On 18 April, Prime Minister Theresa May took to the front of Number 10 to break the news that, after months pledging not to, a snap election would be held on 8 June.
The reason, in May’s words, is that following the vote for Brexit “Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership” and that the resistance from opposing parties has made this difficult. From Labour’s threat to vote against the final agreement reached with the EU, to unelected members of the House of Lords vowing to fight the government every step of the way, it is clear the political brinkmanship will only continue and negotiations with the EU will reach their most turbulent at the time of the next scheduled election.
While these reasons make the decision to hold an election now appear logical and necessary, the timing couldn’t be better to benefit the Tories; way ahead in the opinion polls, May has capitalised on this having already reassembled the Conservative Party and, herself a remain advocate, May still holds an appeal with Brexit voters in a was no other party does. In spite (or perhaps because) of the fact, five out of seven of the party leaders have changed since the 2015 General Election, Number 10 has ruled out the use of televised debates between the party leaders during this election campaign. Before triggering Article 50 there was speculation as to whether the Prime Minister would hold a snap election to enlarge the Tories small majority. Getting rid of a large opposition would give May “a free hand to move the country in an ever-rightward direction” as pointed out by Scottish National Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon who commented on the Tory leader’s alacrity to exploit the current political climate.
Sticking to her mental health pledge from earlier in the year, Theresa May aims to replace the 1983 Mental Health Act with new laws which would confront the unnecessary detention of the mentally ill with the aim of recruit 10,000 more mental health staff by 2020, a problem May was forced to answer to recently when challenged by a constituent with mental health problems and mild learning disabilities about the cuts to disability benefits and the lack of mental health professionals available in the UK. The Prime Minister plans to maintain the commitment of spending 0.7% of Britain’s national income to overseas aid and has ruled out increasing VAT for the next five years, however is yet to confirm where she stands on increasing income tax and National Insurance. Having announced plans to introduce new grammar schools last year, more details of this will likely be outlined in the manifesto, including lifting the bar on grammar schools and allowing comprehensive schools to select a percentage of their students.
In light of Brexit, the Tory manifesto will reportedly pledge an end to the free movement of EU citizens and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. May has also acknowledged the need to withdraw from the single market and seek a new customs agreement, as the current membership prevents the UK from making new international trade deals.
Labour, currently the only party to have released their full manifesto, has made promises of change to benefit all, such as putting an immediate halt to Tory hospital closures and investing an extra £37 billion in the NHS. The party also aims to introduce a ‘fairer funding formula that leaves no school worse off’ and intends to reverse Conservative cuts to ensure that all schools are well-resourced. The results of these funding plans will help to finance many initiatives, such as providing free school meals to all children, restoring the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16 to 18 year olds from lower income backgrounds and offering ‘free lifelong education in Further Education colleges’.
To combat homelessness and the housing market, Labour plans to build over one million new homes over the next five years, at least half of which will be affordable housing association and council homes and 4,000 of which will be reserved for people with a history of sleeping rough. The party intend to introduce a new 20-point initiative on job security and equality, including the banning of zero hour contracts and unpaid internships, implementing a £10 an hour minimum wage and introducing a ‘civil enforcement system’ to tackle the gender wage gap by ensuring that there is a compliance with gender pay auditing.
Corbyn’s focus on workers’ rights, an issue he has been vocal on, stretches over to his dealing of Brexit; accepting the EU referendum results, the party has no plans to hold another election and intends to improve the UK’s relationship with the European Union, prioritise jobs and workers’ rights, aiming to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and work to “secure reciprocal rights” for UK citizens in the EU.
The Liberal Democrats, led by Trump-Syria-strike supporter Tim Farron, are quite literally offering, little change in the form of a 1p tax rise to fund a £6 billion-a-year cash injection to the NHS. The party are also calling for a legalisation of cannabis, perhaps in attempt to lessen the heat they still face from young voters after breaking their tuition fees pledge.
In dealing with Brexit, the party plans hold another EU referendum, heavily campaigning against another vote to leave. These people-pleasing pledges sound like the blueprints to an almost utopian Britain and, coupled with their loss of credibility following the confirmation of their flip-floppy ways in the 2010 Coalition Government, means that they could stand to lose many supporters who may have previously seen them as a middle ground party and voted for them.
Unfortunately for the Liberal Democrats, they are the third party in a two-party system created by tactile voting in the plurality voting system this country uses in General Elections. This means the only real competition is that between the Conservative and Labour parties. While Corbyn’s forward-thinking policies which keep in mind young Brits has won him the hearts of many of the young voters and backing from influential UK artists, Theresa May has placed herself in an advantageous position- the same year as Trump’s election into office she has the feminist vote on her side, polling odds predict her a landslide win and Corbyn’s arguably controversial leadership and revival of New Labour has received criticism, potentially leading to moderate Labour supporters and swing voters crossing the Tory box on June 8th.
Living in a country now separating itself from the EU will mean significantly more turmoil in coming years, making a stable, united government that much more crucial. A government willing to accept and deal with the consequences of the EU Referendum result. A leader that can firmly shake Trump’s tiny hand knowing that they have stood their ground. A party that can be honest with the people and do what’s best for the majority.