an accountant's perspective


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Each Political Party’s Policies in English

They are all good at talking the talk – whether any of them actually deliver or will ever deliver is something we have to shelve when we enter those poll booths. Voting is important in the sense that it gives us a right to be furious with an Election’s outcome, a political parties actions, a politicians indiscretions and of course those who choose not to vote. You have to go through the motions if you want to vent about the way this country is governed.

There is a meme going around Facebook at the moment saying ‘Vote Muppet – because you will get any anyway’ and featuring a picture of Kermit the frog. Voting in many ways does feel like a pointless exercise for many but going and choosing the Green Party (they have not chance of actually getting in), putting a cross in each box, or writing a nice message to the vote counters, says a lot. These actions all show that you care but you do not have any faith in the candidates meant to be representing the country. If everyone who couldn’t decide on a party or was entirely disillusioned with politics to bother actually did one of those three actions then the Green Party would very probably get in – so maybe not that option. But there would be hundreds of thousands of voided votes saying we do not think that politicians have the best interests of their people at heart. Instead of passing those masses off as lazy, disconnected or not politically savvy, they would suddenly be looking at a landslide ‘no confidence’ vote and we might feel a bit better about lacking any power to change anything for the better. They probably wouldn’t listen but at least we would have spoken as loudly

If you cannot pick a party or refuse to – make sure you still vote because it can matter. So here is a rundown of each political party’s polices in straight talking language in case you are still not entirely sure what they are all preaching about. To be honest there is very little that separates them these days except our historical and personal interpretations of what the parties once stood for perhaps.

Here are three of the big policies and each parties take on them to help guide your decision on the big day:

IMMIGRATION

British keyboard and UK map

Conservatives – Make migrants wait 4 years before they are allowed to claim benefits such as tax credits, Universal Credit, or access social housing. Remove those that fail to find work after a 6 month period. Ruled out capping migrant numbers of halting EU freedom of movement rules. Plan to reduce incentives rather than entry.

Labour – Proper entry and exit checks with stronger border controls. Reduce low skilled migration whilst ensuring ease off access for university students and high-skilled workers. Fines for employing illegal immigrants increased.

Lib Dems – Reinstate exit checks at borders to monitor who might be overstaying their visa. Great English skill checks before Jobseekers Allowance is issued, and  mandatory courses where English is poor. EU migrants to earn benefits.

SNP – Allow devolved government to have control over immigration to Scotland and introduce a Canadian-style earned citizenship system.

UKIP – Bring in an Australian style points policy in order to select migrants with skills needed to work in the country. This would cover those inside as well as outside the EU. Priority lanes given to UK passport holders and tougher English language tests for migrants who are looking for permanent residence. Opt out of the Dublin treaty so the UK would be able to return asylum seekers to other EU countries without considering their claim. Any one already with the legal right to live, work or study in the UK would not be deported.

Greens – Progressive reduction of UK immigration controls. Migrants illegally living in the UK for over five years will be permitted to stay unless a threat to public safety. Extended legal rights to asylum seekers.

TAXES & THE ECONOMY

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Conservatives – Reduce the deficit by 2018. Achieve this with spending cuts and no tax raises. A raise in NHS spending. Tax should start to take effect at £12,500 a year. Higher rate tax to start at £50,000 instead of £41,900. Changes to be introduced by 2020. £25bn in additional spending cuts. No increases in VAT.

Labour – Reduce national debt as soon as possible. No more borrowing. Bring back the 50p top rate of income tax for earnings over £150,000. Bring in a ‘mansion tax’ on properties worth over £2m. Tax bankers’ bonuses. 5% tax cut for each government minister. No increases in VAT or NI contributions.

Lib Dems – Raise personal allowance to £12,500 by 2020. New fiscal rules to reduce deficit by April 2018. Wealthy to contribute the most. Lib Dems invented the ‘mansion tax’ and how it will operate along the same lines of council tax bands. Increase capital gains tax paid on profits from second homes or shares – from 28% to 35%. 8% rate of corporation tax on UK banks to raise £1bn a year.

SNP – Oppose UK plans in Infrastructure Bill which will allow oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing beneath people’s homes without their prior consent. Invest in offshore wind farming. Support International bank tax – limit industry bonuses.

UKIP – Increase personal allowance to the level of full-time minimum wage levels – £13,500 by 2020. Abolish inheritance tax. A Treasury Commission to create a turnover tax on large businesses. Cut foreign aid by £9bn a year. Scrap HS2. Leave the EU and save £8bn a year in membership fees.

Greens – 50% income tax on those earning more than £100,000 a year. Wealth tax of 1% or 2% on people worth equal to or over £3m. Renationalise the railways and energy companies. Scrap HS2. Give powers to councils to impose extra business rates on out-of-town supermarkets which will then fund local businesses. Crack down on tax avoidance by multinationals. Make zero and negative growth possible  without individual hardship occurring.

NHS

Nurse with child patient in UK Accident and Emergency

Conservatives – Extra £2bn to go to frontline health services. Everyone able to see a GP seven days a week by 2020. Recruit 5,000 more doctors.

Labour – Commit an extra £2.5bn a year above Osborne’s plan. This money will come from the ‘mansion tax’, from clamping down on tax avoidance, and a new tax on tobacco companies. Patients in England to receive a GP appointment within 48 hours. End the creeping privatisation of the NHS. Integrate health and social services in the title of whole-person care. Prioritise mental health services. Push money into Cancer drugs, improves access and innovation when the Cancer Drugs Fund runs out in 2016.

Lib Dems – An extra £1bn to NHS every year funded by higher earners paying more tax on shares. Half to go to mental health. Spending on NHS to rise with the growth of the economy. Guaranteed treatment within 18 weeks for people with conditions like depression. Young patients with psychosis to receive treatment within two weeks.

