British politics has become increasingly adversarial with the arrival of Corbyn’s hard-left Labour party. The core differences in policy and ideology in the two parties has therefore become more prevalent in politics. Theresa May’s government has also taken an increased right-wing stance compared the right-centre government of Cameron before her and therefore we can see huge differences between the two parties today. However, on issue such as the principle of the living wage the parties do share some of the same intentions.
The Labour and Conservative parties hugely differ over the matter of Welfare reform. Since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader there has been growing division on the matter as they believe May and the Conservatives are unfairly targeting the poorest individuals in order to eliminate the deficit. The Conservative idea of austerity is opposed to Labour policies, but the Tories believe this is necessary, especially since the 2008 financial crisis, which placed Britain with a heavy debt. Additionally, Conservative ideas declare that benefits shouldn’t be encouraged as they decrease motivation for individuals to find work, whereas Labour believe it aid those in society who are limited by factors, such as health, background or education. For example it was announced in April 2017 that £1.2 billion would be cut from Child Tax Credit by 2020 and this would be limited to the first 2 children born in a family. Additionally, £350 million a year by 2020 is to be cut from disability benefits by 2020, a plan which has outraged Labour who says that these individuals need more support than jobseekers as they are in a more difficult position. The difference in ideas was evident in a question time in 2017 where Corbyn urged May to rethink the “shameful” cuts. Therefore, it is evident that the current parties are greatly divided on the issue of welfare.
However, both parties can be seen to agree on the principle of the living wage. Introduced by the Conservative in April 2016, the living wage was introduced to establish a wage high enough for an individual to live off of. The Conservatives have strongly supported the wage with the ideal that a higher wage for workers would increase motivation for people to seek employment rather than relying on benefits. The Labour Party fundamentally agree with this, believing that the minimum wage wasn’t sufficient for citizens to live off of and wanting insurance that individuals would benefit off of this new wage. The parties both have plans to increase this wage and therefore we can see similarities in their policy making. However, the parties differ on the extent to which this wage should increase. Conservative plans are estimated by the IFS to positively affect 2.8 million workers and cost employers £1 billion on average, whereas Labour’s plans would affect 7.1 billion workers and cost employers £14 billion a year. Therefore, while the parties agree on the existence of this wage there are differences in how they would both implement it.
Policies on taxation have also been a constant source of distinction between the two parties. The Labour Party essentially believe that the top percentage of the country should face more taxation than the Tories have implemented on them in order to pay for other areas, which need reform such as the NHS, and make wealth distribution more equal in the UK. Labour also believes that corporation tax should be increased, which opposes the Conservative belief that corporation tax should be kept low in order to encourage business in the UK to stimulate the economy. This is evidenced by the tax decrease from 28% to 20% to corporations and May’s claim that she wants the tax to be the lower than any of the other top 20 global economies to encourage business and investment. May also plans to increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of taxation is paid to earners of £50,000 a year, which would benefit the working class. Labour has condemned this as they claim the wealthiest earners are benefitting, while some of the poorest in the country are being denied benefits. Therefore, it is clear that the two parties differ on their policies of taxation and Corbyn’s labour are very much opposed to the tax cuts implemented by the Conservative government.
Both parties seem to agree on the matter of Trident. While, traditionally Labour has been anti-nuclear weapons they appear to have accepted the policy of maintaining a nuclear deterrent. Meanwhile, the Conservative priority of national security favours a nuclear weapons programme for the same reason. Both parties can therefore be seen to support Trident for defensive reasons. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has favoured a more ‘old labour’ approach, voicing a support for leaving Trident and global disarmament when he was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. However, he has since said he supports the will of the Labour Party to keep Trident and would respect the commitment to renewal Trident, which is in the Labour manifesto, if elected Prime Minister. Therefore, it can be said that the current parties agree on the issue of Trident, even if the leader has a different opinion.
Lastly both parties agree on the need to move forward with Brexit, as the people have spoken through a referendum. However at the same time they disagree about how Brexit should look. The Tories seem to be heading towards a ‘hard Brexit’, committing themselves to leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market. The Labour Party, however, after holding a similar line have now conceded that it is in Britain’s interests to remain within the Customs Union. It is believed that within time they will also move on the Single Market, with prominent backbench voices like Chukka Umunna calling for the right to remain within market and the possibility of another referendum.
To conclude, there are broad differences between the current Labour and Conservative parties. The election of Corbyn as labour leader only accentuated these differences, as he strongly believes in the importance of benefits and taxing the rich to achieve more equal wealth distribution in the UK. This evidently disagrees with May’s policies, such as tax cuts and even their decisions on the national living wage can be seen to differ. Therefore, it is clear the parties currently hugely differ over policies and ideas.