June 23rd 2016, I sat at my friend’s house in the US, watching the referendum results unfold. The six pack of watery Bud lite didn’t last me too long that night, without saying much on what I though of the results.
Since then we have seen seen Theresa May take the reigns over as Prime Minister, sign the letter which triggered Article 50 and called for a snap election; and there is no doubt at all that this general election is woven into the constantly growing story that is Brexit, made of so many intricately entwined threads of political moves and counter moves, each as important as the next. Much like the Bayeux Tapestry, you know it will be a work of massive historical importance, for the British people and their identity, but on inspection of it as a whole realize the crudity of it, it surely isn’t a particularly pretty piece of work. The final pieces of brexit hinge on this master thread that is the General Election, so no matter if you voted yes or no, last June, this vote is important in order for you to have a final say on the brexit procession, and in fact on how a post Brexit Britain will function for the next five years. So here are the main players for Great Britain, (Northern Ireland, I’ll perhaps write on our political parties once we actually stop messing about and form a legislative assembly)
First lets look at the big two!
The Conservative and Unionist Party (aka Conservative, or Tories)
Lead by current Prime Minister Theresa May, the Tories are Centre-Right, believing in conservatism, economic liberalism, and unionism. This is seen through their stance on Brexit, Scottish Independence, benefits and the National Health Service.
Brexit: Of course they are pro-brexit, considering the original referendum arguably came about from their in-party fighting. They are fighting for a “Triple lock” on brexit, which means: one, leaving the single market, two, leaving the European court of justice, and three, ending the free movement of EU migrants in and out of the UK,
The first lock means they will likely seek new trade agreements with the EU, China, India, and the US. Critics are quick to point out that states like India and China are likely to want an agreement to reduce visa restriction, in turn allowing for an easier movement of their people to the UK, some what against the spirit of lock three. Also as it was mentioned by President Obama, and confirmed by current President Trump, the UK will have to join the queue (behind the EU) in signing a new trade agreement with the US.
The second lock would involve dropping the EU chatter of human rights (EUCHR), and replacing them with a British Bill of Rights. The question to ask is what will this look like? Given the extensive protections offered by the EUCHR, it is unlikely that the Tories will draft a bill to the left of it offering more protections, but will guarantee less to non British nationals, arguing it will secure national and economic prosperity for the the British people.
Scottish Independence: No, the pro unionist party is not for Scottish independence, and May has said “now is not the time” arguing that we must stick together, to promote a stronger Britain post Brexit, stating Scottish nationalists to be narrow minded and only self interest, a statement rife with contradiction as the main argument she uses against Scottish Nationalism, is British Nationalism disguised and Unionism. That being said an argument for a United Kingdom, is one that promotes over all economic growth, and given Scotland’s main trade is that with England, it can’t be brushed aside by the thought of a Scotland purely trading in the single market.
Social, Economy and Spending: The Tories really bring the squeeze on the national budget, and have over the past seven years tightened public spending, in order to balance the books so to speak, to promote economic growth as the primary marker for a healthy state. This has meant reducing spending on education, the NHS, and benefits. They have put in place a system that allows high ranking universities to charge more, saying it will create competition between institutions leading to better education, critics say it will lead to those in working class backgrounds having to choose between quality or affordability. They are for at least part privatization of the NHS, but in the middle point this has lead to a system that doesn’t know if it is coming or going, with massive shortages in staff, those who they do have are arguably underpaid, and overworked, and new junior doctor contracts show a government desperate to tighten their belt without letting the system completely disintegrate, underpaying junior doctors, and expecting them to work hours that are unhealthy for the doctors and dangerous to the patients. They also aim to scrap the goal of spending of 0.7% national gross income on foreign aid, a goal set by the last leader of the party. This is in order to save billions to spend at home, another sign of an individualistic UK. They are for a raise to the living wage, but this is not to be confused with raising the minimum wage.
Summary: They are against a large welfare state but not for total abolition, they are against high taxation, and are pro business. They want the United Kingdom to be a strong entity on the international stage.
Financial Times Polling: 47% (+11% since the referendum)
Jeremy Corbyn sits as leader of what has been described as a fractured Labour Party, which in the recent Local elections throughout Great Britain saw a large loss of seats, but some say that perhaps the apparent weakness of Labour will be overshadowed by peoples growing dissatisfaction of Brexit and Tory austerity.
Brexit: “Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.” After starting off anti-brexit before the referendum, they have now bitten the bullet and moved towards a “soft brexit stance,” this means for us to leave the EU but remain in the single market, or at least hold firm that any consequent Brexit agreements must allow for the “exact same benefits” as single market membership would allow. They claim they “will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union.” They also hold tight to protecting EU citizens currently residing in the UK.
Scottish Independence: This is one of the many issues Labour seems to be torn over, although Corbyn said “it’s fine” to a second Indy Ref, this is not the same line that has been seen throughout Labour, and in fact Scottish Labour themselves were for the blocking of a second referendum by Westminster back in March. They do however state “The Scottish Parliament will receive a huge funding increase from our policies” and “will establish a Scottish Investment Bank, with £20 billion of funds available to local projects and Scotland’s small businesses, creating work and stimulating the economy.”
Social, Economy and Spending: Labour has vowed to create a more progressive taxation system to ensure higher earners are “fairly taxed,” along with wanting high earns (plus £1 million) to have their tax reports made public, while talking tax avoidance with their “Tax Transparency and Enforcement Programme, and close down tax loopholes.” They also have pledged to spend over 250 billion on infrastructure over a decade, creating jobs and halting the era of austerity. Recently Diane Abott (Shadow Home Secretary) suggested that Labour would spend £300,000 on hiring 10,000 new police officers, quickly realizing this would mean a salary of £30 per year she upped her answer to “I mean…Sorry…. about £80 million” a price that would pay out £8,000 a year. This is somewhat a comical miss calculation, but Labour have backed their preparedness by telling us they have completely priced out their manifesto promises, and they will be able to balance the books. Though in the spirit of things although they would increase the amount of money taken through taxation, this would not be to line the pockets of politicians (theoretically) but to actually invest in public services like the NHS, and schools. They also are for a £10 minimum wage. Another point to mention here is their pledge to form a constitutional convention to reexamine the way Westminster, and honestly all of British politics, operates.
Summary: Pro progressive taxation, pro infrastructure spending, pro single market. Anti austerity
Financial Times Polling: 28% (-4% since the referendum)
If you want more information what the parties are pledging, a simple google search should help you find their manifestos which have a great deal more detail!