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Politics no image

Published on October 14th, 2012 | by Isabelle Mngadi
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] The recent Party Conferences have featured a lot of promises, accusations and fighting talk from political leaders © opensourceway[/caption]   The past 3-4 weeks have seen dynamic shifts in public opinion in regards to the political world, due to the numerous party conferences being held across the UK. Kicking off with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) conference on 21-22 September, through to the Conservative conference in Birmingham, ending on the 10th October, the British electorate has seen much of the usual baiting, promising, unveiling of policies and harsh critique of the current Government. So here is a run-down of who said what, who didn’t say much of anything at all, and what it could all mean over the next few years, in the lead-up to the next election.   Conservatives Well, the Conservative Party conference appears to have ended on a strong note, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s closing speech. The message was one of fortitude, in which patriotic words were generously peppered amongst comments on austerity, such as "There is only one real route out of poverty, and that is work”, and stern reflections on “the difficult inheritance we had - a record budget deficit, the biggest of anywhere in the developed world”. But it is interesting that after Labour leader Ed Milliband’s accusation that the Government is instating tax reductions for Cameron’s own benefit, the Prime Minister and Chancellor George Osborne have indeed confirmed that they have ruled out a “mansion tax”. In defence of the decision, Osborne argued that he didn't want to "clobber" people who've worked hard all their lives. (Accordingly, Cameron’s speech revealed a deep-seated affinity with values for hard work and service to one’s country. Cameron has continued to promise not to cut universal benefits for pensioners - such as free bus passes and winter fuel payments.) But if mansion tax is out, and Cameron is cutting top-tier tax from 50% to 45%, the PM’s promise to “ensure rich people pay their fair share", is increasingly moot. Cameron’s love for the working man is implicit in the words "those who can, should, and those who can't, we will always help," and clear in the commitment of “up to” £14,000 on each unemployed individual via the Work Programme. Nonetheless, Osborne’s announcement to slash £10bn from the benefits budget, in addition to the £18bn already in motion, signals the onset of an even harsher period of austerity - especially since Osborne has indicated that under-25s could be the first to lose out (in particular, those on housing benefits rather than living with parents, and as well as jobless parents with large families). In his own words: "How can we justify giving flats to young people who have never worked, when working people twice their age are still living with their parents because they can't afford their first home?” One moment of controversy came when Cameron publicly backed legislation for the legalisation of gay marriage – an issue which has split the Tories, with over 1000 of the party’s MP’s in disagreement. Cameron’s closing speech was essentially an admission of the trials ahead, and a celebration of the measures so far, which have caused a 25% reduction in the deficit in the past two years, and created over 1 million jobs in the private sector. Cameron’s underlying point remains that the onus is on the people of Britain to sort themselves out. As he so earnestly put it, "we know what it takes to win for Britain, so let us get out there and do it!" In his delivery, he made the explicit point that Labour are not the only party of compassion, and provided direct rebuttals to Milliband’s earlier accusations and doubts. But according to most commentators (ranging from across the political spectrum), Cameron's speech failed to make the same impact as Milliband's, earlier that week. Calling his delivery "flat" in comparison to earlier instances, some say the lack of dynamism was down to a cold.   Labour On the other hand, Milliband’s “one nation” slogan stole headlines last week, due to its references to 19th century Tory Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who in 1872 spoke out in favour of helping "the condition of working men", in order to lessen the divide between rich and poor. Milliband’s 64-minute speech, delivered without notes, spoke of unity, progress and recognition for those who work hard and are not being adequately supported. Milliband criticized the ever-rising petrol prices, gas prices and trade fares, which he counted as proof that the system is currently failing many people. On institutions such as banks, education and the NHS, the line was that these channels must serve the needs of the country rather than opposite. Whereas Osborne’s economics profit the middle-aged, the middle class, and the private business sector of Britain, Milliband was much more vocal in his support for the unemployed youth, "the forgotten 50%" of young people who do not go to university, and the hard-working GPs and nurses of Britain. Milliband urged the people of Britain to vote differently next time, saying “If the medicine isn't working, change the medicine. And I tell you what else to change - change the doctor too, and that is what this country needs to do.” In regards to the deficit, the inter-conference blame game was indeed