As campaigning closes for the 2017 UK General Election, ANH-Intl offers up a series of comparisons on the main parties’ manifesto pledges, looking across the core topics that directly affect healthcare, natural health, the environment and the adoption of EU law and rights in the face of Brexit in the UK.
We hope our analysis, captured below in a series of infographics, gives some clarity in the face of combative and often changing messages as our British readers and supporters decide who to vote for tomorrow.
A seminal moment in British history
When Theresa May called an early election in April, she felt confident of consolidating her majority, possibly beyond that of Blair’s 1997 landslide. That would have set herself up ideally for the most important negotiations – with the EU and other trading partners – to face a British PM in living memory. A majority is not just something that would be nice, it is one of the surest ways of ensuring clean passage of domestic and Brexit-linked legislation in Westminster.
Only two parties remain in contention, with the Conservatives maintaining their lead over Labour through the entire election campaign. But what we’ve learned from Cameron’s referendum on EU membership, or the election of two new heads of government with no previous experience as elected candidates, Trump in the USA and Macron in France, the public vote is difficult to predict.
So what could happen in tomorrow’s UK election? Theresa May’s majority could be cut significantly, there’s even a risk of a hung Parliament. That would surely compromise clean progress of May’s still closely guarded Brexit plans. A Labour win is unlikely, but not beyond possible if those disenfranchised with May or the current government turn out in their droves to vote.
Hobson’s two horses
The airwaves are full of contrasting opinions. But let’s not forget the airwaves are controlled by those with an agenda so cannot hope to reproduce an accurate reflection of the people’s thoughts, desires, concerns and aspirations. We’ve heard too many times to count that the public faces a ‘Hobson’s choice’. Many are saying they must make a choice that is between the lesser of two evils. Few seem to claim there’s one horse that’s the clear, across the board, winner. Much of this might be down to the mix of policies and values, as well as changing policies and even U-turns. Some of it is down to trust or lack of trust, that not being helped by Theresa May’s decision to play her Brexit strategy cards so close to her chest.
Voting Conservative means choosing a party that has, since the EU referendum, been consistently in support of a ‘hard’ Brexit. Lots of people like this idea, more so even than at the time of the election. But that means also supporting a party that wants a ‘dementia tax’, GM crops cultivated in the UK and fracking actively developed on UK soils. May’s personal popularity has declined to the point that more appear to be dissatisfied, rather than satisfied, with her leadership. But based on the polls, fewer still would be prepared to put Jeremy Corbyn in No 10. The ramifications of the tragic Manchester and London terror attacks cannot be under-estimated either.
It’s now over to the UK citizens among you. Let’s enjoy and respect that one crucially important fundamental right and freedom we still enjoy, our right to vote in open elections, albeit one in which only two of Hobson’s horses remain.
With the failing condition of the National Health Service (NHS) planted firmly in the collective spotlight, it’s no surprise to find this hotly contested issue heavily saturated throughout all of the respective party’s manifestos.
Labour has declared the largest financial figure in support of the NHS. Promising an investment boost of £6bn a year in extra funding, with over £30bn expected in total. This huge injection of much-needed budget dwarfs the Conservative pledge of £8bn total – which could be said has more purpose in hiding the continued Sustainability and Transformation plans (STP) with estimated cuts of £22bn! It is equally interesting to note a unified stance on reversing all forms of privatisation within the NHS across all the opposition parties – a factor conveniently left out of Theresa May’s propositions.
A perhaps surprising addition lies in Plaid Cymru’s pledge on extending the use of the controversial HPV vaccine to include men and boys as a direct part of their election policies. It has been left to the Green Party to provide promise for strong support on patient choice, as well as emphasis on local and community healthcare. A plan which would set to alleviate a large amount of unnecessary pressure from an already struggling health service.
Mental health care is quite clearly the object of focus, in response to the fumbled Conservative ‘Dementia Tax’ plans, but it is of great importance to note that across the parties’ plans to increase spending and training to deal with mental health care in the NHS, it is rather the quality and understanding that counts – especially in the case of prevention.
Policy statements in the area of natural health are conspicuously absent from all party manifestos. This lack is especially surprising in the case of the Green Party, which we would have expected to have been much more public about this area. With Brexit looming, it’s no great surprise that all manifestos have neglected to include any comment on issues around natural and sustainable health, although these are linked peripherally to NHS issues because better self-care and non-standard care has such a capacity to remove the burden from the NHS. It’s commendable, however, that the SNP is the only party to reference vitamins, recognising the importance of providing supplements to pregnant women to support their health during pregnancy.
