Aside from the terrorist atrocities, and once Labour had agreed to seek a full Brexit, the main determining features of the General Election, which started out, ostensibly, as a sitting Prime Minister wanting to strengthen her Brexit negotiating hand, were mostly financial.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party pledged to scrap all undergraduate University tuition fees and restore Maintenance Grants for the poorest students, with assurances that this policy was affordable. Allied to an active social media campaign, unsurprisingly it reaped a huge young vote.
For many, each appearance of Jeremy Corby on the national broadcasting media, who came across as having genuine belief and conviction, unexpectedly enhanced his standing. In contrast, Theresa May, with her blank cheque requests in respect of both the cap (or no cap) on end of life Social Care costs and the Winter Fuel allowance cuts, increasingly resembled a dodgy rookie second-hand car dealer – blowing apart her claim and voters’ initial perception of her being the steadier pair of hands for potentially perilous Brexit negotiations.
The Conservatives’ current reputation for sound economics is an example of people believing something they’ve been told many times, although untrue. Even the Institute of Fiscal Studies intervention saying that both the Conservative and Labour Parties’ manifestos were financially misleading failed to shake voters’ confidence in the Conservative Manifesto.
The Lib-Dems, resurrecting their one-time popular ‘a penny on income tax for the NHS’, nonetheless failed to connect with Remainers, because their seeming attempts to undermine Brexit, were at odds with many Remainers having now accepted that the UK is going to leave the EU.
Once confident that a party will defend the nation from foreign forces, most voters ultimately vote with their wallet: “Which Party’s policies are realistically achievable and are going to be best financially for me?”
Once again UKIP’s 2017 manifesto showed the greatest financial competence, but again much of it was largely unknown – obliterated by the ‘ban-the-burqa’ campaign.
Although easy to find via the internet, few know that the UK’s residual debt pile has increased by nearly a third in just two Conservative Government years from £1.4 Trillion in 2015, to £1.8 Trillion. I suspect even fewer know that the annual interest bill of £46 Billion dwarf’s the Transport budget of £37 Billion and is only £2 Billion short of the £48 Billion Defence budget. As Council tax raises £30 Billion it approximates to costing 1.5 times Council Tax.
The 2017-18 managed Central Government spend of £802 Billion will exceed projected receipts of £744 Billion by £68 Billion – the equivalent of 11.5p on the basic rate of income tax, which would equate in round figures to an additional £35 a week for someone earning £26K p.a.
The debt pile itself equates to £28K for each person living in the UK – £112K for a family of four.
In the 1980’s with interest rates in double figures, a ¼ point rise although annoying was not as significant as a ¼ point rise would be now: we’d only need a few ¼ point rises to double this annual interest towards the £102 Education budget. Put another way, we mightn’t have long to half this residual debt pile to avoid the current 5.5% of annual Government expenditure wasted in interest payments reaching 10%: I say ‘wasted’ because we do not see any services for this money. With it being impractical to clear the debt quickly by raising taxes, clearly expenditure needs to be drastically reduced.
A first stage of UKIP leading this financial discussion is that we should be drip feeding these figures to our members and all voters. On the basis that advertisers will tell you that most people won’t buy a new product until they’ve seen it advertised eight times, these figures will need repeating ad nauseam – until we’re all saying them in our sleep! – before they will register. This will then result in voters being more open to UKIP taking the initiative for the second stage of this national financial discussion in saying that we need an adult debate about what we as a nation can and cannot afford because, as a matter of objective fact, the current situation is utterly unsustainable.
We need to be prepared to carry on the UKIP tradition of thinking and proposing what many initially might say is the unthinkable, but only once we’ve educated people in the current dire UK financial situation.
Low voter turnout in local elections could reasonably be interpreted as a voters voting with their feet against largely pointless local representation particularly when councillor’s local discretion has been all but whittled away over the years: e.g. over 90% of planning applications are now decided by the local civil service and even the more contentious applications which reach the local planning committee are mostly ultimately determined on legal grounds. The same goes for the recently created elected police commissioners. If we’re going to have devolved government throughout the UK with the creation of an English Parliament, the national parliament should be severely pruned, and currently unwieldy national services could be run more efficiently with greater accountability regionally.
Particularly from seeing my own children’s education, education spending – about 1/8th of the national budget – is out of control, as far more appears to be spent nowadays but for lower outcomes: at 16 youngsters have GCSE’s rather than the generally accepted to have been more demanding O-Levels. A-Levels standards have been lowered to reduce the too large a jump from GCSE’s to the old courses.
With Social Security costing £245 Billion p.a., nearly 1/3rd of Government’s annual expenditure, we don’t need unskilled migrants to harvest UK produced crops, and the benefits system should better reflect the seasonal availability of work so that there would be less benefits available and people who took seasonal work wouldn’t be penalised when such work isn’t available.
The only way any party can implement policies is to be in power. A first pre-requisite to having an adequate number of candidates elected is to connect with the electorate with distinctive and well-presented policies in the key areas which will determine the way most voters will vote. As the General Election has confirmed once again that most voters vote with their wallets the slight variation of the slogan of Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign comes to mind: “It’s the economy, stupid.”