The week started off with Labour pledging to create more jobs within the NHS, which has been notoriously short-staffed during the period of austerity. Ed Miliband claimed that they plan to recruit 20,000 more nurses over the next five years, starting with a drive to get 1,000 nurses in training this year. This has been in response to criticisms that the coalition’s cuts have greatly affected the working force of the NHS, a large portion of working NHS staff being affected. Even though the Tories pledged an extra £8bn a year for the NHS if they win, the public is clearly still worried about how the notorious £30bn cuts will affect the health service, which has already greatly suffered due to a lack of economic resources.
A considerable portion of this week’s news cycles have been taken up with the back-and-forth of Labour’s possible deal with the SNP if they win a minority government (and let’s face it, a majority does not look likely if current trends continue). The Conservatives have been accused by both pundits and Labour representatives alike of making the rise of Scottish nationalism into a wedge issue: playing up English nationalism to create mistrust of Labour potentially working with the SNP. Such criticism also came from former PM Gordon Brown, as he gave a speech in Fife, Scotland, probably as an effort to retain Labour’s dwindling seats in Scotland.
On the economy front, IFS (the Institute of Fiscal Studies) have been quite vocal about the lack of detail about the Tories’ economic plan since Osbourne announced the budget. On Thursday, they released a report criticising the main parties for ‘leaving the voters in the dark’ about the specifics of where we can expect the large cuts to fall.
For instance, the Conservatives are aiming to not only cut the deficit but create a surplus during the next five-year term. They have chosen to achieve this by doubling the amount of cuts to unprotected public services, which will mean £30bn will be cut from areas such as local government and transport. IFS has complained that despite this ‘vague’ outline, there is no detail on how much money will be cut from each department. This is frustrating but not surprising as these are very steep cuts, and outlining too much detail on these unsavoury issues mean they potentially risk losing a lot of votes.
The IFS’ verdict on Labour is not much better. They have a ‘looser’ approach to the deficit, where they are only cutting £1bn from government spending and are planning to get the deficit lowered gradually, over a longer period of time. But the IFS has warned they will also have to borrow £26bn a year in order to compensate. This means that although the deficit will gradually be lowered, national debt will not.
However, the Lib Dems’ economic manifesto has been praised by the institute for being the most transparent and detailed plan. They are basically a moderate of the two largest parties, with less steep cuts, but also far less borrowing than Labour.
Meanwhile, political pundits have been expressing concern over the still stagnating election polls, stating that a lot of the keynote party policies, such as the Conservatives’ budget cuts or Labour’s borrowing, should have theoretically created a strong reaction in the electorate. This is not happening and none of the parties’ techniques are making a strong enough impression with the electorate to affect the polls.