Election 2015: Lib Dem, Green and UKIP pledges in the spotlight
- Credit: Archant
This week the members of our election team will cast their votes in the most important election of a generation. As we head towards the day of decision, we have been asking whether key policy pledges from the main parties were vote winners or losers.
This week, we look at the Lib Dem pledge for an extra £8bn spending on the NHS, the Green Party’s call for social care for the over-65s to be made free at the point of delivery, and UKIP’s plans for an Australian-style points-based visa system which would ensure the right numbers of highly-skilled workers were able to enter the country, while imposing a five-year ban on visas for unskilled workers.
Mum and blogger Penny Carr, 36, thought all three policies could win votes: “Everyone who uses the NHS know that it is struggling and wants to see more money put into it.
“Social care for our elderly has been so hit and miss of late and with an ageing population I think how we treat the over 65s affects so many more people now.
“Whilst I don’t agree with it fully, I think their points-system pledge will win some votes for UKIP. It is hard though to take the effect of this pledge separately from everything else they’re saying about immigration. Immigration is a very hot issue and there are some strong opinions on it – in all directions.”
Philip Webster, 87, a retired floating voter, said: “Lib Dem pledges on anything are just pie in the sky. The party is past its “best before “ date and can promise whatever it likes but will never be in a position to deliver. The same applies to the Green Party. With just one MP they are not in a position to deliver anything and are unlikely to have the slightest influence .
“UKIP could have a point following the Australian points system for immigrant visas but they will have to persuade any coalition partner first.”
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Labour voter Stephen Poxon, 49, who works for The Salvation Army, responded to the different policies in turn: “Like many Liberal Democrat ideas, this might work if we lived in Trumpton. As, though, we live in the real world, I can only say it is patently dangerous to trust Liberal Democrat pledges, which crumble like pie crust. One can only assume the heady atmosphere of power-sharing has gone to some Lib Dem heads if they honestly expect the electorate to ever again trust their word.
“There is no doubt at all that the NHS requires a massive financial injection (no pun intended), and for that reason, Labour are investigating policies that will result in far more reliable pledges and plans. What is for sure is that the wonderful NHS cannot be left in the dubious care of the Conservatives any longer, lest it disappear altogether. Better pay for nurses is a must.
“Care for the over-65 should be high on the agenda of any party. Unfortunately, the Green Party have spectacularly failed to explain how they would fund this idea. In principle, it is a clear vote-winner, given that one in six people in this country fall into that category. The Labour Party plans to integrate health and social care will help this debate no end, and offer real hope.
“I appreciate and understand the urgent need to address issues around immigration. My daily work for The Salvation Army underlines this in bold. We would do well, though, to keep UKIP at the far end of a well-creosoted bargepole.
“The entire system needs a drastic overhaul based on practical compassion and realistic politics. Take, for example, refugees from war-torn zones across the globe. They may not be able to offer skills and professional expertise, but there has to be a way of offering them protection and hospitality. This requires international political cooperation.”
Student Spencer Caminsky, 17, said of the extra £8bn for the NHS: “It’s a nice idea, but from the wrong party. Yes, the policy is a good one. Yes, the NHS needs all the help it can get: A & E waiting times are at a record high, and the supply of GPs is incredibly low. Yes, this is what people want, but it’s not from the party they want.
“The reason why this policy isn’t a vote winner for the Lib Dems, is because no policy at the moment can be a vote winner for the Lib Dems.
“Before the 2010 General Election, in the first live televised debate in UK history, Nick Clegg came across as a man significantly different to the other candidates, awarding him a 10 per cent increase in Lib Dem popularity, incredible support from a host of different backgrounds and newspapers (“I agree with Nick” comes to mind), and in the end, 57 seats and a balance of power, Cleggmania stretching far and wide across UK constituencies.
“While his knowledge was sound, his opinions were justified and his plans were well-liked, the real reason why Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems got so popular was down to one important thing: trust.
“One of the most powerful words and characteristics a leader can have in his arsenal, because while we were clearly ready to move on from Brown, and some would say Cameron looked a bit out of touch, Clegg was real, believable, honest and trustworthy, earning him the popularity he most definitely deserved.
“The problem is, Clegg went back on his main promise, increasing tuition fees from £6,000 to £9,000, causing huge unrest among British students, resulting in the credibility of the party crushed, the students swayed somewhere greener, and that all-important word of trust gone from the Lib Dems’ back pocket, polling now at just under 5 per cent from the 23 per cent they gained in 2010.
“It shows that even good policies such as these won’t be vote winners for the Lib Dems, as their most important bargaining chip, just got thrown off the table altogether.”
He didn’t comment on the Green Party’s pledge, but did react to UKIP’s plans for an Australian-style points-based visa system: “A sure vote winner, and one of UKIP’s few strong policies.
“With immigration one of the biggest political footballs of the election campaign, this is a huge deal for UKIP as a party, helping to back up their very strong leadership in Nigel Farage, two credible MPs in Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, and a very strong win recently in the European elections.
“This policy insures only those who will really benefit the United Kingdom are allowed to live in the United Kingdom, not only effectively dealing with the supposed immigration problem, the public feeling the availability of jobs and housing is being filled up, through migrants from various countries, but it will also result in a very skilled workforce, benefitting businesses and revenue and ultimately leading to a more stable economy.
“What’s more, it eliminates the prospect of a dependency culture, where people with limited skills come into the UK and live off the benefits we provide them.
“I think the percentage of the electorate most concerned about UK immigration will see this very clearly when deciding which party to vote for, and if they aren’t swayed by the uncertainty in the other policies, and the racist connotations, they’ll probably vote for UKIP as a result.”
Alan Morton, 67, had little faith in the Lib Dems’ pledge for more NHS funding: “Only die hard Lib Dems will believe this policy.
“In reality we’d probably all like to believe it but they haven’t done enough (so far) to show how they are going to fund this, and continue to fund it in future years.”
He was also dismissive of the Green Party’s pledge for free social care for the over 65s at the point of delivery: “As with the previous policy it’s a great ideal but the Greens haven’t done enough to show how this will be funded.”
And what about UKIP’s policy? “Immigration is a very emotive issue – for all political parties.
“It’s recognised by most right minded people in the UK that successive governments have been woeful in keeping track of immigration and in keeping infrastructure plans in tune with a growing population.
“The leaders of those administrations should hang their collective heads in shame in letting the country down so badly. We must have some fair control of immigration for the benefit of everyone but I’m undecided at this moment if a points based system is the right way forward.”
Finally, Conservative voter Brian Moores, 64, responded: “I almost find the political position of the NHS in the same position that immigration was a few years ago in as much as one cannot challenge or criticise it without being vilified.
“It is a fantastic service and the envy of the world but it has to be ready to change when needed and accept that without change it cannot meet the needs of our changing society.
“If you were a Lib Dem why not offer £8 billion; you are not going to have to be up there on your own to justify it.”
When it came to free social care, he was more positive: “I rather support this notion because we do not have fair systems of paying for social care in later life across the UK. I think this can win some votes for the Greens.”
He also considered a points-based visa system to be a potential vote winner for UKIP: “However from what I see locally, unskilled workers are often a joy to watch as they pitch in to their tasks with enthusiasm and politeness. They work hard and do long hours. Is this because they have not fallen into the habit of picking up easy money from the state?
“Of course many of these ‘unskilled’ workers are in fact skilled but are prepared to work hard in more menial jobs while seeking that opportunity to follow their skilled trade or profession.”