RAZZ wants to encourage students to engage with politics to stay as informed as possible. We understand though that most political discourse is designed to exclude young people. Therefore, we’ve read the manifestos of the main political parties for the 2019 General Election and reduced them down to what we feel most affects and interests students. Here is a breakdown and brief evaluation of the Conservative Party Manifesto. Remember to stay informed and vote on 12 December.
Just 18 days before the general election, Boris Johnson launched the 2019 Conservative Party Manifesto. With an emphasis on their slogan “Get Brexit Done”, the Conservative manifesto pledges to prioritise health care, immigration, and above all, Brexit. Here is a break-down of the manifesto’s key policies that are important to students:
- Maintain and strengthen the UK’s global position in higher education.
- Tackle the problem of grade inflation and low-quality higher education courses.
- Review the interest rates on student loan repayments.
There is little in this manifesto for higher education students and universities. Although a recent government-commissioned review of tuition fees recommended that they should be cut from £9,250 to £7,500, the Conservative manifesto makes no promise to lower fees. There is a promise to review the interest rates on loan repayments, but it seems that the current freeze of tuition fees (at their current level) is set to continue.
The current draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, negotiated by Boris Johnson, confirms that UK universities will continue to participate in the Erasmus programme until its end date in December 2020.
Tuition fees are devolved, so any policy changes will apply to England only.
- Introduce a “firmer and fairer” Australian-style points-based immigration system.
- Ensure immigrants contribute to the NHS, paying in before they can receive benefits.
- Actively recruit “leaders in the field” to come to the UK – including the best technology and science graduates and winners of top scientific prizes.
The last Conservative manifesto was criticised for never reaching its target to reduce net migration to less than 100,000. This target has been dropped in favour of a new immigration system, which will require most people to have a clear job offer before coming to the UK. This reflects the Conservative’s promise to reduce the number of lower-skilled immigrants, as well as the number of people coming into the country overall. The Conservative manifesto also proposes to treat EU and non-EU immigrants equally, so no one can access unemployment and other benefits for the first five years.
- Reach net-zero by 2050.
- Make houses more energy-efficient, with a £9.2bn budget for insulation.
- Protect seas and oceans with £500m Blue Planet Fund. Produces of plastic waste will take responsibility for its disposal.
- The export of plastic waste to developing countries will be banned.
The Conservative’s climate policies have attracted criticism. Although they pledged to cut emissions to virtually zero by 2050, scientists are warning that the climate needs even more urgent action. There is also no mention of a commitment to EU recycling targets after Brexit. Furthermore, insulation targets have always been an issue for the Conservatives. The number of insulated homes collapsed after an incentive scheme was abandoned and the requirement for new homes to be built to zero-carbon standards was dropped in 2015. Despite a re-confirmation of the 2050 target, campaigners say that the plans outlined in this manifesto will not achieve that.
- Provide a maintenance grant for student nurses of £5,000 to £8,000 a year (similar to the nursing bursary that was scrapped two years ago).
- Clamp down on health tourism, ensuring that those from outside the UK will pay for NHS services. There will also be an increased NHS surcharge for those visiting from outside the UK.
- Increase funding for the NHS by £34bn a year (29 per cent) between 2018 and 2023 (as already announced).
The NHS is a key domestic issue for the general election campaign, amidst claims that it would be sold off in a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal. However, some of the Conservative’s NHS pledges were immediately thrown into doubt after the manifesto launch. For instance, the pledge to recruit 50,000 more nurses has been found to include 18,500 retained nursing staff. The Conservative’s U-turn on grants for student nurses is unsurprising, considering the decision to scrap it was controversial and caused a fall in applicants. However, the new policy will not return to the pre-2017 policy of free tuition for student nurses.
- Improve renting, by abolishing ‘no fault’ evictions and introducing a ‘lifetime’ deposit that moves with the tenant.
- Remove unsafe cladding from high-rises.
- Encourage more long-term fixed-rate mortgages, which could reduce the cost of deposits.
Previous attempts by lenders to offer long-term fixed-rate mortgages have failed, so this would need a big change in the market and homebuyers’ attitudes. Another problem with cutting deposits for first-time buyers is that it will increase demand for homes without tackling the supply issues.
- Start putting the current withdrawal agreement through parliament before Christmas and leave the EU in January.
- Refuse to extend the Brexit implementation period beyond December 2020.
The manifesto commits to leaving the EU next year and not extending the transition period, leaving a no-deal Brexit as a firm possibility. This is an incredibly short amount of time to negotiate and finalise an important trade deal for the UK. Although the Conservatives say that getting Brexit done will end the political divisions in the country, this seems unlikely.