British elections 2015: some highlights
In less than two weeks the British will vote to elect a new government. Together with the future of the British nuclear arsenal,discussed here two weeks ago, here are some of the key issues that politicians have been talking about.
- Wednesday, 29 April 2015
One of the most crucial topics so far is the one of the modern housing crisis, which sees less and less people being able to buy a house. The unaffordability of housing in the UK is reflected the declined of home ownership, which has reached its lowest level in 30 years. This affects especially young people, who are often unable to pay the deposit needed to purchase a house. It is the votes of this young generation of renters that the parties are after. In the most recent development on the matter, Labour has pledged to help first-time buyers by exempting them from stamp duty land tax when buying houses worth less than £300,000. In this way, Labour claims first-time buyers would be able to save up to £5,000. The measure would be funded through clampdown on land lords who avoid tax, a cut in tax relief for landlords who fail to maintain properties and increased taxes for foreign property investors. The Conservatives have immediately contested the proposal saying that the cost would be much higher than the one calculated by Labour and that the measure would be unaffordable by the government. Instead, the Conservatives are planning to extend the right-to-buy scheme, which offers council house tenants the chance to buy their home at a discount, to 1.3 million people living in housing association accommodation in England. On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats plan to increase housebuilding to 300,000 a year, while the Scottish National Party (SNP) wants to abolish the so-called bedroom-tax, a penalty for rooms classified as “spare rooms”.
National Health Service (NHS)
The NHS is facing a severe financial crisis that places it at the centre of many voters’ concerns. All of the major parties have pledged to increase the health service funding but perhaps the most interesting proposal has come from Labour, which has announced that a Labour-led government would cap profits for private providers on NHS contracts worth more than £500,000. The cap would be set at 5% and any excess would go to back to the health service. Many in the UK find it immoral to have a health system based, in part, on enabling private companies to profit from ill people and this proposal could win Labour their support.
No party is likely to win with an outright majority and,therefore, there has been much speculation over the possible coalitions. Together with the Conservatives-Liberal Democrats coalition currently in power, the possibility of a Labour-SNP coalition has been much debated. Many were taken by surprise when Labour ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP last March. The move was aimed at denying the accusation, mainly coming from the Conservative side, that a Labour-led government would mean putting the SNP in power. Moreover, Labour is trying to convince the Scottish electorate that voting the SNP instead of Labour would produce another Conservative government. The prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition would go against this purpose. Yet, in case Labour won the elections, it is highly likely that it would still need the support of Nicola Sturgeon’s party to get its policies through. The SNP leader said she is willing to work with Labour in order to keep the Conservatives out of power. However, the support offered would be measured on a case-by-case basis. Were neither of the main parties to have the majority over a specific issue, Labour would have to be willing to talk and compromise in order to have the backing of the SNP.
On a lighter note, other highlights have included a video by the Green Party claiming that the policies of the other major parties (Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats) seem so similar that it is as if they were in a boy band and the Conservatives’ attempt at addressing the Indian diaspora living in the UK through a song in hindi. More to come.