This is a continuation of Manifesto Watch: Conservatives – Part 1
The big promise that Theresa May has made is that she will pump an extra £4 billion into schools. She will also move about £1 billion, most of which is from scrapping free lunches for all infants. They will be returned to only low income infants. However, all primary school children will be offered free breakfasts. Overall, all of these plans will leave schools 3% worse off per pupil in real terms according to the IFS (Institute of Financial Studies). With schools already struggling this will be a real shame. Education is very important in the long term as a high standard of education means a stronger, better educated future workforce. The restricting of lunches for all infants is a shame, however this is offset by the free breakfasts for all primary children. This is a good idea as it will mean that pupils will be more energised and healthier throughout the school day. Breakfast is the most important meal and it is good to see the conservatives focus on it. However, this is nowhere near enough to offset the spending cuts that education will see under May’s premiership.
She will also end the ban on new grammar schools. This is such an annoying area to discuss as most people use their own personal experiences as evidence. However, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has some interesting analysis I would like to share with you. There is little attainment impact in grammar schools. Pupils achieve 1/3 of a grade better than they would in a state school at GCSE level. However, this decreased as grammar schools became less selective. There is no difference in results between grammar schools and high performing comprehensives. Disadvantaged pupils are under-represented in grammar schools, therefore the social mobility argument is some what invalidated. This is a very personal argument and I will leave an article at the end of this blog to help you decide, however most people will have to consider their own attitudes. I have only written some facts to help inform you. It’s your job to balance your ideas and come up with a conclusion.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister wants to introduce T-Levels. This is a good idea. Our economy is too unbalanced with 80% of GDP coming from services. These T-Levels (or technical levels) could help encourage student to go into manufacturing and construction, where there is a particular shortage of workers. Then they can gain qualifications as well as practical experience. Whether these are more effective than apprenticeships remains to be seen though.
As I stated before, I don’t know too much about health economics. But I will go over the basics. A real increase in £8bn per year by 2022/23 is identical to the promise they made in 2015. This is most likely being done so that per capita spending on the NHS doesn’t fall. There are no safeguards of contracts, so there will still be a fear amongst many of a gradual privatization.
One of May’s UKIP-esque policies will be to make immigrants pay more to cover the NHS. This is pretty ironic as migrants are net contributors and young. They are of a healthy age and will not be the biggest strain on the NHS as they will rarely use it. Students from abroad will hardly touch it. The biggest strain on the NHS is an ageing population and May’s tax is nothing more than scapegoating and demonising minority groups.
Mrs May wants to scrap triple lock pensions and replace them with double lock pensions by 2020 removing the 2.5%. In order to find out why this is good in my opinion, please refer to my extract about pensions in manifesto watch: Labour – Part 2.
Theresa May has also announced that the Winter Fuel Allowance will be means tested. This means that richer pensioners will no longer receive it. This will cost lots to test and one has to ask whether it’s worth it. There will most likely be cases where they get it wrong and people have to chose between eating and heating as they did before the allowance was introduced. Again, this is a moral question as well as an economic one. Should pensioners be expected to save more? Should they receive money for heating which is necessary for them to survive during the winter months? Is it fair that rich and poor pensioners both receive it equally if richer pensioners can afford it otherwise?
Just as Liverpool regularly target winning the Premier League, the Conservatives target getting immigration down to less than 100,000 people. Just like Liverpool, the conservatives haven’t met this goal in a very long time. Thank goodness. Immigration has a positive impact on the economy and with an increasing dependency ratio (Those under 16 & over 65 divided by those aged 16-65), immigration remains as important as ever. With no immigration, Britain’s debt is likely to increase at a much faster rate than at current levels. However, May is determined to lower immigration.
She also is setting higher restrictions on students leaving the country after their degree. Students are highly trained and well educated. Therefore to send more productive and educated young workers with high potential out of the country is poorly judged. She will also keep students in the immigration statistics, which seems weird as they take very little money from the state, improve our education sector and current account balance and don’t take houses or take jobs (the most common criticisms of immigrants). Goodness knows what May’s logic is. No matter what it is, this is another anti-foreigner policy that is concerning to hear.
Energy & Environment
Theresa May wants the UK to have the lowest energy costs in Europe. She doesn’t say how she will do this. However, with the current shape of the industry this doesn’t look likely. She will also put in a price cap for energy. This is surprisingly left wing of a Conservative Prime Minister. She will look to meet carbon reduction objectives that had previously been set out. Nothing too revolutionary, but better than certain other world leaders.
She is against wind farms, but in favour of fracking. I discussed this in the labour manifesto as they were in favour of fracking. The arguments for it are that it can bring jobs and a steady supply of oil and gas that is hard to reach and also allows us to cut our carbon emission in half. The arguments against it are that water environmentally costs a lot to transport, as it is required to frack. Fracking is risky as a drill may not find gas. It can cause small tremors. Activists say that the government should be focusing on other forms of energy which are renewable instead. So, it is up to you to make up your mind on this issue.
One of Theresa May’s pledges is to halve homelessness by 2020. She doesn’t say how she’s going to do this. My personal theory is that she will just shoot them.
She will deliver 500,000 more homes by 2020 and another 500,000 by 2022 (A similar amount to Corbyn). This seems somewhat problematic. They will most likely need to be built on green spaces and with grassroots Conservative objection, this may be a problem. Her manifesto implies that she doesn’t really want to build on these areas either. She will need to deregulate.. There is also a lack of construction workers right now. If she is looking to reduce immigration, which supply’s plenty of labour into this industry, this will make that target even less attainable. Despite the promise in the manifesto, everything else looks to contradict the goal.
There is a fair amount of policies regarding improving transport. One of the key points that caught my eye was that she wanted an agreed minimum service level during strikes, so companies have to provide a certain amount of routes. This is an attack on the power of the unions. This will be received positively by commuters as these strikes have an economically damaging impact.
May will continue developing HS2. This will hopefully lower house prices in London as demand goes down. May will also hope this train link will increase investment in the north, a continuation of George Osborne’s northern powerhouse.
The point of this series of posts is not to tell you who to vote, or the definite impact of policies, but to inform you of policies and get an understanding of the critical thinking that economics requires. I hope that as you’ve read these posts you have gained a better understanding of the Labour Party and their policies. I also hope you have learnt more about the economics and the economist mindset. I truly hope that you have come up with thoughts and ideas that I haven’t written as that is truly the point of this blog.
I am not talking about some areas of the manifesto because, well they aren’t as economics based. I am not writing about foreign policy (seriously) or crime and justice or families and communities. This series can’t cover everything a party would bring as you elect them. It doesn’t cover certain policy areas and it definitely can’t cover a style of leadership or anything close to that. If you think this blog is enough to help you, then ok, but there is much more out there which is well worth reading.
ELECTION WEEK PLAN:
Labour Part 1 2/6 (Workers, Brexit, Tax)
Conservative Part 1 3/6 (Business, Brexit, Tax, Social Care)
Labour Part 2 4/6 (Education, Environment, Social Care, Brexit, Migration, Energy, Housing)
Conservative Part 2 6/6 (Education, Health, Pensions, Immigration, Energy & Environment, Housing Transport )
Lib Dems 7/6 (TBC)
Generic Endorsement post 8/6 (TBC)
Grammar School Source: https://epi.org.uk/analysis/grammar-schools-8-conclusions-data/