Key policies of top UK parties ahead of May election
The Anadolu Agency looks at key policies from Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Greens and SNP.
By Karim Adel El-Sayed
At the close of the first week of the official U.K. general election campaign, The Anadolu Agency looks at the key policies of the six most influential parties in British politics.
The Conservative Party is Britain’s main center-right party and the senior partner of the country’s ruling coalition government.
David Cameron has been its leader since 2005 and in 2010 became prime minister after elections in the same year ended in a hung parliament. The Conservatives decided to focus their campaign first and foremost on the economy, as well as housing and the EU.
They have pledged to eliminate the deficit and run a surplus by the end of the next parliament in 2020, as well as fund three million new apprenticeships and triple the number of start-up loans to business.
On housing, they have pledged to build 200,000 homes for first-time buyers under the age of 40, which are to be sold at a 20% discount.
Britain’s membership in the European Union has always been controversial in the U.K., and not least in the Conservative Party whose grassroots maintain an antipathy to the organization.
They have pledged to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU by 2017, after renegotiating the terms of the U.K.’s membership to gain more control of justice and domestic affairs, as well as ensure the continued cost-effectiveness of Britain’s continued membership.
The Labour Party is Britain’s main center-left party and is currently in opposition, having been in power between 1997 and 2010.
Ed Miliband has been its leader since 2010. They have decided to focus their campaign on the economy, the National Health Service, education and energy.
On the economy, they have pledged to cut the deficit every year in the next parliament and then deliver a surplus.
They have also pledged to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, restrict the usage of zero-hour contracts, which do not guarantee regular or minimum working hours and create 80,000 more apprenticeships.
Labour founded the NHS in 1948 and have placed it at the center of their election campaign, by pledging an extra £2.5 billion in funding to pay for 20,000 nurses and 8,000 doctors.
They will also repeal the controversial 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which proved controversial with health professionals and was suspected of allowing the back-door privatization of the NHS.
On education, they have pledged to cut university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000, and on energy, to freeze gas and electricity prices until the beginning of 2017.
Since its founding in 1988, the Liberal Democrats have been Britain’s third party. They ran as a left-of-Labour party during the New Labour period between 1997 and 2010, but since then have moved to the center, became the Conservatives’ junior coalition partner after the 2010 hung parliament.
Nick Clegg has been its leader since 2007 and deputy prime minister of the U.K. since 2010.
They have decided to focus their campaign on the economy, education, the NHS and the environment.
Through a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases on higher earners, they aim to balance the deficit by 2018, increase the tax-free allowance to £12,500 and raise £1 billion from increased corporation tax on the banking sector.
They pledge to ring-fence the education budget from nursery to 19-year-olds and guarantee qualified teachers in every classroom.
On the NHS, they aim to increase real-term funding, as well as invest £500 million a year for mental health and cut mental health waiting times.
Known for its pro-environment policies, the party aims to bring about a zero carbon Britain by 2050 by doubling energy from renewable electricity by 2020 and decarbonizing the power sector by 2030.
The United Kingdom Independence Party was founded in 1993 to pull Britain out of the EU. The right-wing party has since evolved and taken up a range of other issues, such as reducing immigration.
Nigel Farage has been its leader since 2010, previously serving as leader between 2006 and 2009.
Even though their main focus is on the EU and immigration, other key policies include the NHS and the economy.
They aim to hold a rapid referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union. Having left following an out vote, they would then negotiate a trade agreement with the EU, which is Britain’s largest trading partner.
On immigration, they would hire 2,500 more border staff, force migrants to wait five years before claiming benefits and introduce a points system to ensure only those with the necessary skills are allowed to work in the country.
They have pledged to keep the NHS free at the point of use and invest an extra £3 billion a year, paid for through cutting management and leaving the EU.
They aim to reduce the country’s debts and remove EU regulations that they say hamper competitiveness.
The Green Party has seen a surge of support in recent months by presenting itself as a left-of-Labour alternative, a position that used to be occupied by the Liberal Democrats. They have been described as a “watermelon party” – green on the outside and red on the inside.
Natalie Bennett has been its leader since 2012.
They have decided to focus their campaign on the environment, NHS, economy, housing, education and public transport.
They have pledged to repeal the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, keep the NHS free at the point of use and build 500,000 social rental homes by 2020.
On the economy, they will increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020, ban zero-hours contracts and introduce a maximum 35-hour week.
They would scrap tuition fees altogether, immediately cut public transport fees by 10 percent and renationalize the railways – a policy that 60 percent of the British public supports, according to a May 2014 YouGov poll.
With regards to the environment, they have pledged to ban fracking, phase out fossil fuel and nuclear power generation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent of their 1990 levels by 2030.
The Scottish National Party was founded in 1934 to further the cause of Scottish independence. The party lost 2014’s independence referendum 55-45 percent.
Nicola Sturgeon has been the leader of the left-wing separatist party since 2014.
They have decided to focus their campaign primarily on devolving more powers to Scotland.
They are campaigning to remove the U.K.’s nuclear deterrent system, Trident, from Scotland and want full control over fiscal policy, benefits and pensions.
The SNP are pro-EU, and want to remain a member, even if they were to achieve independence from the U.K.
Education, health and environmental policy are partly devolved to the Scottish Parliament, which are due for elections in 2016.
The United Kingdom's general election will be held on May 7 and political parties will compete to enter the 650-seat lower chamber of the British parliament's House of Commons.
The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Monday 20 April, 2015.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.