A polling station sign is wrapped around a post in front of a path that leads to a doorway

UK Election 2017: Political Parties Reveal Their First Policies In Race For Westminster

The main political parties vying for the upcoming U.K. election have begun to position themselves as they reveal their first policies in the early days of this sudden election campaign.

Since Theresa May called this snap U.K. election last week, Labour, the Green Party, and UKIP, among others have been hurrying to clarify their positions on Brexit, domestic policies, and other topics that are likely to influence voters.

Here, we cover some of what the major political parties have been saying as they gear up for the U.K. election on June 8.

Theresa May smiles to a crowd while campaigning for the U.K. election
Theresa May, Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister [Image by Chris Radburn – WPA Pool/Getty Images]

Conservatives

While all the polls point towards a Tory victory in the U.K. election, debate surrounds the extent of that victory. Opinions vary, with some experts predicting Theresa May could extend her narrow majority of 14 up to as much as 140. This would be seen as a great victory for the Prime Minister, as she looks to solidify her domestic position through this election ahead of the two-year Brexit negotiation with the EU.

Meanwhile, left-wing optimists are wondering if Jeremy Corbyn will manage to perform a huge turnaround in Labour’s fortunes and get the keys to No. 10 Downing Street himself. Few polls give this much chance, though he may be able to limit the majority May so desires.

Theresa May has so far campaigned quietly, running with the not-so-catchy campaign line “strong and stable leadership in the national interest.”

The policies of this Conservative Party are probably the best known ahead of the U.K. election, given that the U.K. public has been so singularly focussed on Brexit in recent months. May revealed her personal flagship grammar school policy some months back, though such policies are likely to be background rather than foreground election issues.

The Conservatives may wish to add something more hopeful and inspiring than just a promise of seeing Brexit through. Since announcing the snap election, public support for the government has been weakening.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a campaign speech this week. [Image by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images]

Labour

Depending on which newspaper or media outlet you read, you may have entirely polar opposite images of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Regardless of what you think, you can’t deny his work rate in this last week. After welcoming the election, he has been busy traveling the U.K. to deliver his upbeat message in an attempt to reinvigorate a flagging Labour Party.

In Scotland, Corbyn addressed trade unionists on Monday vowing “to fight for every seat in every corner of these isles.” He will need to in Scotland particularly; a spectacular collapse at the last election saw Scottish Labour return only one sitting MP.

The primary policy Corbyn has revealed so far is to “rip up and rethink” the white paper on Brexit, focusing negotiations on retaining single market and customs union access. Corbyn has also called for a “proactive, multilateral disarmament strategy,” though it required a party statement to clarify Labour’s official position. He has the potential of being a disruptive force in the election if he can get his party all singing from the same manifesto.

That may be harder than first appears. The official Labour Party stance seems often to contrast the leader’s own views. This is one of the several issues that Corbyn must resolve if Labour is to gain the public’s trust and have a strong showing at this U.K. election.

A man with glasses speaks from a lecturn in front of a wooden wall. The phrase Britain Together is written across the front.
UKIP leader Paul Nuttall announces “integration agenda.” [Image by Leon Neal/Getty Images]

UKIP

You may ask what the U.K. Independence Party has left to canvas for. After all, its fundamental goal (removing the U.K. from the European Union and thus creating its independence) was achieved in June 2016.

Yet Paul Nuttall, the current leader of the party that represents the far-right perspective of the mainstream political spectrum, has looked to focus his party’s energies on a new “integration agenda.”

“Today’s message will be a message about positivity, it will not be about negativity…It is about promoting integration in British society.”

The UKIP leader has announced several headline-worthy policies as part of this “integration agenda.” These include a ban on full-face coverings (though beekeepers will be happy to have been exempted from this) and mandatory checks for girls thought at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). Campaigners have come out strongly against both of these policies, with Daughters of Eve director Nimko Ali calling the policy an “abuse of their human rights.”

These policies for the 2017 U.K. election do fit within UKIP’s traditional flagship policies on controlled immigration and so-called traditional British values.

Yet, if anything, the party is being pushed to find its identity further to the right, as the Tories have adopted much of what has been UKIP territory in the past. With the leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, this week calling UKIP’s proposals “full-throttled Islamophobia,” they are certain to continue to be a divisive aspect of U.K. politics.

UKIP won 11 percent of the popular vote in the 2015 U.K. election. If they can turn that vote share into actual seats in Parliament in the 2017 election, such policies and perspectives may well begin to be formally debated. With Le Pen entering the final round of French presidential elections and a populist U.S. President, few would entirely discount UKIP’s voice.

Nuttall says UKIP is “10 years ahead of its time;” liberals will be hoping this doesn’t prove to be true.

A man addresses a crowd who wear the yellow rosette of his party. Liberal Democrat signs are in the background
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron campaigning [Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]

Liberal Democrats

Once the king-makers, the Liberal Democrats had a mighty fall from grace at the 2015 U.K. election. Since their presence in Parliament shrank to just nine elected members, the Liberal Democrats have been attempting to rebuild. Ahead of the 2017 U.K. election, leader Tim Farron has decided to rebrand the Liberal Democrats as the staunchly pro-EU party.

Vowing to stop a “disastrous hard Brexit,” Farron will go yet further in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, offering the U.K. public an opportunity to overturn the referendum result by holding a second referendum on the matter. He will also look to ensure that Parliament has a final say in the EU exit negotiations, should the party gain a significant voice through this election.

Given the gravitas of this policy, it is likely that we will hear little to surpass it during this election campaign. For Liberal Democrats in the 2017 U.K. election, you can read “EU Remainer.”

The Green Party

While Corbyn ruled out including the Labour Party in such an effort during his Aviemore address, the Green Party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas, has called for left-of-center parties to form a “progressive alliance” to defeat the Tory Party. This would include the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Liberal Democrats.

“I would like progressives to work together to give those in favour of fairer politics a better chance of winning.”

And while Lucas was referring to applying this to the 2020 U.K. elections, plenty of keen members of the public have taken the cue and looked at how tactical voting may benefit those who wish to defeat the Tories in this year’s elections.

The Scottish National Party

The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon called this election a “massive miscalculation.” But she also clearly sees it as an opportunity to “stand up for Scotland,” to prevent it from moving to the right.

The SNP achieved an extraordinary landslide two years ago, winning 56 seats of Scotland’s 59 in Westminster to become the U.K.’s 3rd largest representation in Parliament. Defending such a landslide so soon was probably not on the SNP’s agenda.

A little over a month ago, Sturgeon moved to start the process of a second independence referendum for Scotland. While the SNP have not announced any further policies, it is likely that they will center around Scotland-centric issues and the possibilities of remaining more strongly linked to the EU.

A week after Theresa May announced June’s U.K. election, the political parties are slowly and cautiously moving into position. Who will manage to gain the public’s vote on election day may be revealed by the moves, and perhaps mistakes, they make in the coming weeks.

[Featured Image by Leon Neal/Getty Images]

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