The first full week of the 2019 UK General Election Campaign has come to a close – here’s a look at some key moments and what happens next.
The key policy announcement by Labour this week was free Broadband for every home and business in the UK by 2030, if they win the general election. The broadband would be full-fibre according to the party and would be paid for in part by taxing tech giants. The process would also involve the broadband branch of BT being taken into public ownership. The pledge was officially announced in Lancaster on Friday. The announcement seemed to receive a mainly positive reaction on social media, however, the Conservatives described the pledge as “reckless” and some questions have been raised over the real cost of the proposed project.
On Sunday, Jeremy Corbyn refused to reveal his personal opinion on whether the UK should leave the EU in an interview on the Andrew Marr show, saying that Labour would let the people decide. Their plans have not gone unscathed from people outside of politics with a trade industry group, TechUK, describing the plans as ‘catastrophic’.
TechUK’s CEO Julian David expressed:
“These proposals would be a disaster for the telecoms sector and the customers that it serves. Renationalisation would immediately halt the investment being driven not just by BT but the growing number of new and innovative companies that compete with BT,”
“The telecoms sector has delivered increased coverage, capacity and quality whilst household spend on telecoms services has remained flat. Put simply, it is delivering for consumers and UK PLC. Labour’s plans are fundamentally misguided and need to be dramatically altered if they are to deliver the infrastructure we all need,”.
The party also stuck to its guns on equality, announcing aims to close the gender pay gap by 2030 by fining companies which break strict equality laws. Plans could see companies being fined hundreds every day. However, the Conservatives have accused Labour of ‘over-promising’ and providing a ‘misleading narrative’ to voters.
On the other side of the benches, the Conservatives revealed their election battle bus this week. It didn’t feature any cash figure promises such as the infamous £350bn for the NHS claim on the Leave campaign bus in the EU referendum. It did though, fairly predictably feature the slogan of ‘Get Brexit Done’.
This week also saw the release of the Conservatives first election broadcast, and let’s just say it was a bit bizarre. A camera crew followed Boris Johnson around an office and as Boris walked away, he was asked about Marmite, fish and chips, and also the odd political question too. In terms of campaigning, the Conservatives have focused on the topics of Brexit, putting more police officers on the UK’s streets and have also announced a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund.
Boris Johnson also visited Bolton, after a fire raged through a student accommodation building on Friday night.
The Conservatives also faced scepticism after announcing it would plan to ‘cut immigration overall’ before scaling back on plans and refusing to commit to any targets. Speaking in Bristol he spoke openly about the party’s aims to have a ‘points-based’ immigration system stating “We want to have a controlled system. And yes, that may mean in some sectors immigration comes down.” Following up on this Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said that upon winning the General Election, the Conservatives would “reduce immigration overall while being more open and flexible to the highly skilled people we need, such as scientists and doctors,”.
The Liberal Democrats have announced an ambitions tree-planting plan, saying this week that they want to plant 60 million trees every year by 2045. On Thursday, Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger set out the party’s vision for a ‘Brighter Future’, where everyone’s rights and liberties are protected. The party has also been delivering messages about tackling inequality, stopping Brexit, as well as announcing legal action against ITV for not including Jo Swinson in a proposed election debate, with more recent news reporting that such a battle was lost by both the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.
More recently, the Green Party has begun to announce its policy proposals, including the backing of £12 minimum wage and a universal basic income by 2025, which would see adults earning £89 a day. The party’s co-leader Sian Berry said that the plans would cost an additional £76 billion funded through taxation.
On Monday, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson pitched to business leaders at the CBI conference in London, as reported here.
Coming up this week, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are set to face questions in a highly awaited debate on Tuesday, expected to bring much-needed impetus to both parties especially as Labour currently stand 10 points behind the Conservatives. In particular, Boris Johnson will be set with the challenge of answering questions without branding himself with any ill-chosen responses, similar to Theresa May’s ‘magic money tree’ making an appearance in 2017. Overall, the main topics expected to arise beyond Brexit could be immigration, corporation tax and infrastructure based on party pledges made within the past week.
However, for now, Tuesday is a simmering battle for No.10.