Furthermore, the three main parties all advocate the use of GMOs, whilst the Green’s, SNP and Plaid Cymru stand in unity against their use. A strong emphasis on naturally grown food can especially be found across Wales and Scotland’s pledges for agriculture.
Environmental issues have featured heavily in all parties’ manifestos. It’s especially noteworthy that only the Conservatives and UKIP show support for fracking in the UK as a main energy source – the Conservative manifesto featuring shale gas as a main feature of their future energy plans. Renewable energy has become a uniform focus across all the other parties (although not always overtly so). UKIP has taken a hard stance against important climate protection acts not dissimilar to those of Donald Trump and is more likely to work against, rather than for, the party in its efforts to claw back seats in Parliament.
Oddly, there’s no mention of agricultural policy within the Conservative manifesto, leaving a worrying gap over the future of this area that’s been at least in part dependent on EU agricultural subsidies. Perhaps May and Co don’t want to be caught out in what will be an incredibly tough negotiation, with the EU and with UK producers, given the UK’s continued reliance on imported food. The British public, it seems, is expected to simply trust that the Government will act in its best interest. As stated in the Government’s White Paper, “When the UK leaves the EU, the powers which the EU currently exercises in relation to the common frameworks will return to the UK, allowing these rules to be set here in the UK by democratically-elected representatives.” Here, a hung Parliament would be especially unhelpful.
It’s been well reported that Theresa May favours the rewriting of the Human Rights Act on leaving the European Union. The opposition have predictably taken a firm stance to ensure existing EU-based human rights laws remains a part of UK law. UKIP has made clear its reservations about transferring existing European Law into British statutes. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, by contrast, want to retain all EU-derived laws and regulations as they stand, stressing their current importance and benefit, being mute about their distortions or even some of their absurdities. Perhaps unsurprisingly at this stage, there’s a distinct absence of any mention of reform of these laws especially in regards to natural health. It’s simply too early in the Brexit process to expect any solid commitment or detail in advance of both the negotiations and an election result.
2017’s General Election has perhaps shown more style than substance. Key emphasis has been placed on issues that will grab public attention rather than a strong universal policy base. We feel it’s a shame to have seen a weak and slightly vague offering from the Conservatives, especially when the other parties have provided more meat on the bone. In their defence, perhaps the Conservatives had less to prove in protecting their seat – and they’ve had their hands somewhat full running a country!
The one thing we do know is that every vote counts. Hopefully this brief dive into the various manifestos will be of help when deciding to cast your ballot. Given that only two horses are serious contenders for the race win, you should also think carefully about the consequences of voting for any party other than Conservative or Labour.
UK citizens: the choice is now yours!
STOP PRESS! ADDENDUM, 9 JUNE 2017
In a surprising turn of events that saw the Labour Party winning some key Conservative seats – but just shy of the majority vote – the United Kingdom has entered deep discussion over a hung parliament. A deal is predicted to be formed between Theresa May and a minor party that has now firmly established itself in the national and international limelight, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland. But, what do we know about the Conservative’s new unexpected ally?
Environmentally, the DUP have a decent enough profile, if not a little vague, along with a selection of promises listed on their website’s agricultural policies. These include a commitment to significantly cut littering, to create a traffic-free ‘Greenway Network’ and focus on increasing renewable woodland across Northern Ireland. In stark contrast, the party has had historic internal conflict over climate change denial. The party’s vague position is evidenced by its stated desire to “review renewable energy” while not being willing to publicly commit to any source just quite yet.
To its credit, the DUP holds some fairly progressive views on NHS reform, with its proposition being more akin to the Netherland’s Buurtzorg system that holds much more focus on holistic and patient-controlled care. Coupled with the same universal focus on tackling mental health and aging populations, it is a pleasing addition – if, however, overshadowed by the strict agenda of anti-abortion and staunch opposition to gay marriage.
Whatever the outcome, it will be an interesting few days to say the least, with Theresa May’s ‘Strong and Stable Leadership’ gamble veering more likely towards a shaky, unstructured margin. We dearly hope this new weakness doesn’t make its way to Brussels in the coming negotiations ahead.