a harsh back-and-forth, as although, according to the Tories, Labour were lousy predecessors who left them a tough inheritance, Milliband called the Tories a "useless" party, who "have turned the [economic] recovery into the longest double-dip recession since the war". The Labour Party leader has denied that his party would increase borrowing, as has been alleged, and stated that the current government is responsible for the increase in borrowing. In terms of education, David Cameron focused on the fact that the Tories have helped to open over 2000 academies, increasing the likelihood of all children attending one, and thus realizing the Conservative dream to “spread [privilege]”. (For all the modern, jobless youths, however, when the hunt for employment begins, it will have to suffice that the Conservatives refuse to call them a “write-off”, promise to help them produce a “real CV”, and ensure that anyone signing on is earnestly seeking and taking work in order to receive benefits.) In comparison, Milliband spoke about bringing in a technical baccalaureate, championing maths and English until the age of 18, and more apprenticeships to offer more post-education options. Milliband drew attention to his "outstanding" comprehensive education, which he credits with helping him become the leader of the Labour Party. However, it shouldn’t be assumed that Labour are any more of a hand-out party, or rather, that benefits won’t be slashed significantly if they win the next election. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls revealed during the conference that Labour would “review the purpose and value of all public spending upon forming a government”, in order to re-evaluate big issues in public spending.   Liberal Democrats In comparison to the Conservative and Labour leader speeches, Nick Clegg’s address on 26th September left much to be desired. Despite touching on some crucial topics, such as the deficit, recent changes to the education system and concern for the environment, the 38-minute speech neglected several key areas facing the country today and was even branded “pointless rhetoric” by some. But Clegg showed that he is willing to stand up against the Tories when discussing the environment; in his speech Clegg stated that going green means going forward, due to the economic benefits of “the green economy”, and that the Lib Dems will therefore hold the Tories to their promises on the environment. In education, Clegg assured delegates that the recent overhaul of GCSEs in favour of the English Baccalaureate will add “rigour” to the education system, and that along with this new examination system will come teaching to ensure that every child passes these new exams. Accordingly, the Deputy Prime Minister announced an extra £500 each for 110,000 of England's worst-performing 11-year-olds, to help with the transition from primary to secondary school. Clegg’s promise to provide more scholarships, apprenticeships and bursaries, and the announcement of £100m to be given by the government to councils in England, to help provide free nursery places for 100,000 two-year-olds is another high that the Liberal Democrat conference can be proud of.   Green Party For the Green Party, the emphasis remains on finding environmentally friendly solutions the UK’s social, political and economic problems. Natalie Bennett, the Green Party’s new leader, has criticised Miliband for backing nuclear power and "unsustainable growth", and said the Greens would fight for "genuine action to reduce carbon emissions". She also stated that a "living wage" instead of a minimum wage and "decent benefit levels that allow a decent life" were priorities - demonstrating that, in terms of benefit spending at least, the Green Party are currently the only real party of opposition. Taking sides against the Conservatives, Bennett has stated that “austerity is the wrong direction; we need to be investing in the future”, and that environmental solutions will help the economy and help make Britain “fit for the 21st century.”   UKIP During the 21st to 22nd September the UK Independence Party (UKIP) held their party conference, opened by a speech given by Party leader Nigel Farage. Although the party won just 1 million votes in 2010 (3% overall), the party currently has control over one Cambridgeshire town, and favour in recent opinion polls has reached 9-12%. Their central aims are unchanged: the party is “still a party driven by a fundamental desire to get Britain out of the EU”, with the biggest priority being to offer a “full, free and fair referendum”, thus fulfilling David Cameron’s broken promise from 2009.   Ultimately, the large amount of effusive praise for the Olympics proves that patriotism and national self-belief are important at such a time as this, when the triumph of a nation proves that (in the words of Boris Johnson) “we are a creative, can-do country". Public spending, youth unemployment and education were the most common topics discussed, and their resonance with different age and class groups will affect how each party fares in the next election. One thing that it is safe to say now, though, is that although Cameron’s delivery was strong and optimistic, Milliband’s was full of personality and wit, and Clegg spoke words of dissociation from the coalition and moving the Lib Dems forward – the most important factor remains the performance of the government and its policies in the imminent future, not merely each leader's public persona and the work of a good spin doctor.

