The election has crept up on us faster than that dreaded final five minutes of an exam and for many of us that means we’re being bombarded with reminders of our political responsibility to vote whilst we sit picking the last chunks of Ben and Jerry’s brownie out of our teeth. It can all be a little bit overwhelming. In the last election it was estimated that less than half of 18 to 24 year olds who were eligible to vote turned up on the day, and perhaps the reason for that is simply that a lot of us don’t have the time to get our heads around such massive manifestos. For the likes of you who find it easier to keep up with the Kardashians than keep up with the media skirmish surrounding the election, here’s a black and white guide to what they’re each insisting they could deliver in power.
Disclaimer – what you’ve got to bear in mind about political policies, as they currently stand, is that they are promises that could be enacted in a perfect socioeconomic future. A party can’t always forecast how smoothly things are going to go during the five years they have in power and there are always going to be scandals and unexpected shock moments, like back when tuition fees of £9000 a year were announced. Warning heeded, take what you read with a pinch of salt.
The Conservatives have headed up the coalition government for the past five years and in that time we’ve seen undeniable economic growth. They aim to continue this with calls for eliminating the deficit and cutting taxes. Still, they intend to mix up the current formula if they get in to 10 Downing Street again. The Tories are in favour of an education reform that would make curriculums more traditional, centred around basic maths and literacy skills, although David Cameron himself has openly said that funding per student would likely decrease. Under Tory instruction we’ve seen drastic NHS reforms, the success of which are still debated, yet they have pledged £8bn to bridge the funding gap that our healthcare system needs in the next five years by scrapping certain tax reliefs. A referendum on the UK’S EU membership would be on the cards that could change the face of our economic and cultural future.
For generations Labour has been thought of as the working man’s party and more recently as the one lead by ruthless brother-battler Ed Miliband who struggles to eat sandwiches with his hands. Sibling squabbles aside, Labour promises good news for students with its aims to bring tuition fees down to £6000 a year, though it’s debated how financially feasible this is. They vow to create thousands of new school places and increase the education budget. It would become illegal to exploit migrants in order to undercut British workers, and energy bill prices would be frozen until 2017. The NHS was brought in to fruition under a Labour Government, so not surprisingly it’s a big part of their game plan with £2.5bn a year set aside that would predominantly be spent on increasing our access to healthcare through some extra 20000 nurses, 8000 GPs and 5000 homecare workers.
THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
After becoming the party that broke their pledge to keep us out of massive student debts, the Lib Dems aren’t exactly a hot favourite with students. That said, they have held their own these past five years and our economic growth can’t be attributed to Tory work alone. Nick Clegg is pushing education as a priority of their manifesto, claiming that the current budget will be maintained and that there will be guaranteed funding from nursery to the age of nineteen. Five brand spanking new laws would be introduced to make sure we’re all doing our duty to the environment. When it comes to healthcare, the Lib Dems have a budget of at least £8bn that prioritises tackling mental health and medical prevention by fighting for us to keep healthier and receive care closer to home. As for funding, they hope to achieve this with a balanced budget from taxing higher earners and making cutbacks.
This controversial, marmite party that’s always in the papers has a lot of reform ideas – whether they’re for better or worse you’ll have to decide for yourselves. With regards to schools, UKIP are all for allowing some students to stray away from typical learning with apprenticeship qualifications as an alternative route to GCSE’s, whilst creating more grammar schools to pick out the more academic minded amongst us, reducing the number of us who feel like University is the only route we can take. Tuition fees for students vowing to work in the UK for five years after completion of an approved degree would be scrapped and, through all levels of education, national pride would be promoted. Nigel Farage is not a known fan of the NHS, but despite this he’s set aside £3 billion for its frontline services. Under a UKIP government we would see immigration strongly regulated and a rapid EU membership referendum.
THE GREEN PARTY
Rarely in the public eye, the most that a lot of us could safely guess about the Greens is that they’re eco-fanatics. This is only reinforced by one of their main pledges of working with other countries to keep global temperature rise below 2C degrees. If you think they can’t get down with the kids, you might want to check out their latest advert that parodies the other party leaders as members of a really bad boyband.
As another power who could dramatically alter education, they would completely replace Ofsted and abolish league tables to reduce stress on teachers, whilst allowing classes of no more than twenty students and upping the compulsory school age to seven. Who doesn’t wish they’d been able to sit around watching cartoons and eating crayons for two more years?! To top that off, they’d get rid of our tuition fees. They would see the NHS preserved as public property by restricting the role of private companies in its services and aim to end austerity and restoring the public sector. Their idea of raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour would definitely help us all feel a bit less short of pocket in the tense run up to payday.
Nicola Sturgeon’s nationalist party is only a voting option to those of you north of the border, but for those of you elsewhere who would consider supporting them the best way to do so would likely be with a cross in the box for Labour, as a coalition between SNP and either the Tories or the Lib Dems have been scorned by party members. Scottish students will be glad to hear that they would be allowed to carry on fee-free. It’s difficult to say what their impact would be upon the NHS as Scotland has an independent budget that they understandably prioritise, with it being their home turf and all. It’s bad news for the boozeheads and good news for the teetotallers amongst you as the SNP back setting a minimum price on alcohol. The bulk of their pledges are based around giving Scotland more power to develop itself independently, including granting Holyrood the ability to create more jobs and shape Scotland’s immigration policy to suit its economic needs, possibly by introducing a points based scheme. We would all be encouraged to adopt a zero waste attitude and take to low carbon emission transport.