General election recap: week ending 19/04

By Siva Thangarajahpoll

This week saw many of the parties releasing their manifestos, with only three weeks until the election. Labour’s manifesto was released with Ed Miliband affirming to the country that he is indeed ‘ready’ to lead and that they will be a ‘party of change and responsibility’.  Their main claims involve freezing rail fares, electricity and gas bills for the next two years, extra funding for the NHS through the mansion tax and a £3,000 cut in university tuition fees.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives unveiled their manifesto in Swindon on Tuesday in a surprising change of tone that we were not expecting. Gone was the party of grim competence, portraying themselves as the people who are not afraid to make the difficult, economic decisions needed to guide this country out of deficit.

Instead, the Conservatives entirely changed both the tone and the narrative of their campaign to a much more optimistic, upbeat manifesto. During the reveal, Cameron claimed his aim was to create a ‘good life’ for British workers of all kinds, and that they are the ‘party of the working people’. Notice the stark contrast in his language from their earlier rhetoric, with phrases like ‘long-term economic plan’ having disappeared, instead adopting a more humanistic approach.

However, with only three weeks to the election, it is difficult to know whether this rebranding will stick in the minds of the electorate, or whether it will simply portray the Conservatives as fickle and contrived.

The flagship reveal of their manifesto was the issue of the housing market; they revealed that 1.3 million tenants in social housing will be given the right to buy their homes after a short period of renting, at a considerable discount. This was met with concerns by the public and housing groups that this will create even further limit on the number of social housing available under increasing demand, that is, if the Tories break their pledge to build new social housing to match the amount being sold under this scheme. Other criticisms of the party manifesto involves their notorious doubling of social cuts, as there are still no details as to where these would come from.

UKIP also finally revealed their manifesto on Wednesday in Thurrock – a seat that their party is set to win. Nigel Farage described it as a ‘serious’ manifesto, as it is the only one of its kind whose numbers have been checked over by an independent fiscal think-tank. Main points include withdrawing from the EU but retaining a trade deal, creating an Australian-style points system for immigration and scrapping governmental departments for International Development, Culture and Climate Change.

This Thursday also saw the final nationally televised debate of the election season, which saw only the opposition parties taking part (meaning Cameron and Clegg were not present). Without Cameron, Miliband took his chance to appear authoritative – and it paid off, with polls casting him as the winner of the debate. The SNP’s Sturgeon also did very well in the polls, clashing with Miliband over a potential deal with Labour. Farage also acted as the conservative lightening rod, garnering almost all of the criticism from the left-wing parties. We shall simply have to see whether Miliband’s performance is enough to break the draw in the polls between Labour and Conservative, which have been stagnating for the past two weeks.

Photograph: Wikipedia 

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