefore, there will be no surprises when the manifesto is revealed on Thursday."

Labour’s manifesto will be defined by caution: both fiscally and politically. Additionally, Labour has pledged to level the playing field for small businesses by overhauling the business rates system. Keir Starmer recently criticised the Conservative Government for its long-standing failure to "fix" the problematic system.

The Labour Party is also committed to accelerating the establishment of banking hubs, eradicating late payments by mandating large firms to disclose their payment practices, and cracking down on antisocial behaviour to rejuvenate high streets.  The Labour also highlighted priorities such as scrapping the Rwanda migrants scheme, addressing the cost-of-living crisis, and improving the education system.

There is also significant noise around the manifesto pledging recognition of a Palestinian state before the end of a peace process. Whether the highlighted priorities make it to the manifesto or not is something worth watching out for.

When it comes to campaigning strategy, the labour is also attacking Sunak’s defensive approach, Labour's top team is campaigning in constituencies targeting seats with an average Tory majority of 9,500. Keir Starmer began his campaign in Lancing, West Sussex, traditionally a Conservative stronghold for over a century. Starmer also focused on seats like Worcester and Nuneaton, Tory-held since 2010 but key to Tony Blair's electoral victories in 1997.

Additionally, Labour volunteers are primarily focused on safer Tory seats and those with substantial South Asian populations, where Labour’s stance on Gaza has affected its prospects. Confident of victory in seats with under 5,000 Tory majorities, volunteers have been redirected to constituencies where Labour trails by 10,000 or more.

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