Monday, 23 March 2015

thinking about political issues.

This is my current MP, she's a left wing Labour party
person, and she's really rather good.
I find it difficult to work out exactly what the politicians are on about in the long run up to the forthcoming Westminster election. A lot of it seems to boil down to 'blah blah blah blah blah, the other guys did it.'

Most of the time, if a politician is asked a straightforward question, they seem to tell the interviewer that what the public really wants to know is something different. Something about what the other lot did wrong.

Everything is couched in assumptions, which breed themselves, and which can sometimes come to be accepted by most of the parties. Assumptions like:

  • immigration is a bad thing, and no-one likes it.
  • being a stay at home mum is terrible for the economy and the individual.
I don't agree with these assumptions. But I wouldn't like to keep my disagreeableness just to that.

So, I've worked out what my main concerns are in the run up to the next election, and I've attempted to find out what the parties thoughts are on those matters.  I would like to stress that this is very simplistic. On immigration, for instance, there are lots of tiny shades of difference between the different parties (apart from the Green Party). You can find out more about them if you like.  Let's start there.

Immigration

I'm sure that immigration looks like a bigger issue in some parts of the country than in others. We are all descended from people who moved to this island at some point. Personally I'd love to go and be an immigrant at some point. If we look at the population statistics, we see that there is always some churn of population. Generally the numbers leaving are about the same as the numbers coming in. Sometimes (like now) a few more come in, and sometimes more leave. The current situation is not statistically significant, so is really more about what certain politicians want us to think about people. It seems very 'them and us' to me, and it worries me. It particularly worries me that almost all political parties seem to have accepted that the British public is worried about immigration, and plan to curtail it in some way or another (most of which are fairly pointless tinkering).

Only the Green party wishes to reduce immigration controls and give asylum seekers greater legal rights.

Check these out for more information:
  • Red Pepper on immigration myths - this is a left wing publication, but the stats are good, and this is a well informed take on it. I certainly trust this more than Mr Farage.
  • The BBC Manifesto watch - outlines key points from the parties manifestos on issues which matter to the public. 
Austerity

So, apparently Milton Keynes was not named after John Maynard Keynes! However, Keynesian economics was. I'm a fan of Keynesian economics, and agree with Keynes' theory that the boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity. 

However, the political parties are generally in agreement that austerity must go on. Austerity was introduced by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition in 2010, and has since been rolled out to 2018. Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP, and the Tories all intend to keep it that way.

The SNP wants to take forward an alternative to austerity, and the Greens plan to end it, as a 'failed experiment'.

This is worth a read:
  • Stimulus vs austerity - article in The Economist which explains the Keynesian viewpoint better than I could, and discusses both sides.
Trident

The four nuclear submarines, currently kept not far from Glasgow, are coming to the end of their life. It's a chance to make a big change, if we want to. So what do the political parties aim to do with Trident?

The Tories plan to replace all four.

The Liberal Democrats and the Labour party intend to replace some of the warheads.

UKIP isn't sure yet whether they would keep all four, or have less.

The SNP and the Green party would scrap Trident.

Benefits

Recent years have seen families queueing up for food from food banks, while the poor are increasingly penalised for daring to be poor. What does the future hold?

The Tories have no plans to increase benefits for working age people, and indeed will lower the benefits cap and force young unemployed people to do unpaid community work.

Labour plans to do some tinkering around the edges, including removing the bedroom tax and improving paternity leave. The Lib Dems and SNP would do similar tinkering. See this article for more information. UKIP would stop immigrants getting benefits (although I'm not clear how, given they mainly don't get benefits, and those they do get they're entitled to as human rights), stop people getting child benefit for more than two children, increase carers allowance, and JSA for those who have made NI contributions, so mixed messages there.

The Green party is aiming for a Citizen's Income (currently set at £72 a week), which would be universal, it would also scrap the welfare cap and the bedroom tax and ban zero hours contracts.

The NHS

All the parties plan to support the NHS with more funding. You'll find more information here.

The Lib Dems are particularly focused on improving mental health support. The Greens on health promotion. Labour, UKIP, and the Greens are all opposed to more privatisation of the NHS. UKIP and the SNP are both keen to reduce the number of NHS managers.

I should  say that Westminster is responsible for running the NHS in England, and only impacts on the Scottish NHS so far as funding is concerned under the current Barnet formula. So I'm not going into much detail on the NHS.

Similarly, I am not going into education at all as Westminster has nothing to do with the Scottish education system (apart from boosting our University numbers).


What issues are on your mind in the run up to the general election? And what parties are you liking the look of?