westminster coronavirus lockdown

The Week in Westminster: Frosty debates and more manifestos

Your need-to-know guide to this week's UK political happenings

We’re now less than two weeks away from 2019 General Election. The manifestos are out, the debates are on and the gloves are really coming off. Here’s everything you need to know about this week’s political goings on…

Ice ice baby

In the last seven days there have been two leaders debate and a number of gruelling interviews for all the leaders of the main political parties. Well, all, that is, except Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister did deign to grace BBC’s Question Time Leaders Special with his presence last Friday, an event in which he was attacked for his untrustworthiness and Corbyn raised shackles by his continued to refusal to say which way he voted on Brexit. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon came out on top as the most sensible of the bunch while Lib Dem’s Jo Swinson received a startlingly frosty reception.

Not as frosty, however, as the one Johnson and Brexit party leader Nigel Farage received on Channel 4’s leaders debate on climate change last night. Both politicians had refused to attend, with Johnson trying to send Michael Gove in his place. This being a leaders event, Channel 4 rightly refused, and instead replaced both men with ice sculptures which proceeded to slowly melt over the course of the live programme – an act which likely says more about each party’s approach to the climate crisis than either leader would have managed. In retaliation the Tory party immediately sent an official complaint over impartiality to Ofcom and threatened to review Channel 4’s broadcasting license.

Impartiality has also been a hot topic over at the BBC this week. On Tuesday Jeremy Crobyn underwent a gruelling interview with the corporation’s Andrew Neil where he was pressed on a series of hot button topics including the party’s antisemitism problem and the £58bn the party has pledged to help women caught out by changes to pension age.

After the interview aired, it became apparent that, despite the Labour party being told otherwise (and all the other main political leaders having confirmed slots), Boris Johnson had not yet agreed to be interviewed and, at the time of writing, there are still fears he may duck out of the famously tough questioning. Meanwhile, the broadcaster demanded the Tory party take down misleading Facebook adverts which featured edited BBC footage appearing to show its reporters endorsing Tory politicians and policies.

Promises, promises

Last week we gave you the highlights from the Labour, Lib Dem and the Green party manifestos. Not wanting to be accused of partisanship like our fellow media corporations, here are all the must-know policies from the Conservatives, Brexit party and SNP:

Environment: Net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, form Office for Environmental Protection, plant 30 million trees, spend £6.3 billion on energy efficiency measures, establish £500 million Blue Planet Fund to tackle ocean plastic pollution, £4 billion boost to flood defences.

Health: £33.9 billion boost to NHS by 2024, recruit 50,000 new nurses (side note: this pledge immediately came under scrutiny when it emerged the promise included retaining 18,000 nurses who otherwise would have left the profession), build new hospitals, 15% increase in GP appointments, scrap hospital parking fees for certain NHS staff and patients, recruit 6,000 more GPs, bursaries for student nurses.

Economy: Bring Johnson’s deal before parliament before Christmas and get it ratified in law by 31 January, hard deadline of December 2020 for Brexit transition period regardless of whether a deal is agreed, reduction in immigration and fewer low-skilled migrants via a points-based system, five year freeze on income tax, VAT and national insurance, raise top rate tax threshold to £80,000, raise national minimum wage to £10.50 for those over 25, cuts to some business taxes, £100 billion spend on infrastructure.

Education: £14 billion boost to schools budget, £30,000 starting salary for teachers by 2022, £3 billion National Skills Fund for adult training.

Environment: Plant 60 million trees annually across the UK, from 2024 all new homes must use renewable or low carbon heat, reduce VAT on efficiency improvements to homes.

Health: Call on UK government to match per capita health spending in Scotland, call for devolution of drug policy, increase share parental leave to 64 weeks with 12 weeks minimum to be taken by father, increase maternity leave to one year, demand National Health Service Protection act to protect NHS against future trade deals.

Economy: Seek permission for legally binding independence referendum, support second EU referendum with remain option, end benefits freeze, oppose increase to state pension age, call for devolution of employment law, seek devolution of immigrant powers, oppose increases in VAT, increase living wage.

Education: £750 million to close education wealth gap, continued free higher education.

Brexit Party
Environment: Ban burning, burying or dumping of wastes exposed across the world, plant millions of trees, invest £2,5 billion in fishing communities.

Health: Pledge to keep the NHS free and publicly-owned, abolish politically imposed hospital targets, 24-hour GP surgeries.

Economy: Clean-break from all EU institutions, 50,000 annual cap on immigration, scrap HS2 but invest £50 billion in infrastructure, free Wi-Fi on public transport, free base level broadband for deprived regions, abolish business rates for shops outside the M25, abolish inheritance tax, cut VAT on fuel bills, waive corporation tax for first £10,000 in profit.

Education: Get 50% of young people in higher education, scrap Apprentice Levy, give tax incentives to employers to encourage apprenticeships.

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Further Reading