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- SUSU Hustings: Southampton Test – Liveblog
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In what has quickly become an election dominated by generous cash giveaways, Sunday’s Conservative manifesto reveal appeared relatively underwhelming. Attempting to come across as fiscally prudent, Boris Johnson set out plans to increase spending by £3 billion, compared to Labour’s £86 billion.
It is clearly a manifesto aimed at winning over Labour moderates who have become disenfranchised by Corbyn’s radicalism. More controversial Conservative plans like reintroducing grammar schools, endorsing a no-deal Brexit, and raising the threshold at which a person pays the 40p income tax rate, have all been set aside in favour of cash boosts for the NHS and schools, a promise to ‘get Brexit done’ quickly and sensibly, and a promise to increase numbers of police officers on the streets.
The sixty-page document which is often scarce on detail is entitled ‘Get Brexit Done: Unleash Britain’s Potential‘, and comes with a ten-page accompanying document penned by Chancellor Sajid Javid, entitled, ‘Costings‘. The manifesto is split into five sections: ‘Get Brexit Done‘, ‘We Will Focus on Your Priorities‘, ‘We Will Unleash Britain’s Potential‘, ‘We Will Strengthen Britain in the World‘, and ‘We Will Put You First‘. These chapters follow a brief introduction by the Prime Minister, including a series of promises such as abolishing the live shipment of animals and cutting VAT on tampons.
Get Brexit Done
In the shortest section of the manifesto, the Prime Minister sets out his plan to get Britain out of the EU by the end of January. Johnson’s Brexit deal passed through its first phase in parliament before the election was called. The manifesto claims that the deal gives the UK the power to ‘take back control‘ of our laws, money, trade policy, and immigration system. It is alleged that an electoral victory for any other party will result in yet ‘more chaos‘.
We Will Focus on Your Priorities
This section is seemingly most aimed at winning over floating voters concerned about the Conservatives’ record in government of fiscal austerity. There are promises to build forty new hospitals and hire 50,000 extra nurses. The student nurse maintenance grant will also see a comeback. Within the first three months of a majority Conservative government, a long-term plan for the NHS would be published which would involve the ‘largest cash settlement‘ in the history of the health service. There are plans to tackle gambling addiction, health tourism, and mental health crises. Alongside this, there is a cast-iron pledge that the NHS will never be on the table in any post-Brexit trade negotiation. Social care policy is scarce, as Boris Johnson attempts to avoid any repeat of the 2017 Theresa May-style ‘dementia tax‘ disaster. Many blame this for her poor performance on polling day. There is, however, a promise of £1 billion extra funding for social care each year, and a clear commitment to urgently seek cross-party consensus on the issue.
Johnson pledges that the starting salary for new teachers will rise to £30,000, among the ‘most competitive in the graduate labour market‘. There is £14 billion set aside for extra schools funding, with nearly one billion extra for special educational needs pupils. The Tories are backing headteachers to exclude problem pupils, and there will be a brand new ‘arts premium‘ fund for secondary schools to support enriching extra-curricular activities.
There is a promise to launch a review into the care system and to prioritise adoption standards. The government will increase the minimum wage to £10.50 per hour for all employees over 21 by the end of this electoral term. There is also a prominent ‘triple tax lock‘ pledge not to increase income tax, National Insurance contributions, or VAT. Crucially, the NI threshold will rise to £9,500 by next year, eventually rising to £12,500, which is estimated to leave workers £500 better off annually. For older people, the triple lock on pension increases will stay in place, as will the winter fuel allowance and pensioners’ bus pass. The manifesto also states that thanks to the tax freedom gained from leaving the EU, the so-called ‘tampon tax‘ will be abolished.
The Prime Minister commits to increasing police numbers by 20,000 to secure his party’s reputation of leading on law and order. Tougher sentences will be introduced, and automatic release for serious crimes at the halfway point in sentences will be scrapped. £2.75 billion has been set aside for refurbishing prisons and creating 10,000 new prison places.
Immigration features heavily in this section, with a pledge to introduce an ‘Australian-style points-based system‘. An NHS visa, which allows qualified healthcare professionals to enter the country fast-tracked, will be introduced. Grasp of the English language will be prioritised in the new system.
We Will Unleash Britain’s Potential
This section includes a number of promises for communities, including a new Towns Fund, aiming to help revive struggling high streets. £500 million has been set aside for youth clubs and services. A new Safer Streets Fund will facilitate increased CCTV.
The manifesto promises regional devolution on transport, with metro mayors being given control in these areas. £1 billion is promised for making sure that every person in the UK is within 30 miles of an electric car charging point. Notably, HS2 is criticised but no decision on the future of the project is provided. This is a clear attempt to avoid any further rail controversy from a government previously embattled by public transport failures.
The Help to Buy scheme will be extended to 2023, and shared ownership will be simplified. There will be a new stamp-duty surcharge for non-UK resident buyers.
There will also be a new, ‘beefed-up‘ tax evasion unit set up in HMRC.
Johnson’s Conservatives go on to promise the introduction of a new National Skills Fund worth £3 billion. This would allow high-quality education and training for those looking to enter the skilled labour force.
The manifesto promises to overcome the issue of ‘grade inflation‘, ‘low-quality courses‘, and extend free speech on campuses.
There are additional promises to protect the farming and fishing industries after Brexit. The Union of the United Kingdom will be strengthened on the premise that ‘our best days lie ahead‘. There is also a pledge to clamp down on abuse of those running for elected office.
We Will Strengthen Britain in the World
National security will be a priority under the Conservatives, with defence spending set to continue to exceed the 2% minimum required by NATO.
There are a series of promises of animal welfare, including new laws on animal sentience, tougher laws against animal abuse, extensions of the ivory ban, a ban on keeping primates as pets, and the introduction of cat microchipping.
A £500 million Blue Planet fund would be allocated to tackle plastic pollution in the oceans, and £9.2 billion set aside for home energy efficiency.
There will be stronger trade links with Commonwealth nations post-Brexit, and trade in services will be liberalised.
We Will Put You First
This conclusion to the manifesto requests that the electorate returns a Conservative majority so that the Prime Minister can fulfil the 2016 Leave vote, and ‘unleash the full potential of this great country‘.
‘Brexit‘, is mentioned 61 times throughout the manifesto. ‘Corbyn’ appears 13 times and ‘chaos‘ 4 times. ‘unleash‘ Britain’s potential comes up 17 times.