Ex­am­in­ing the par­ties’ Elec­tion man­i­festos

The Church of England - - NEWS - Lib Dem Greens

THE PO­LIT­I­CAL par­ties un­veiled their Gen­eral Elec­tion man­i­festos last week, of­fer­ing vot­ers a range of choices.

While the econ­omy was cen­tre-stage in all the doc­u­ments re­leased, other is­sues in­cluded trans­port, the Health Ser­vice and ed­u­ca­tion.

How­ever, other ar­eas were also in­cluded, most of which were not widely re­ported in the na­tional me­dia.

The Labour Party, as we re­ported last week, for in­stance, in­cluded a pledge to ap­point a Global En­voy for Re­li­gious Free­dom, while the Con­ser­va­tives ‘ would stand up for the free­dom of peo­ple of all re­li­gions in­clud­ing sup­port­ing per­se­cuted Chris­tians in the Mid­dle East’.

The Lib Dems say they will work closely with faith and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions to tackle hate crime and they will con­tin- ue sup­port for the In­ter­faith Net­work.

A num­ber of is­sues that have been raised in Gen­eral Synod and by the Bish­ops in the House of Lords are cov­ered in the Man­i­festos, but three – the Greens, the Lib Dems and Labour – want to re­form the Up­per House, putting the con­tin­ued pres­ence of prelates in Par­lia­ment un­der threat.

The is­sue of academies is also ad­dressed, with the Greens vow­ing to re­move public fund­ing from those run by re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Ukip want to al­low schools to be­come gram­mar schools, aim­ing for at least one in each town. The Con­ser­va­tives will turn ev­ery fail­ing sec­ondary school into an academy, and de­liver free schools where par­ents want them.

Tu­ition fees con­tinue to be a ma­jor is­sue, with the Greens plan­ning to abol­ish them (and cancel stu­dent debt), while Labour want to cap fees at £6,000. Ukip would waive those fees, but only for stu­dents tak­ing a de­gree in science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, maths or medicine.

An­other is­sue in the ed­u­ca­tion field is the teach­ing of sex and re­la­tion­ships. The Greens and the Lib Dems want that to start in pri­mary schools, with the pro­viso that it is age-ap­pro­pri­ate, while Ukip want it start at the sec­ondary stage.

Ukip ad­dress the is­sue of food­banks and say they want to de­velop them into com­mu­nity ad­vice cen­tres for those most in need.

Ukip and Labour would scrap the Bed­room tax, or spare-room sub­sidy as the Gov­ern­ment prefers to call it.

One of the sur­prises in the Con­ser­va­tive Man­i­festo was the right to buy scheme be­ing ex­tended to those in hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion prop­er­ties. How­ever, that drew crit­i­cism from the Bishop of Manch­ester, who said it could be the “most bla­tant trans­fer of char­ity as­sets to pri­vate own­er­ship since Henry VIII sold off the monas­ter­ies.”

It was also at­tacked by the Rev Richard Coles, who said: “So a hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion, like the one on whose board I sit, goes to the mar­ket, raises fi­nance, does deals with con­trac­tors and builds ur­gently needed units for peo­ple to live in at so­cial rents and then the gov­ern­ment forces us to sell them off at a 35 per cent dis­count. That’s right to buy?

“Sounds like right to steal to me.”

Mar­riage has been a ma­jor fo­cus for Chris­tian groups, but apart from a Lib Dem prom­ise to le­galise hu­man­ist wed­dings and op­po­site-sex civil part­ner­ships, most of the pro­pos­als are fi­nan­cial to help fam­i­lies in work.

Ukip want to in­crease the trans­fer­able per­sonal tax al­lowance for mar­ried cou­ples, the Lib Dems want to ex­tend legal rights to co­hab­it­ing cou­ples in the event of re­la­tion­ship break­down or one part­ner dy­ing with­out a will.

Labour will abol­ish the mar­ried cou­ples tax al­lowance to in­tro­duce a new 10p start­ing rate for in­come tax if elected.

There is a sharp di­vi­sion on the is­sue of wind farms, with the Con­ser­va­tives and Ukip op­posed to them be­ing sited on­shore. The Lib Dems, by con­trast, want to en­cour­age more.

The par­ties are di­vided over zero-hours con­tracts, but two— Ukip and the Lib Dems —say they won’t ban them, but want them bet­ter reg­u­lated. Want drug pol­icy to be de­cided by Dept of Health, not the Home Of­fice. Re­view drugs laws, with the aim of de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing per­sonal use. Im­ple­ment the Mod­ern Slav­ery Strat­egy to re­duce peo­ple traf­fick­ing and sup­port vic­tims. In­crease sen­tences avail­able for hate crimes. Out­law caste dis­crim­i­na­tion and en­cour­age all busi­nesses to have at least 1 BAME can­di­date on their boards. Pro­vide more choice at the end of life, and free end-of-life so­cial care. Es­tab­lish a new pro­fes­sion-led Royal Col­lege of Teach­ers. Guar­an­tee all teach­ers in state-funded schools will be fully qual­i­fied or work­ing to­wards Qual­i­fied Teacher Sta­tus (QTS). Ex­tend free school meals to all chil­dren in pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion as re­sources al­low. Max­i­mum stakes for Fixed Odds Bet­ting Ter­mi­nals to be ‘sub­stan­tially re­duced’. Re­view sanc­tions pro­ce­dures in Job­cen­tres. Rein­tro­duce the Fuel Duty Es­ca­la­tor. In­crease the min­i­mum wage ‘so that it is a living wage’. Re­move char­i­ta­ble sta­tus from pri­vate schools. Pro­vide the right to as­sisted death, within a rig­or­ous frame­work of reg­u­la­tion.

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