Thursday May 7th is to see the General Election in the United Kingdom and may see a new government elected. Looking ahead towards what the next government may face, both internationally and domestically, highlights the state of the country. Topics have received differing levels of discourse during the campaign. The next government aims to make decisions that may affect the United Kingdom beyond their period of government.
According to GDP growth figures, the economy of the UK has been recovering and providing some stability that the next government may look to safeguard. The economy seems to be an important election topic, with some seeing it as an area of strength for the previous government. The Conservatives are looking to continue to reduce the deficit if they are elected. The Labour party look to increase tax on higher earners through their proposed mansion tax which, they say, may create increased revenue. UK GDP growth is at 0.3%, which highlights the need for the recovery to be protected although there have been considerable austerity measures in the previous government. The UK’s economic growth is one of the strongest in the European Union and has been one of the achievements the coalition government has been most eager to champion.
The Labour party has focused on highlighting the state of the National Health Service and pledging increased spending and the prevention of privatisation. The NHS is seen to need an additional £8bn in funding a year by 2020 due to increased demand for care, according to the Kings Fund. The Liberal Democrats pledged to meet this additional need for funding if they were involved in a coalition government. Similarly, the Conservatives also committed to meet the £8bn funding although the Labour party challenged the viability of this. The labour party promised an increase of £2.5bn, and that they would tie the revenue generated by the mansion tax in to meet the extra funding needs.
Devolution has been an important election topic due to last year’s Scottish independence referendum. The Scottish National Party gained promises of increased devolution and may make significant gains in Scotland this election. However, the Conservatives also appear willing to offer devolution and control of finances to large cities. Chancellor George Osborne intends to hand Greater Manchester control of the region’s £6bn health and social care budget. Devolution shows the possibility of greater regional control and autonomy from central government which may allow areas to target specific areas which matter most locally.
The United Kingdom’s Independence Party are campaigning on the promise to withdraw from European Union membership. Equally, the party may look to adopting a more rigid immigration policy. The Conservative party has similarly agreed to hold a referendum of European Union membership. The open borders with other EU nations, which membership has brought, has seemingly led to significant levels of migration. The EU presents an interesting debate in the UK as some parties may be open to withdrawing whilst others, such as the Labour party, look to maintain membership due to the economic benefits that the EU brings to businesses in the country.
The next government is to operate in a global environment that involves groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda and may require action due to the situation in Iraq and Syria. Equally, the state of migration from Libya into the EU presents an important international area for government action. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership also aims to offer the opportunity to create a common free trade market between the United States and the EU and, whilst still under negotiation, may require careful decision. Equally, the situation with Russia aims to evoke a unified response from the European Union and may impact the next government’s policy. The next government faces decisions on issues which matter greatly to all aspects of life in the United Kingdom. Whichever party or coalition of parties eventually emerges into government, they may have increasingly important and historic decision to make.
How might the new government productively face these topics impacting the United Kingdom?