1

A guide to the 2012 Party Conferences

The recent Party Conferences have featured a lot of promises, accusations and fighting talk from political leaders © opensourceway

 

The past 3-4 weeks have seen dynamic shifts in public opinion in regards to the political world, due to the numerous party conferences being held across the UK. Kicking off with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) conference on 21-22 September, through to the Conservative conference in Birmingham, ending on the 10th October, the British electorate has seen much of the usual baiting, promising, unveiling of policies and harsh critique of the current Government. So here is a run-down of who said what, who didn’t say much of anything at all, and what it could all mean over the next few years, in the lead-up to the next election.

 

Conservatives

Well, the Conservative Party conference appears to have ended on a strong note, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s closing speech. The message was one of fortitude, in which patriotic words were generously peppered amongst comments on austerity, such as “There is only one real route out of poverty, and that is work”, and stern reflections on “the difficult inheritance we had – a record budget deficit, the biggest of anywhere in the developed world”. But it is interesting that after Labour leader Ed Milliband’s accusation that the Government is instating tax reductions for Cameron’s own benefit, the Prime Minister and Chancellor George Osborne have indeed confirmed that they have ruled out a “mansion tax”. In defence of the decision, Osborne argued that he didn’t want to “clobber” people who’ve worked hard all their lives. (Accordingly, Cameron’s speech revealed a deep-seated affinity with values for hard work and service to one’s country. Cameron has continued to promise not to cut universal benefits for pensioners – such as free bus passes and winter fuel payments.) But if mansion tax is out, and Cameron is cutting top-tier tax from 50% to 45%, the PM’s promise to “ensure rich people pay their fair share”, is increasingly moot.

Cameron’s love for the working man is implicit in the words “those who can, should, and those who can’t, we will always help,” and clear in the commitment of “up to” £14,000 on each unemployed individual via the Work Programme. Nonetheless, Osborne’s announcement to slash £10bn from the benefits budget, in addition to the £18bn already in motion, signals the onset of an even harsher period of austerity – especially since Osborne has indicated that under-25s could be the first to lose out (in particular, those on housing benefits rather than living with parents, and as well as jobless parents with large families). In his own words: “How can we justify giving flats to young people who have never worked, when working people twice their age are still living with their parents because they can’t afford their first home?”

One moment of controversy came when Cameron publicly backed legislation for the legalisation of gay marriage – an issue which has split the Tories, with over 1000 of the party’s MP’s in disagreement.

Cameron’s closing speech was essentially an admission of the trials ahead, and a celebration of the measures so far, which have caused a 25% reduction in the deficit in the past two years, and created over 1 million jobs in the private sector. Cameron’s underlying point remains that the onus is on the people of Britain to sort themselves out. As he so earnestly put it, “we know what it takes to win for Britain, so let us get out there and do it!”

In his delivery, he made the explicit point that Labour are not the only party of compassion, and provided direct rebuttals to Milliband’s earlier accusations and doubts. But according to most commentators (ranging from across the political spectrum), Cameron’s speech failed to make the same impact as Milliband’s, earlier that week. Calling his delivery “flat” in comparison to earlier instances, some say the lack of dynamism was down to a cold.

 

Labour

On the other hand, Milliband’s “one nation” slogan stole headlines last week, due to its references to 19th century Tory Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who in 1872 spoke out in favour of helping “the condition of working men”, in order to lessen the divide between rich and poor. Milliband’s 64-minute speech, delivered without notes, spoke of unity, progress and recognition for those who work hard and are not being adequately supported. Milliband criticized the ever-rising petrol prices, gas prices and trade fares, which he counted as proof that the system is currently failing many people. On institutions such as banks, education and the NHS, the line was that these channels must serve the needs of the country rather than opposite. Whereas Osborne’s economics profit the middle-aged, the middle class, and the private business sector of Britain, Milliband was much more vocal in his support for the unemployed youth, “the forgotten 50%” of young people who do not go to university, and the hard-working GPs and nurses of Britain.

Milliband urged the people of Britain to vote differently next time, saying “If the medicine isn’t working, change the medicine. And I tell you what else to change – change the doctor too, and that is what this country needs to do.” In regards to the deficit, the inter-conference blame game was indeed a harsh back-and-forth, as although, according to the Tories, Labour were lousy predecessors who left them a tough inheritance, Milliband called the Tories a “useless” party, who “have turned the [economic] recovery into the longest double-dip recession since the war”. The Labour Party leader has denied that his party would increase borrowing, as has been alleged, and stated that the current government is responsible for the increase in borrowing.

