By Lowri Pitcher
The Conservative Party is about to choose a new leader to guide the UK forward from the current Brexit impasse. But who are the candidates, what do they promise and how do they differ from one another?
When is the election?
On 6 July, the Conservative Party sent out postal ballots to approximately 160,000 Conservative members. Members who are eligible to vote must return their ballot by 22 July. The results will be counted and the candidate who receives the most votes, which must also amount to more than 50% of the total votes, is expected to be declared the new leader of the Conservative Party on 23 July.
Who can vote?
During a Conservative leadership election, only members of the party (who have been a member for over three months) can vote.
Who are the candidates and what are their key pledges?
The final two candidates are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.
What do they stand for?
Gair Rhydd recently attended the Conservative Hustings in Cardiff on 6 July to find out more about the final two candidates. Let’s look at some of their key pledges:
- Mr Hunt aspires to make the UK the next Silicon Valley; the fastest, most high-tech, productive and innovative economy in the world.
- He vows to cut corporation tax from 19% to 12.5%, it would be one of the lowest rates in the world for a major economy and almost half that of the US.
- Mr Johnson aims to raise the threshold for the 40p tax rate from £50,000 to £80,000.
- He pledges to raise the National Insurance thresholds to help the lowest earners in society.
- Has vowed to established duty-free ports to boost the UK’s economy.
- Does not favour a no-deal Brexit but would accept and prepare for it.
- Pursue a technology-based solution to the Irish border issue and wants to ensure Wales won’t lose out on funding.
- Ensure there is representation from the ERG (European Research Group, hard-line Brexiteers within the Conservative Party), DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), as well as the Welsh and Scottish Conservatives during negotiations.
- Will deliver Brexit by the 31 October, deal or no-deal.
- Does not want to pay the EU the ‘divorce bill’ of £39bn until the UK has secured a future relationship deal with the EU.
- Believes the Irish border issue is “eminently solvable” and would implement a solution using ‘alternative arrangements’.
- Abolish illiteracy given that currently in England and Wales approximately 25% of primary school leavers cannot read correctly.
- Scrap tuition fees for graduates who start a business and employ more than 10 individuals for a period of five years.
- Reduce interest rates on student loans.
- Increase education funding in rural areas to diminish the attainment gap between regions.
- Increase the minimum spending per pupil from £4,800 to £5,000 in all state schools.
- Roll-out high-speed broadband across the UK.
- Would consider giving MPs a free vote to lift the ban on fox-hunting
- Wants the UK to “drive forward the global response” to climate change.
- Committed to the 2050 zero-net emissions target
- Grow the economy in order to better invest in ways to fight climate change.
- Seek to invest in clean-energy and promote a ‘green economy’.
- Would also commit to the 2050 zero-net emissions target.
- One of Mr Hunt’s main priorities is to attract more young people to the Party. He believes the Conservatives cannot be the party of aspiration without engaging young people whom he believes are the “most aspirational” people of all.
- Fund social care by encouraging people to save money earlier in life.
- One of Mr Johnson’s main priorities is to unite the United Kingdom once again. He believes that the UK is better with all four home nations working together, and with individuals within those nations being united.
- Has promised that everyone deserves “security and dignity in their old age”
- Backs the Northern Powerhouse Rail (HS3), a high-speed railway network for the North of England.
- Also backs the controversial HS2 rail project.
- A firm backer of the third runway at Heathrow Airport.
- Also backs the Northern Powerhouse Rail (HS3).
- Vows to invest in long-term transport infrastructure; such as looking to build the M4 relief road, a proposal which was recently rejected by the Welsh Government.
- Previously a big opponent of the third runway but has backed down in recent years.
Police and Defence
- Pledges to raise defence spending from the current 2% of GDP to 2.5% by 2024.
- Would lock up returning UK jihadists “for life”.
- This would involve rewriting Britain’s treason laws.
- Mr Johnson pledges to hire 20,000 more police officers to reverse the effects of the post-financial crisis austerity measures.
- Has promised to reintroduce ‘stop and search’ powers.
Chance of a general election?
Both candidates have stated that they are not seeking to call a general election in the near future and that they would not do so unless it were clear that the Conservative Party could win a majority in the House of Commons, which currently looks very unlikely.
The next general election is not due until 2022, unless the Conservatives lose a vote of no confidence in the commons, a snap general election is called, or the Conservatives lose their working majority and cannot negotiate new working arrangements (their working majority currently stands at three MPs).
Who will be the next Leader?
Thus far polls from both the general public and from Conservative members have shown that Boris Johnson is far ahead of Jeremy Hunt, although, with politics as it is currently, a lot may change in two weeks.
Whatever the result, one thing is for sure, the next leader will certainly have their work cut out for them.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.