Do the main UK political parties agree or disagree on policy and ideas?

The ‘main’ political parties can be defined as The Labour Party and The Conservative Party, who have been the only political parties to gain a majority for over a hundred years. Despite other smaller parties such as UKIP, the Green Party and The Liberal Democrats building in popularity they are none of them big enough to act as a real challenger to these two. Despite Labour and Conservative being very different by definition; Labour being left wing and Conservatives right wing, in more recent years, in the terms of Tony Blair and David Cameron they have been often more similar than different both settling on centrist views trying to please the whole population. However, since the appointment of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn this has drastically changed and with Corbyn especially being so notoriously left wing the two are arguably more different now than ever. Despite this there are still surprising similarities remaining between the two.

One point of conflict between May’s Conservatives and Corbyn’s Labour is education. A hugely controversial policy announcement by May since her appointment as Prime Minister has been her decision to lift the ban on grammar schools and hope to reinstall them as a major part of our education system. May believes, many argue due to personal experience, that grammar schools help to bridge societal gaps and give all intelligent children the opportunity they deserve. The conservatives believe that it is impossible to have schooling without some form of selection and it is better for this to be done due to intelligence tested in the 11+ than by house price. However, Corbyn and many in his party believe strongly that selective schools should have no place in our education system. They say that Grammar schools only deepen the divide between classes as Middle Class parents will be able to take the financial precautions; paying for tutors and a quiet working space in order to ensure their children take up the grammar school places. This will leave working class children behind academically in the less ambitious secondary’s and make them feel rejected and inadequate. One exam at such a young age should not have such drastic effects on a child’s whole future. It is not just Grammar Schools that are supported by the conservatives many also want to see more academies and free schools; saying that parents should have a wide choice in where to send their child. Corbyn, however, is strong on the fact that there is no place for choice in education and that all schools should work at the same level and in the same way to ensure all children start life with the same opportunities.

Another current issue in which the two parties have very differing opinions is Brexit. The decision of the public in the summer referendum for Britain to the leave the European Union is undoubtedly one that will bring change. However how much change it will bring depends on whether we go through with a soft or hard brexit. May has spoken out to confirm that she wants to go forward with a hard brexit, despite there being many disagreements within her party. She believes that the people chose this way for a reason and that they are desperate for more fixed limitations on immigration in particular. In fact she is willing to sacrifice the single market, which is hugely beneficial to our economy, in order to enforce these regulations. Corbyn’s Labour, however, despite accepting the public’s choice would like to ensure it results in as little change as possible as they believe our current deal with the EU is working and important for the economy. Corbyn thinks that giving up the single market would be hugely damaging and despite much worry from members of the public has gone as far as to say he has ‘no problem with immigration,’ as he sees it as incredibly beneficial for more workers to be coming in and helping with jobs here in the UK. So this is an area where they greatly differ.

Despite these largely dividing differences there are some surprising areas of similarity between the two parties, one being their position on the economy. Under David Cameron the conservative party were known for austerity; the idea that cuts to public services should be made so that taxation can be lessened and the deficit can be cut. David Cameron and George Osborne claimed that austerity was the best thing for the country as it was the only way to get rid of the deficit and get our economy back on track, however their claim that the deficit would disappear by 2015 has by no means been the reality. The Labour Party has always been firmly against austerity believing strongly in the importance of public services and taxation to ensure the rich pay more to help the poor. They believe that cutting funding for public services is damaging and dangerous as organisations such as the NHS are essential in the everyday lives of the people and so need to run efficiently with sufficient funding. They believe the right way to get out of debt is to spend more in order to stimulate the economy. Although this was an area of huge difference between the Conservatives and Labour since Theresa May’s appointment it has become an area of more similarity. May has taken a pragmatic response saying that due to huge changes in Britain that will come due to brexit it would be unrealistic and unhelpful to continue with austerity. She recognises that money needs to be spent protecting the public services which is very similar to the view of the Labour Party. However, due to Corbyn being so left wing he still believes the conservatives should be spending more and taxing more highly despite them doing more since Cameron lost power.

Another area where they hold many similarities in their views is that of social equality. Despite May seeming more Thatcherite on these issues in the past; not always being supportive of the gay marriage rights act, since her getting into office she has announced many socially liberal ideas and policies. One of these is her lifting of the disability check which meant those claiming disability benefits due to long-term conditions had to be checked on each year to determine whether they still qualified to receive these benefits. This would generally be seen as a right wing policy as they are known for fearing people who do not work and live off benefits but May has opposed this as she recognises it to be cruel and unfair on those already in great suffering. This would be in agreement with Jeremy Corbyn and The Labour Party as they believe strongly in social equality, as well as helping and being sympathetic to those who are vulnerable. Another area that May has surprised many in her understanding of inequality is in her recognising the injustice of the criminal justice system in dealing with black people, saying in her first speech outside 10 Downing Street “if you’re black you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white”. By admitting this and showing sympathy and a willingness to help change this fact she is the first leader to do so and shows herself to be a caring leader who claims to not just want to protect those like herself. This is again something that the Labour Party would approve of as they focus on the importance of fairness for all people.

In conclusion, there are major differences between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party who it is safe to say are the two main political parties in the UK. Discussing issues such as education and foreign affairs they hugely disagree and would seem very different. However due to May’s changing the Conservatives position on the economy they now relate more on this topic as well as that of social equality which May again is trying to improve. So, despite Jeremy Corbyn being known as very left wing and Theresa May as right they are more similar than it would first appear.

Daisy Delaney

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