It’s Up the Poll! 2017: How the General Election Affects You

It’s Up the Poll! looks at how the parties will affect your lifestyle

Bargain Buys opening day, Ashton-under-Lyne: front entrance
Whether it’s our version of Brexit or domestic policies, the next five years could have ramifications for the people of Ashton-under-Lyne, a town that has been at the sharpest end of the DWP’s reforms.

As the General Election nears, we look at how the main parties’ policies will affect your lifestyle. Will your public services be properly funded? Is sealing the Brexit deal your biggest concern?

Labour have come up with a progressive – and fully costed – set of pledges, including a £10 per hour minimum wage. The Conservatives, apart from Brexit, have been known for reviving the 11+ and selling your grandma’s house for her dementia treatment. The Monster Raving Loony Party would like to replace Trident with a three-pronged fork.

As we’ve done with the previous pieces on transport, environmental, and business policies, several hundred or so words (under each party) of their key policies, have been condensed into haiku format.

The Labour Party:

Tuition fees scrapped,
£10 per hour wage boost,
A fairer Brexit.

For socially progressive policies, Labour wants to make sure that nobody is held back. Not only future engineers, but also aspiring musicians, parents, and nurses. Their flagship education policy is the scrapping of university tuition fees, and the clearance of outstanding student debt. They also want to scrap free schools, reintroduce bursaries for nurses and the Educational Maintenance Allowance. For aspiring Nicholas Childs wannabes, Peter Gabriels, and Andre Rieus, Labour would also like to introduce an Arts Premium. This would enable all children to learn a musical instrument.

Labour’s education policies may be funded by extra tax receipts from a higher rate of Corporation Tax and a £10 per hour National Minimum Wage in three years time. Their proposed rise in the NMW would take it to Official Living Wage levels. To make work pay, zero hour contracts will be outlawed; workers will be given a boost to their employment rights. The 1984 Trade Union Reform Act, which Thatcher’s government launched, will be repealed. Strong and stable under Labour means fairness at work instead of Cross-Channel male genitalia jealousy.

Should Labour be elected, their approach to Brexit will be based on retaining the Single Market and the Customs Union. Britain within the Single Market, though not as an EU Member State, would mean membership of the EEA (European Economic Area). This would, for example, ensure the continued participation of the ERASMUS programme. The No Deal option is out.

Also out would be sanctions – the much-hated sanctions of the DWP variety, which has led to greater use of foodbanks, penury, and suicides. If Jeremy Corbyn and his party are returned to office, they will be gone forever. The rape clause for Child Benefit applications will also be scrapped, as would the egregious assessment scheme for disability benefits. The Bedroom Tax, also scrapped. Bus passes, heating allowances, and the triple lock will be retained for pensioners.

As for the NHS, the 2012 Health and Social Care Act will be repealed. There will be no more privatisation within the National Health Service.

The Green Party of England and Wales:

Fairer benefits,
Public sector protected,
Brexit terms to vote.

Like the Labour Party, the Green Party has decided to scrap the Bedroom Tax and tuition fees, and reinstate the Educational Maintenance Allowance. They too favour the reversal of NHS privatisation; not only in hospitals and health centres, but also in dentistry.

The Greens’ approach to education policy, besides tuition fees and EMA entail the abolition of academies and bringing all schools into LEA control. SATs will go and, like Labour, grammar schools will have no place in their future plans. The Greens also favour the abolition of OFSTED and a pupil centred curriculum.

For the NHS, they would like to reverse its privatisation and ensure a parity of esteem between mental and physical health.

With Brexit, the Green Party’s stance was Remain. With the negotiations, they favour greater scrutiny and a referendum on the final terms. The protection of freedom of movement is an important feature, as Caroline Lucas eloquently said in last week’s leaders’ debate on BBC One.

Conservative Party:

Sell gran’s home for care,
Kid brother’s 11+ scare,
Hard Brexit they dare.

The Conservatives like to style themselves as a strong and stable deliverer of the Brexit terms. Quoting from the manifesto, they favour a “smooth, orderly Brexit”. For some people, it is their only reason for extending Theresa May’s mandate. They favour the Hard Brexit option which means no Single Market access (trickier deals with EU and EEA Member States) nor access to the Customs Union (which knackers up trade with Turkey, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man). Instead, everything to WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms.

Perhaps Brexit is a convenient foil for their social policies. A chance to mask their shortcomings and pernicious parts. The most infamous one being the ‘Dementia Tax’. Which, in spite of its name, is an equity release scheme designed to undermine the NHS’ role, and promote the private sector role in dementia treatment. There will be a £100,000 means test threshold. Similar plans could be available for people with long term medical conditions or disabilities. Unless they can find a family member who can take a 12 month unpaid sabbatical.

Unlike the Labour and Green parties, there will be no plans to reverse the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. Instead, the Naylor Review and STPs (Sustainability and Transformation Plans) will implement Lansley’s plans in turbo form with more asset disposals, and longer distances to see your GP (remember what Neil Kinnock said in 1983 about falling ill).

