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What to Look For in the 2015 General Election Manifestos

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg listen to the Queen's speech
David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg listen to the Queen's speech • Photograph: 2013

The summer recess of Parliament has begun, giving us a brief respite from the dynamics of policy-making in Westminster.

However, as the 2015 General Election approaches, this will be the time that the prospective governmental parties will revise and finalise their manifesto proposals.

When Parliamentary business starts again in September, it will only be a matter of days before they take another break so that they can attend their individual party conferences. It is here that I expect we will see some big policy announcements, not least from the otherwise quiet Labour Party. In particular, the Liberal Democrat party and Green Party conferences are where we will see policies being guaranteed to appear in the manifestos, due to their necessary internal democratic procedures.

The parties have already made some announcements about policy but these provide far from the full picture of what to expect next year, and although we have a glimpse into their thoughts based on the European Parliament elections earlier this year, these policies are designed for the European election and work needs to be carried out to make them suit a national election.

The UKIP manifesto is one that needs to be watched; as they steadily increased their support, they scrapped their entire manifesto and have been recreating it completely. This was probably to rid them of their previous controversial and outdated manifesto promises and bring in new policies that will compete heavily with those of the Conservatives and Labour. It will also be interesting to note how different theirs is from the Conservative Party, to decide whether the Conservatives have moved to combat UKIP or whether the two parties were similar from the outset.

By this point, the referendum on Scottish independence will have taken place so a Westminster manifesto may not appear from the Scottish National Party, depending on the result. However, if the outcome is against independence, as polls are pointing to at present, it will be interesting to see how radical their 2015 manifesto is – we are sure to see renewed demands for additional powers for Holyrood, but will these stretch to a further extent than previously, or will the party subside on this (potentially failed) focus?

This is all speculative, however. We already have some fairly confirmed policies, so what should we expect to see?

The Conservatives have committed, in response to the rise of UKIP and cries from backbenchers, a referendum on Europe in 2017 following “negotiations”. They have also stated their intention to halt any further production of onshore windfarms. Additionally, as the Chancellor appears to have already set out the budget for the periods of 2015-16 and 2016-17, we can be sure that the programme of austerity will continue. The Government is continuing to look at how student debt and loans can be tackled, announcing earlier today that they are considering asking universities to burden the cost of the loan for graduates, potentially creating an indirect route to a further raise in tuition fees.

Labour will continue with its ‘One-Nation’-esque policies, but has committed to further spending cuts, although with a repeal of the bedroom tax. Labour does not want a referendum on Europe, although a large-scale want from the public may change their position on this, making them more electable. Labour has also said they will increase devolution in the nations, probably in a bid to quell nationalist dissent from Scotland in particular. Our final major policy from the Labour party at the moment, is a semi-commitment to part-renationalisation of the railways; by this, it appears they will leave the current privatised system as it is but allow for a public bid for the project (this allows flexibility in that the government decide the winning contract, suggesting that it’s a half-baked attempt to respond to public calls for full renationalisation).

The Liberal Democrats have also committed to further devolution for the nations, suggesting that if a Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition forms, this is one proposal that will almost certainly be early on the government agenda. Some Liberal Democrat MPs have also published a separate ‘Green Manifesto’, so we may see some more environmentalist policies appearing during the campaign season – although, if another Conservative-Liberal Democrat is the result of the election, the Conservatives may push away from this. They have also pledged to raise the tax-free threshold even further from the £8470 that was in place when they arrived in office to £12500, in a bid to help with the cost-of-living crisis.

All three of the governmental parties have committed to continuing the High Speed Two project, as one of the House’s least divided proposals internally.

Campaign season is only around the corner and these parties need to make sure that they have these polices perfect for release to the public. Although their general appearances over the last four years will play a big part in the race to Downing Street, these final policies will sway potential voters one way or the other, adding to the effects of their recent performances.

This year’s conference season will be one to watch intently – big changes in the political sphere over the last four years, means the parties must adapt to a differing climate.

Vote For Policies, a website that allows you to find the party you should vote for based on your preferred policies, is crowdfunding to raise enough money to repeat this for the 2015 General Election. Please consider donating.

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