In this instalment of Elections for Dummies our Political Sub-Editor, Shaun Balderson, explains the conservative party’s history, ideological factions and current manifesto commitments.
David Cameron, Prime-minister and the leader of the Conservative party, hopes for a majority in parliament (above 326 seats) during this general election, despite the electoral threats in many crucial seats across the country from Labour and the United Kingdom Independence Party.
Conservative rule over the UK has proved relatively resilient and consistent since Disraeli’s leadership in the late 1860’s, which emphasized social reform to reduce the enormous disparity in the living standards between the rich a poor.
The party has succeeded in not only winning election after election but also adapting to changing political and social agendas. However, these changes have demonstrated a lasting conflict within the conservative party; whenever the party pulled away from laissez faire, free market, and non-interventionist economic policies, it was only a short amount of time until an ideological realignment within the party would call for the rolling back of the state and a reduction on welfare programmes.
This is primarily because, the conservative party has two core blocs of support. One is a centrist ‘one nation’ conservatism that stresses the need for market interventions and strong government to enforce social harmony. The second being a classical or neo-liberal block that emphasises the advantages of a free market economy. During prosperity, or when the party is enjoying wide political approval, these factions are in harmony. However, when things turn sour, serious conflict occurs and divisions or internal revolution commonly results in a new ideological leadership. A common example of this is from the late 1970s and ’80s when Thatcher’s free-market, pro-privatisation and anti-union posey who called themselves “Dries,” wrested control of the party from their One-Nation opponents, whom they labelled “Wets.”
David Cameron, the current leader presiding over the party, is in many ways a ‘one nation’ conservative and an architect of ‘compassionate conservatism’ – an agenda which aimed to differ from the Thatcherite style by presenting a platform that’s greener, economically kinder and socially progressive.
Conservatives currently argue that from 2010, when the conservatives captured 306 seats in the general election and joined the Liberal democrats in a coalition government, that they have done more than present this perspective but put it into practise. David Cameron and the conservatives assert their main achievements while in office are the legalisation of gay marriage, the UK’s recovery from recession, the highest economic growth in the G8 along with falling unemployment and record low inflation. They also stress the necessary cutting of the deficit and the ‘hard decisions’ that came along with it which consequently resulted in falling living standards and the rise of food banks from 66 when the conservatives came into power to 421 and rising.
In the 2015 General election – what’s in the conservative manifesto? Have they gone back to Thatcherite promises or resiliently sticking to David Cameron’s self-proclaimed compassionate ‘one nation’ conservatism?
The most divisive and crucial manifesto commitments that I’ve picked out could dramatically transform – for better or for worse – the country that we live in.
In relation to the National Health Service, the conservatives are promising to Increase NHS spending in England by at least £8bn above inflation over the next five years. They will also protect school funding per pupil, build 200,000 new homes, start work on HS2 and maintain the UK’s nuclear deterrent by replacing trident. They also promise to invest £2.3 billion in over 1,400 flood defence schemes, spend more than £3 billion on improving the environment, and invest in zero emission cars by 2050.
However, along with these spending plans, the conservatives also promise to ‘eliminate the deficit and run an overall surplus by the end of the parliament’. To achieve this goals, they will cut £12 billion from the welfare budget, reduced in the aim of phasing out subsidies for wind farms, stop the provision of out of work benefits for migrants with dependents living outside of the UK and stop EU migrants from claiming benefits or social housing until they have lived in the UK for four years.
The conservatives also propose reforms affecting democracy. They wish to introduce ‘English votes for English laws’ within the house of commons and hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
This has been a short introduction to the conservative party: – for more information on their plans for government, you can read the manifesto below.
Or you can watch David get grilled by Paxman on his record in government here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqOdVtFQ3AM