Examining the parties’ Election manifestos
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.