In terms of education, David Cameron focused on the fact that the Tories have helped to open over 2000 academies, increasing the likelihood of all children attending one, and thus realizing the Conservative dream to “spread [privilege]”. (For all the modern, jobless youths, however, when the hunt for employment begins, it will have to suffice that the Conservatives refuse to call them a “write-off”, promise to help them produce a “real CV”, and ensure that anyone signing on is earnestly seeking and taking work in order to receive benefits.) In comparison, Milliband spoke about bringing in a technical baccalaureate, championing maths and English until the age of 18, and more apprenticeships to offer more post-education options. Milliband drew attention to his “outstanding” comprehensive education, which he credits with helping him become the leader of the Labour Party.

However, it shouldn’t be assumed that Labour are any more of a hand-out party, or rather, that benefits won’t be slashed significantly if they win the next election. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls revealed during the conference that Labour would “review the purpose and value of all public spending upon forming a government”, in order to re-evaluate big issues in public spending.

 

Liberal Democrats

In comparison to the Conservative and Labour leader speeches, Nick Clegg’s address on 26th September left much to be desired. Despite touching on some crucial topics, such as the deficit, recent changes to the education system and concern for the environment, the 38-minute speech neglected several key areas facing the country today and was even branded “pointless rhetoric” by some.

But Clegg showed that he is willing to stand up against the Tories when discussing the environment; in his speech Clegg stated that going green means going forward, due to the economic benefits of “the green economy”, and that the Lib Dems will therefore hold the Tories to their promises on the environment.

In education, Clegg assured delegates that the recent overhaul of GCSEs in favour of the English Baccalaureate will add “rigour” to the education system, and that along with this new examination system will come teaching to ensure that every child passes these new exams. Accordingly, the Deputy Prime Minister announced an extra £500 each for 110,000 of England’s worst-performing 11-year-olds, to help with the transition from primary to secondary school. Clegg’s promise to provide more scholarships, apprenticeships and bursaries, and the announcement of £100m to be given by the government to councils in England, to help provide free nursery places for 100,000 two-year-olds is another high that the Liberal Democrat conference can be proud of.

 

Green Party

For the Green Party, the emphasis remains on finding environmentally friendly solutions the UK’s social, political and economic problems. Natalie Bennett, the Green Party’s new leader, has criticised Miliband for backing nuclear power and “unsustainable growth”, and said the Greens would fight for “genuine action to reduce carbon emissions”. She also stated that a “living wage” instead of a minimum wage and “decent benefit levels that allow a decent life” were priorities – demonstrating that, in terms of benefit spending at least, the Green Party are currently the only real party of opposition. Taking sides against the Conservatives, Bennett has stated that “austerity is the wrong direction; we need to be investing in the future”, and that environmental solutions will help the economy and help make Britain “fit for the 21st century.”

 

UKIP

During the 21st to 22nd September the UK Independence Party (UKIP) held their party conference, opened by a speech given by Party leader Nigel Farage. Although the party won just 1 million votes in 2010 (3% overall), the party currently has control over one Cambridgeshire town, and favour in recent opinion polls has reached 9-12%. Their central aims are unchanged: the party is “still a party driven by a fundamental desire to get Britain out of the EU”, with the biggest priority being to offer a “full, free and fair referendum”, thus fulfilling David Cameron’s broken promise from 2009.

 

Ultimately, the large amount of effusive praise for the Olympics proves that patriotism and national self-belief are important at such a time as this, when the triumph of a nation proves that (in the words of Boris Johnson) “we are a creative, can-do country”. Public spending, youth unemployment and education were the most common topics discussed, and their resonance with different age and class groups will affect how each party fares in the next election. One thing that it is safe to say now, though, is that although Cameron’s delivery was strong and optimistic, Milliband’s was full of personality and wit, and Clegg spoke words of dissociation from the coalition and moving the Lib Dems forward – the most important factor remains the performance of the government and its policies in the imminent future, not merely each leader’s public persona and the work of a good spin doctor.

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About the Author

Isabelle Mngadi

Isabelle has recently graduated from the University of Kent, with a degree in Comparative Literature. She has completed work experience with her local MP, Ann Keen, and during her time at university, a significant portion of her studies were dedicated to exploring neo-colonialism and post-colonial development in Africa and Latin America. She has a background in working with young people from the UK and all around the world, and is passionate about helping them express their voice and be a positive influence to those around them. She is mostly interested in discussing international politics, particularly the intricacies of conflict resolution, globalisation and the establishment of human rights.



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