As for education policy, perhaps UKIP should sue them for plagiarism. The Tories would like to see a return to selective education. In other words, grammar schools and the dreaded 11+ examination (which disadvantaged some working class students whose parents couldn’t afford private tutors). They hope that eleven-year-olds know all their times tables off by heart. As for new schools, the LEA is cold shouldered in favour of new grammar schools, free schools, and academies ran by colleges or universities. Don’t get us started on the 7p breakfasts that the Tories are promising instead of free school meals.

As for social security benefits and the State Pension, the triple lock could be replaced by a double lock in 2020. The universal entitlement to Winter Fuel Payments will be scrapped in favour of a means tested system. Interestingly, the manifesto claims there will be no “further radical welfare reform in this parliament”. In other words, business as usual; more sanctions, more demonisation of disabled people, and the continued roll-out of Universal Credit. The quote is worthless given how UC is really a ‘radical welfare reform’ in the sense that queues at foodbanks and sanctions have risen. (I know, I live in the Pathfinder area where UC has been in circulation since July 2013).

Oh, and if you’re reading this post, there’s a chance that Theresa May and Co could be watching you. Proposed internet security snooping laws aimed at fighting terrorism could be used against you. Especially if your beliefs aren’t compatible with the government of the day. This could have the opposite effect, as plans to ban encryption could make online shopping or banking a lot less safer.

United Kingdom Independence Party:

Hard Brexit again
Modular homes for masses,
Grammar schools too.

Both UKIP and Conservative parties have similar policies on Brexit and Grammar Schools (no wonder Alex Salmond could tell the two apart). There may be some subtle differences. UKIP proposes six tests for a sharp Brexit, which range from avoiding the ‘divorce bill’ to Britain’s departure on the 31 March 2019. Another part of their plan includes controlled immigration, by means of an Australian style points system.

UKIP’s plans for the NHS will accentuate the National aspect, with a crack down on health tourism. They also want to reverse Tory cuts to prison officers and emergency services. Increased stop and search powers have been called for.

UKIP proposes the addition of grammar school places in every town. Which, in a Tameside context, means a return to the pre-1979 model with Astley Grammar and Hyde Grammar alongside St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, and Hyde High secondary modern schools. Key Stage One SATs could be scrapped, and senior school pupils could have lessons in Employability and Entrepreneurship.

Like Labour, they want to retain the triple lock on State Pensions, reverse cuts to social security benefits and ditch the assessment procedures for disability benefits. UKIP would also like to scrap the Bedroom Tax. They also have a novel approach to affordable housing: a new generation of prefabs with modern day energy standards.

Liberal Democrats:

Pro-EU for you,
NHS valued too
No education cuts.

The pro-European Union message is the main narrative of the Lib Dems’ manifesto, and their social policies are no exception. They favour reversing the education cuts proposed by the Tories. A moot point given the latest cuts proposed for Tameside’s schools. To raise standards, OFSTED could be given greater powers to inspect academies, in line with LEAs.

The Liberal Democrats are against the hard Brexit option. This is exemplified by plans to protect rights for EU citizens in Britain, and UK citizens within EU Member States. They are staunch supporters of freedom of movement, plus continued membership of the Customs Union and the European Economic Area.

In relation to the National Health Service, they propose adding a penny to Income Tax, to ensure its future. NHS workers could be given a pay rise with the end of pay restraint. Like Labour, the Liberal Democrats would like to restore bursaries for student nurses. They would also like to see an integration of health care and social care.

House building could be given a boost with plans to build 300,000 homes a year by 2022. Working age benefits, which have been frozen by the Conservatives in the last parliament and before then, could rise with inflation. The triple lock on State Pensions, and free bus passes, will be retained.

Monster Raving Loony Party:

Nationalised crime
School fetes least twice monthly
Trident three pronged fork.

To close our look at how the main parties will affect your lifestyle, the Monster Raving Loony Party’s pearls of wisdom never fail to raise a chortle or squirm. They propose that schools should host jumble sales twice monthly, to raise funds. Instead of a triple lock for pensioners, they propose “a very large padlock”.

Their approach to austerity are cuts to the letters of the alphabet (starting with N, H, and S). Immigration takes the form of a One In, One Out policy. Nationalisation is proposed for all political parties (with privatisation for those which fail to keep manifesto pledges), and crime. Their reason: that public ownership of crime wouldn’t pay.

Their daftest policy is their Trident replacement: a three-pronged fork. Whereas the Conservatives want to regulate the internet, the Monster Raving Loony Party proposes a “Remember When We Use To Talk” day. On that day, social media sites could be taken down to allow for conversation.

*                               *                              *

Further reading: It’s Up The Poll! 2017 on:

Manifestoes:

Next up on It’s Up The Poll! 2017

A look at the results in our area east of the M60 motorway. Just get out there, go to your polling station as early as possible, and vote.

S.V., 07 June 2017.

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