SNP – Slash the number of senior managers in the NHS by 25%. Streamline work of health boards. Realistic increases i NHS spending year on year.

UKIP – £3bn per year extra to the NHS paid for by quitting the EU and middle management cuts. Keep NHS free at point of delivery. Ensure all visitors and migrants (here fewer than five years) are issued with NHS approved medical insurance as a condition to enter the UK. Return powers to matrons. Elected county health boards to replace Monitor and Care Quality Commission.

Greens – Funding diverted away from centralised facilities and into community healthcare, illness prevention and health promotion. End privatisation moves. Abolish prescription charges. Dedicated NHS tax. Ban proactive recruitment of non-British NHS staff from overseas.

Those are the big three. There are many similarities and certainly a few key – stick out like a sore thumb differences. May you make your vote count the best you can. If we face a coalition or hung parliament at least you can say you helped that happen and politics reflected the mood of the country fairly! It is time for Judgement Day.

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How did politics alienate a nation?

The country is full of educated and insightful people. They will discuss the length and breath of politics with ease because the policies do contain variety and the political figureheads do appear to present different characteristics from time to time. There is often lively and passionate debate and the news stations fulfill their due diligence by giving the run up to elections their share of footage.

But, an underlying issue that has been growing for some time now, has remained unresolved. The majority of the British people have lost all faith in politics. They have no respect for the individuals campaigning and even less hope for an outcome in the general election that will actually benefit anyone but the politicians themselves. We can dance around this issue by raising these educated points:

  • the policies are becoming too similar – left and right wings have become murky waters as politics seems to be occupying central territory
  • There are no powerful public speakers or stand out leaders among Cameron, Miliband, Clegg, Farage that can sway public opinion with any gusto
  • The American style of promotion and theatre does not suit British politics and is turning voters off rather than on
  • In a world of stress and heavy work schedules people just do not have the head space for politics and they are not convinced the result will have any real effect on their current lifestyle

But these are polite points. They would cause a small drop off in voters and procrastination in others. What leads to disillusionment is something embedded into the hearts of voters that leads to annoyance, celebrated ignorance, anger, disinterest and worse of all total abandonment. I am a woman and as is the case for many of our kind, the memory of the suffragette struggle, ensures my trip to the ballot box. If it wasn’t for their passion, fight and sacrifice I would have been tempted to let this one pass me by.

Not because I consider myself out of touch with the political policies, ignorant to the importance of our democratic system, or bone idol, but because I genuinely can’t see a positive outcome given what I have seen to date. So here are seven points that are brutally honest and run around my brain whenever I see any of the local or national candidates pledging their service to their party and to the people:

1. U-Turns

It has to be top of the list. Anyone who voted for the Liberal Democrats at the last election will have noted that their 0% tuition fees policy was abandoned as Nick Clegg agreed to (or should I say wholeheartedly supported) tuition fee hikes as proposed by the Conservative wing of the coalition. So, when presented with a more powerful position in the lime light unfortunately party policies take a back seat, or rather are abandoned entirely, by politicians.

2. Left verses Right

A coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives four years ago essentially united two parties that stood at polar opposites on the politics spectrum. I mean come on the words liberal and conservative themselves sum up this utter divide in viewpoint and yet they ran the country together….how did that happen and why were we not more vocal about it?

3. Expenses scandal

Politicians knowingly defrauded the system that our taxes fund by putting in expenses claims for money they were not entitled to. That is theft and in any other company no cover-up would have ensued and the employees would have felt ashamed and hopefully bad about their actions. Not in politics where everything can be defended and mind boggling issues become minor errors of judgement that happen in any institution – do they? How do we trust politicians who chose to enhance their extortionate pay packets with more perks that we paid for? It infuriated me then and it still does now.

4. Childish

They hurl insult after insult at each other like bickering school children in Prime Ministers Questions. Isn’t that a serious sign of a broken system. Instead of concentrating on real issues they choose to poke fun at each other like they are trying to impress their mates. Enough said on this one, it speaks for itself.

5. They never answer the question

They all do this religiously and it is annoying to watch and ultimately tells the audience one thing – they do not want to answer the question because the answer would be damming to them. We always know the answer so why can’t these serious party leaders answer something straight. Just tell the truth, apologise if you need to, admit a weakness and then rebuff it with your strengths, but don’t just dodge the question. It makes you look like complete idiots.

6. They are detached from real life

Some of the one liners they come out with quickly tell us all we need to know about what they actually understand about life for working men/women. I could list all the faux pas but I think it is more important to list the statements made or sentences spoken that resonated with the voters and made them feel like politicians were on their exact wavelength and not preaching from atop an ivory tower.

I didn’t find any of those.

7. Likeability

It is not a competition based on their looks, humour and charisma. But there are some similarities that I find robotic, false, engineered…because of course they are. The scenes with family, children, babies etc etc that show them in a particular light. Staged perfectly for maximum exposure. Those slick, gelled hair cuts, crisp shirts, immaculately shaven faces, moisturised glowing skin…well there is just something a little smug and slippery about it all isn’t there? I don’t like politicians, well there is the occasional one, but in general not so much.

So will it be a hung parliament? I genuinely hope so because that, and only that, will be a true representation of what this nation is thinking. We don’t know who to trust. We don’t know if they even care about what people live with on a day to day basis. And, how can we possibly know if the policies they enter term with will be the ones they stick with when the time comes and it matters most.

Show us a politician with integrity, character, and drive who is down to earth and we will vote for them…where is that person?

Next week I shall endeavour to compare the political policies of each party so we are somewhat the wiser on who shall get our disillusioned vote in May. I vote out of duty and pride and neither of those are currently levelled at this nation or its politicians.