By Tom-Henry Jones
The General Election campaign is now in full swing and it has certainly intensified. With only two weeks left until polling day, all the parties have now released their manifestos, and are campaigning hard before December 12.
Conservative Manifesto. Gair Rhydd takes a look back at what happened last week.
Conservative Party manifesto
The Conservative Manifesto was released on Sunday November 24. Unsurprisingly the headline policy was about Brexit. Johnson promises to pass his deal by Christmas but also to secure a free trade deal with the EU by December 2020, which many critics feel is an unrealistic target. The other headline policies of delivering 20,000 more Police Officers and extra funding for the NHS were also included.
It was Theresa May’s disastrous 2017 manifesto which ultimately led to her loss of majority at the last election, and Boris Johnson attempted not to repeat the same mistake. In doing so the manifesto was relatively brief on detail. It was only 64 pages long compared to the Labour Party’s 107 paged manifesto.
In May’s manifesto it was her social care policy which attracted the most criticism. In the 2019 manifesto, the Conservatives have stated they intend to create their social care policy though cross-party cooperation rather than pursuing a policy designed purely by themselves.
Other highlight policies included investing in 50,000 more nurses, the 2050 carbon-neutral target and also promising that neither Income Tax, VAT or National Insurance will rise under a new Conservative Government. The manifesto is in stark contrast to the promised radical spending plans of the Labour Party. For a more extensive look at Conservative Policies read our ‘Special General Election Supplement’ to see all the important policies of some of the parties.
Corbyn NHS Speech
Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Neil last week. It was widely held that the interview was a disaster for Corbyn, as his track record on Anti-Semitism was attacked by Neil. Corbyn failed to apologise to the Jewish community for the lack of action in the Labour Party. The BBC is still in talks with the Conservative Party regarding the date and venue of Boris Johnson’s interview with Andrew Neil.
The next day Corbyn held a press conference to show secret Government documents that revealed intense British and US trade talks back in 2018. Corbyn believed the documents showed the British attempts to ‘sell the NHS’ in a new trade deal with the US. Johnson had previously stated the notion that the Conservatives would sell the NHS as an ‘absolute invention’. The attack on Johnson is part of the Labour Party’s strategy of putting the NHS at the heart of the general election campaign narrative.
Liberal Democrat Brexit Policy
As reported in last week’s issue, the Liberal Democrat policy on Brexit as shown in their manifesto is to revoke Article 50 in the first day of a Lib Dem majority government. However, only one week on the party has seemingly backtracked on that headline policy and instead has chosen to advocate for a second referendum on Brexit.
The Lib Dems suffered a poor start to the campaign and many within the party feel it is because of its Brexit policy. They hope the change in direction will bring a change in fortune in remain voting parts of the country, that they need to gain in the election. The shift in policy is a major moment in the Lib Dem campaign, as originally the revoke stance was the headline of their manifesto that was released just two weeks ago. The central message however from the Lib Dems is still their intent to ‘Stop Brexit’.
Register to Vote
The deadline for registering to vote was last week. A record of 650,000 people registered to vote just on the deadline day of Tuesday, November 27. Of those who applied on the deadline day 70% were under the age of 34 years old. Since the general election was called there has been 3.85 million new applications. The figure is around 67% higher than the record set at the last election. It was the surge in young voter turnout at the 2017 General Election that many felt tipped the balance towards the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn. Labour will be hoping for the same surge in turnout this time around.
The largest poll of the election campaign was conducted by YouGov and released by The Times on Wednesday evening. It predicted a large Conservative majority of 68 with the total number of seats being 359. The scale of the poll means it has received large amounts of press attention. The poll surveyed the voting intention of 100,000. The poll was conducted over 7 days and adapted the answers for age, gender and voting history.
It was the same YouGov poll that in the 2017 campaign was the first to predict the result as a hung parliament. A poll like any other does need to be treated with suspicion, but it is a telling indicator to see how the party’s campaigns are fairing so far in the election.
Labour has since openly stated that it will change its campaign strategy to heavily target the seats that it are set to lose according to the poll. Labour is to set out more clearly their stance on Brexit and explain more openly what a Labour Brexit deal might look like. The shift in direction by the Labour leadership is very significant and shows the findings of the poll could be a turning point in the general election campaign.
This week has certainly altered the direction of the campaign. The manifesto launch by the Conservatives was the last of all the parties, and now the parties are seeking to campaign harder about their vision for the country. As shown in the YouGov poll the Labour Party is behind and the ensuing change of their campaign strategy could alter the narrative of the election. Check out our 16-page supplement in this week’s issue for more in-depth analysis on the 2019 UK general election.