General election recap: week ending 05/04

By Siva Thangarajahpoll

Monday saw the dissolution of the parliament and parties kicking off their campaign tours, marking the official start of the election season.  Whilst David Cameron and Nick Clegg were at Buckingham Palace for the ceremony, other parties were busy getting a head start on their campaign trails. Labour unveiled its business manifesto: their main two appeals consisting of cutting business rates for small companies and cementing the fact that they will not have a referendum regarding Britain’s position in the EU. This did not as smoothly as expected when the party ran a newspaper ad quoting various cooperate figureheads, some of whom did not react well to being associated with Labour.

On the Conservative front, David Cameron gave a rousing speech in front of his supporters to start their campaign, focusing on the familiar ‘long-term economic plan’.  However, there was a gaffe to offset Labour’s: Cameron claimed that Labour will cost each family an extra £3000 a year, which was instantly dismissed by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Overall not a brilliant start for either party.

However, things got worse for Labour’s attempts to rally co-operations on their side when a letter backing Conservative business policies was printed in the Telegraph on Wednesday, with more than 100 signatures from senior executives. It praised the coalition’s gradual lowering of cooperation tax from 28% to 20% over the five year period, whilst warning that Labour’s policies will harm the country’s economy. Labour casually dismissed the letter and chose to focus on limiting zero-hour contracts, stating they will guarantee workers the right to a formal contract after 12 weeks of employment. This was met by criticism both by employers and some zero-hour workers such as students, who enjoy the flexibility it brings.

Meanwhile the minority parties also started their campaigns: UKIP also unveiled their key points, tackling their flagship issues of limiting immigration and leaving the EU. The Lib Dems are struggling to gain media attention, having dropped to an average 7% in the BBC poll of polls.

Leaders’ Debate

Thursday was the day of the much-anticipated, 7-way debate, which gave a national platform to the minority parties, the majority of whom are anti-austerity and headed by women. They were on attack mode for the duration of the debate against most of the mainstream parties: terming both Conservative and Labour as ‘austerity and austerity-lite’ respectively, instead proposing a more humanistic approach of investing money in social infrastructure.

It was tightly controlled, with none of the explosive putdowns that we are used to in the Prime Minister’s debates. In fact both Ed Miliband and David Cameron were accused of being too reserved by political pundits, with snap polls suggesting no clear winner between the two. Instead, most of the dramatics of the evening was created by Mr. Farage. He dutifully played the part of loud demagogue to the point of satire, stating foreign HIV sufferers should be refused entry into the country and was promptly slapped down by Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood with applause from the audience.

Overall, the voices of two men who might be Prime Minister were somewhat lost in the protestations of the insurgent parties, and indicates that for the foreseeable future, the old way of two-party politics is dead. Instead the unofficial winner appeared to be SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, who was fan-favourite on social media, an indicator of the major role they may have in the formation of the new government.

Photograph: Wikipedia 

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