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General Election 2015

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will be well aware of the impending general election. Political parties have been busy putting together their manifestos for May’s election, aiming to inspire and ignite voter confidence. But what are the main issues the three major parties will be campaigning for in 2015?

Immigration
Always a controversial subject; immigration has been a topic of debate not only in parliament, but in homes, pubs and students unions, for years.

The Conservatives have expressed a desire to rule out a temporary cap on migrant numbers, instead opting to make the benefit system less of an incentive in attracting immigrants whilst continuing to bring net immigration down to below 100,000 people a year. The Labour Party instead wants to enforce stronger border controls to tackle illegal immigration, for example, strengthening our presence at Calais. Leader, Ed Milliband, is passionate about encouraging university students and high-skilled workers to come to the UK and believes they shouldn’t be deterred.

Current coalition incumbents, the Liberal Democrats, want to reintroduce exit checks at borders in order to identify those outstaying their visas. They are also pushing for a stronger emphasis on encouraging greater English language skills for all foreign claimants of Job Seekers Allowance; with the benefit being conditional on attending language courses for those who’s English is poor.

Taxes & the Economy
Two of the three major parties are pushing to raise the personal allowance – the point at which we start paying taxes – with both Conservative and Lib Dem wants to raise this from £10.5k to £12.5k by 2020. Labour, on the other hand, wants to cut income tax for 24million people by bringing back the 10p rate.

Of course, all three parties want to ensure the economy recovers after the long years of recession by bringing the budget deficit into a surplus – Conservatives want to achieve this through spending cuts (excluding cuts to the NHS budget) instead of increasing taxes. Labour wants to reintroduce the 50p tax to those earning over £150k and bring in a ‘mansion tax’ on [properties over £2m in order to raise £1.2b.

The Lib Dem’s are a little hazier on their outlines…they just want the wealthy to contribute the most!

NHS
The forefront of our healthcare system, the NHS is a massive player in each of the party’s manifestos. Each party want to commit to more NHS funding, but politicians being politicians, it seems to be a bit of a rat race. The Lib Dem’s are looking to pledge an extra £1bn per year to the NHS, whilst George Osborne has committed to £2bn in his budget outline. Labour, however, are looking to trump both by committing £2.5bn per year on top of Osborne’s plan.

Conservatives want to make sure than everyone in the UK is able to see a GP seven days a week per 2020. Which is a nice idea…but we already have walk in centres. Labour are looking to prioritise child mental health, recruit 5,000 more healthcare workers to help patients stay in their homes, and replace the Cancer Drugs Fund when it runs out with a £330m fund to improve innovative cancer drugs, surgery and radiotherapy.

Jobs
There’s no denying that unemployment has had a huge impact on our economy since the recession hit, and the Conservative Party are looking to create three million apprenticeships, paid for by benefit cuts.

Labour, meanwhile, want to guarantee a job for under 25’s who have been unemployed for over a year. They also want to create and encourage as many young people to go on an apprenticeship as currently go to university by 2025. The Lib Dem’s are hoping to increase hourly rates for the lowest paid apprentices and create a million more jobs.

All parties are committed to providing new homes, where a proportion of new jobs will come from; Conservatives want to build 100,000, Labour want to build 200,000 a year by 2020 with new garden cities and towns being built, and Lib Deb, 300,000 a year with five new Garden Cities in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Education
Recognising it is difficult to manage childcare and work, the Labour Party is looking to guarantee childcare for parents of primary school children from 8am to 6pm. Additionally, the amount of free childcare for three and four year olds will be increased from 20 to 25 hours a week. Controversially, the Conservatives are happy to continue with the controversial Free School and Academy programmes.

Both labour and the Lib Dem’s are committed to extending the vote to 16 & 17 year olds, and making sex education compulsory in all schools.

Benefits & Poverty
The Conservatives are looking to capping benefits for working-age people for two years, in order to save £3bn; affecting those who claim jobseekers, income support, tax credits and child benefit. They allow ant to withdraw Jobseekers Allowance from young people after six months, unless they take part in community projects.

Labour wants to increase the minimum wage from £6.50 to £8 an hour by 2020. Additionally, rail fares will be capped and there will be a freeze on energy prices until 2017. Labour wants to ensure that new fathers will be able to take four weeks paternity pay, and increase their statutory paternity pay to £260 per week.

To Conclude
Yes, it may be a bit of a minefield choosing who to vote for in a general election. But please don’t let your vote be wasted by not even casting it. You can find out how to vote by following this link: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

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