UK prime min­is­ter vows re­turn to ‘good life’ in up­com­ing elec­tion

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY JAMES PHEBY

Bri­tish Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron launched his party’s man­i­festo on Tues­day, promis­ing a re­turn to the “good life” and the re­vival of a hous­ing pol­icy as­so­ci­ated with for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher if he wins May’s elec­tion.

Cameron an­nounced an ex­ten­sion of the “right- to- buy” hous­ing pol­icy of 1980s “Iron Lady” Thatcher, re­vealed plans for free child­care and pledged that min­i­mum-wage work­ers will pay no in­come tax.

With opin­ion polls putting the cen­ter- right Con­ser­va­tive Party, or “Tories” neck- and- neck with the op­po­si­tion Labour Party, he tried to play on Labour’s weak rep­u­ta­tion on the econ­omy in a bid to put his side ahead in the last few weeks of cam­paign­ing.

The Con­ser­va­tives blame Labour for run­ning up a bud­get deficit of some 90 bil­lion pounds ( US$ 130 bil­lion) dur­ing 13 years in gov­ern­ment be­fore they were voted out in 2010 and re­placed by a coali­tion headed by the Tories and their cen­trist part­ners, the Lib­eral Democrats.

Nei­ther main party looks set to win out­right on May 7, rais­ing the prospect of an­other coali­tion or a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

The “right- to- buy” scheme will ex­tend home pur­chase dis­counts al­ready en­joyed by some ten­ants to 1.3 mil­lion more ten­ants of hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions — pri­vate non- prof­its that pro­vide low- rent ac­com­mo­da­tion that of­ten re­ceive public sub­sidy.

“Con­ser­va­tives have dreamed of build­ing a prop­erty- own­ing democ­racy for gen­er­a­tions, and to­day I can tell you what this gen­er­a­tion of Con­ser­va­tives is go­ing to do,” Cameron said.

Aimed at tack­ling Bri­tain’s hous­ing cri­sis, a hot po­lit­i­cal is­sue as house prices and rents have soared amid a short­age of low- cost homes, the pledge will ex­tend an iconic pol­icy first in­tro­duced by Thatcher in 1980 and popular with as­pi­ra­tional lower- in­come vot­ers.

Crit­ics claim the orig­i­nal “right- to- buy” pol­icy fu­elled the UK’s hous­ing cri­sis by re­duc­ing the amount of af­ford­able hous­ing avail­able.

But Cameron

in­sisted

this would not be the case this time as his plan would re­quire each prop­erty sold to be re­placed on a one- for- one ba­sis.

At the man­i­festo launch, the prime min­is­ter added that he would work for “the peo­ple who live within the rules” if re- elected be­fore an­nounc­ing two other key poli­cies.

Fac­ing ac­cu­sa­tions that his party serves only the rich, Cameron un­veiled plans which would mean no one work­ing 30 hours a week or less on the min­i­mum wage, cur­rently 6.50 pounds an hour, would pay tax.

His an­nounce­ment came the day af­ter cen­ter- left Labour’s leader Ed Miliband promised to in­crease the min­i­mum wage and again promised to end “0- hour con­tracts,” which guar­an­tee no min­i­mum num­ber of work hours.

Cameron also an­nounced plans to pro­vide 30 hours of free child­care a week, which he claimed would save fam­i­lies 5,000 pounds a year.

But the Con­ser­va­tives faced crit­i­cism from op­po­si­tion par­ties that they had not re­vealed how they would fund their prom­ises.

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