Hunky Tory

As I begin this article, I want to admit that I am Humpty Tory, and quite happy supporting the Conservatives in Elections’15 in the UK. Recently, I was registered as a voter in the UK. Part of my support for the Conservatives is because I have traditionally been aligned slightly right-of-center politically, even in India, and the rest of my support arises due to David Cameron’s ideas and policies, some of which I would briefly like to mention in this article.

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The Electorate and Mood

To begin with, one has to acknowledge the emergence of parties that have made it a fair bit distant from a bipolar contest: the SNP, the Lib Dems, the UKIP and the Greens. It may not be smooth sailing for either the Labour Party or the Conservatives, given a neck-to-neck race. Both major parties will unlikely be able to form a government with the votes of their respective members of parliament alone. In a scenario where parties like UKIP have got support from both the Labour and the Conservatives, it will be interesting to see how a coalition is and can be worked out.

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There have been members of the electorate, for instance, who have gone from the UKIP to Labour and vice versa. Both these set of voters share a concern for core UKIP issues – immigration, crime, the European Union – but the latter set believe multiculturalism has had a negative impact. There are other such cases which make for interesting political analysis! After the presentation of the budget, the opinion polls show a slight improvement in the rating of the Conservatives. However, a coalition like that between Labour and SNP is very possible and could take Ed past the post to 10 Downing Street.

The Conservatives’ Long Term Economic Plan

The Conservatives’ long term economic plan on their website primarily comprises of the following points:

  • Reducing the national deficit
  • Cutting income tax and freezing fuel duty
  • Creating more jobs
  • Capping welfare and working to control immigration
  • Delivering the best schools and skills for young people

An interesting set of points! Some of you may ask about how one could go about creating jobs. Well, as in India, support to small businesses and enterprises seems to be the way forward, and that is exactly what the Conservatives plan on doing. They also want to cut the income tax to allow the ‘hardworking people’ to remain financially secure. A laudable point!

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One point which is supposedly the elephant in the room, for a foreigner in these lands, has to be the point on working to control immigration. The Conservatives at times have swayed in their stance. My stance on this point is clear: I am inclined towards the fact that the Conservatives are for immigration but for only those who are willing to work hard and play by the book. My only concern is that meritocracy should be maintained, and just as I am against positive discrimination in India wherever it is not required, I would like to see just about enough facilities and provisions in Britain for a healthy working environment for those who want to work. The Conservatives want to clamp down on health and benefits tourism, which sounds fine. Interestingly, the Conservatives also want to introduce a new citizens’ test with ‘British values at its heart’.

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The one point where the Conservatives are fairly strict is that of benefits. Where on one hand the Labour wants benefits to rise faster than wages, the Conservatives want to reinforce their support for primarily those who need the welfare system as a safety net and reward those willing to work for their wages. In terms of infrastructure development, the Cameron government has not been all that lagging at all. According to what Cameron said in one of his speeches in 2012, on infrastructure, he had two primary goals during his tenure: firstly, to give power back to the people; and secondly, to set up the nation for long-term success. The former was slated to be achieved using public service reform (for instance, by giving parents more control over their child’s education) and political reform. The latter was to be handled by cutting down on the deficit and building infrastructure.

On the topic of infrastructure, David Cameron said

Infrastructure matters because it is the magic ingredient in so much of modern life; it is not secondary to other more high-profile elements of economic strategy, it affects the competitiveness of every business in the country, it is the invisible thread that ties our prosperity together.  It gets power to our lights, water to our taps, workers to their jobs and food to our shops.  It enables factories, offices, warehouses and workshops to function, to trade and to grow.

But infrastructure is not just about business and it is not just about big, high-profile projects; it is an all-pervasive force in society too.  It is the network that powers smart phones, it allows us to log on to Facebook, to travel, to live the lives we choose; it is, if you like, the platform for active citizenship.  Its value lies in its ability to make things possible tomorrow that we cannot even imagine today.  If our infrastructure is second-rate then our country will be too.

The most laudable idea stated by Cameron was that a comprehensive vision for infrastructure did not mean a flurry of projects but rather an ‘integrated set of networks that collectively deliver the economic and social goods’.

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As per Cameron, his aim has been to tackle the three failures that have held back the development of infrastructure in the country: failure of vision; failure of financing; and failure of nerve.  To begin with he put forth the National Infrastructure Plan: a plan to audit existing infrastructure, what needed change and the relevant, associated timescales. Cameron believed in the government taking a proactive role in the financing. The Conservatives established a green investment bank, which was slated ‘to take £3 billion of taxpayers’ money and use it to lever in several multiples of that figure from the private sector to build our green infrastructure’.   Being assets with long term returns, infrastructure has always been a point of focus for Cameron.

In the area of taxation, days are projected to be grim if Labour comes to power. Labour have confirmed that they will raise corporation tax – hitting businesses and costing jobs. The Centre for Policy Studies, the independent think tank, says that Labour’s corporation tax policy could cost 96,400 jobs as per Telegraph!

Recent Run-Up

David Cameron has been proactive in his election campaign, releasing statements like the one where he said that he will offer a truly seven-days-a-week National Health Service (NHS). Being the important election issue that it is, the NHS faces unprecedented pressure on its budget from a growing and ageing population, besides the rising cost of modern healthcare. The NHS reforms have been one of the negatives in the Tory regime’s time. The reforms introduced by the Cameron government to the NHS have been “disastrous” and have “distracted” from the real work of the health service, according to the King’s Fund, a think tank. In this election, Labour wants to make health the key issue, with the party focusing on personnel recruitment and development, in contrast to the Conservatives’ plan to add to the budget in real terms (something which may be easier said than done). This is still a highly relevant and debatable topic, and may very well define which way the mandate sways.

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Cameron has emerged as the clear favorite for the PM’s position, especially after his interview with Jeremy Paxman, even though Labour, as a party, is giving the Conservatives a tough fight. Inflation has been low, wages are not that bad and the Cameron government has been dedicated to development in a realistic manner, with a strong, clear vision in mind.

I remain Hunky Tory!

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