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  May 20, 2017

UK Conservative Party Presents its Austerity Election Program (1/2)

The Conservative party presents itself as a good economic manager, but its austerity policies have so far only increased Britain's debt, explains Real Media's Kam Sandhu
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Kam Sandhu is a journalist and the co-founder of the UK-based Real Media.


Sharmini: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. The UK's Conservative Party released its manifesto on Thursday, that's election manifesto, entitled "Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and Prosperous Future." It spells out the election pledges and the priorities of the governing Conservative Party of Theresa May. Among the policies outlined include the introduction of voter ID laws, pushing forward with hydraulic fracking, and eliminating school lunches.

There's also a pledge to reduce corporate tax even further, to 17% of profits. Does all of this sound familiar? Does it sound like Donald Trump's campaign promises? Well, it worked for Donald Trump, but will it work for Theresa May? Joining us today to discuss the Tory Party manifesto is Kam Sandhu. Kam is an investigative journalist and editor, and co-founder of the UK based independent news outlet Real Media. Thanks for joining us, Kam.

Kam Sandhu: Thank you for having me.

Sharmini: All right, Kam. I just don't get it. How could any campaign advisor advise Theresa May to take food from the mouths of our children by eliminating the lunch programs?

Kam Sandhu: Well, yeah, it's a pretty shocking, almost [inaudible 00:01:34] in a manifesto that's quite bleak for Britain, really. Talking about the lunches specifically, Theresa May did say that she was going to exchange these lunches for breakfasts, but I don't really know why it would make sense for kids to have to choose between one of those meals every day. Just to put things in perspective, in 2010 when the conservatives came into power, we had 40,000 people needing food banks here in the UK. By 2014, that was a million people and that's just growing.

There's an increase in the number of teachers who say they've had children coming to school who are hungry, which may be solved by this breakfast program, but if we're going to have five million, and these are the projections, children in poverty by 2020, then these are the people who are going to expect to go on to hold up our economy and the after effects of this are really, really bleak. She's already been called the "lunch snatcher," just as Thatcher was called the "milk snatcher," and yeah, perhaps mimicking of Thatcher and people like Trump are really only increasing over time.

Sharmini: All right. Kam, let's also talk about the lack of cost implications in this proposal. Particularly rolling back corporate taxes to 17%. Tell us more about this. Where is it now? What are the implications this will have on the public purse?

Kam Sandhu: Okay, well the corporation tax was 28% when the conservatives came in 2010. It's gone down to 20% and they're projecting it go to down to 17% and there are even people floating around the idea of 15%. We're already one of the lowest tax rates in the G7, there's really no reason to be giving more of these breaks to these corporations when we're experiencing rises in food prices, house prices, and generally the British public are worse off. You're right that there was no costing in the manifesto which is interesting considering it was the conservatives and some of the media who said that it was Labour who were talking pie in the sky and who didn't have the money to back up their promises. Yet, we have a 30,000 page document from the Tory Party that has barely any costing at all.

I think Labour have identified 50 things that have no figures behind them, and that includes a 40 billion pound transport plan, a million pounds for mental health services, a million pounds in skills training for the NHS. A couple of weeks ago, when the conservatives released their poster campaign, they had a huge bomb on the poster and it said that Labour was going to deliver a debt bomb for most families in the UK. I think this really comes down to this trope that the conservatives have been able to live off that they're good with the economy and fiscally responsible, when they've seen the debt double in the time that they've been in office, while implementing all of these austerity measures. What are we getting out of it?

I think this is going to be a real battle of the British public, dismantling their idea that the conservatives are good with the economy and good with money, because it's only created more instability for living standards for the majority of us in the UK, while the people who are benefiting are corporations who are paying less than ever.

Sharmini: Right. Kam, how does this compare with the Labour Party? Give us a bit more detail. Given that they're the other major contender, and if there's any other parties there that is proposing something a bit more humane for the public.

Kam Sandhu: It's really kind of polar opposites we're finding with the Labour manifesto and the conservative manifesto. For example, reductions in corporation tax for the conservatives, taking away school meals as you said. They want to increase tuition fees potentially, and they want to back fracking, and the Conservative Party are very, very behind fracking. George Osborne, the ex-Chancellor, his father-in-law, Lord Howell, has interest in fracking and previously said that we should be fracking in the desolate North, which received lots of complaints from people in the North, as you can imagine.

Whereas the Labour Party have promised tax rises only for the top 5%. That's people earning over £80,000 in this country. That's been still communicated as raising taxes when it's not actually raising taxes for 95% of the country. They've also pledged to ban fracking, ban tuition fee, to have a £10 minimum wage by 2020. There's a lot to celebrate in their manifesto in terms of what it could bring. Richard Murphy, who's a tax specialist, said that the Labour manifesto was a rejection of 35 years of neoliberalism and an acceptance that the government needs to be there to provide education, housing, and all those things that we need day to day.

Sharmini: Right. The manifesto also includes a pledge to introduce voter ID laws. This is something we know a lot about here in the US. What are they proposing to do and is voting fraud a big issue in the UK? It wasn't one here in the US, but restrictions were still imposed nevertheless.

Kam Sandhu: Well, no is the simple answer. It's not a problem in the UK. The Electoral Commission has come out and said before when Eric Pickles, the Community Secretary, started to talk about voter ID about six months ago. They came out and said there is no problem with electoral fraud. The problem exists actually with political party fraud, as we've seen with the conservatives and the election expenses. The CPS did decide not to prosecute any of them, however that's to do with not being able to pin the blame on someone, and some semantics, and perhaps this country's inability to see any repercussions for this kind of behavior.

The conservatives, I think the main thing to get across is that the conservatives have always concentrated on depleting the voter base. They don't want the majority of people to vote, and that's not just shown through these voter ID laws which basically you need a photographic ID to be able to vote in the future elections. That's going to push 7.5% or 3.5 million people in this country straight off the register. The conservatives have done other things to push people off the register. Hundreds of thousands of young people were pushed off as a result of universities and schools ... Colleges sorry, being unable to enroll students onto the electoral roll.

They've also been a part of boundary changes which are always to the benefit of the Conservative Party. Even before that, those kind of instances across the Conservative Party hisTory of them trying to deplete the voter base. Now, this is in opposition to what Labour are doing at the moment. I've seen no posters, no campaigns, no videos from the Conservative Party, getting people to, remind them to register to vote. Whereas the Labour Party have concentrated on this quite a lot because they understand that young people, if people under 40 were the only ones who voted, then the Labour Party would win by a majority quite easily.

I know that you guys have had similar instances of voter ID, but we're experiencing the same trope, so we have a party that is actually perhaps most responsible for electoral fraud, is suggesting that voter ID or voter fraud is a problem when it isn't, which is kind of similar to the way Trump went about his campaign.

Sharmini: All right, Kam. Let's continue the analysis of the new conservative manifesto in segment two. Thanks for joining me for now.

Kam Sandhu: Thank you.

Sharmini: Thank you for joining us here on The Real News. Please stay tuned for part two with Kam Sandhu.


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