Who will you sell your soul to?
In the past week or so the Labour party have made increasingly large amounts of noise about how they will not deal with the SNP in the event of a hung parliament, which all polls suggest there will be. So in 2015 we will likely be seeing a Conservative or Labour led coalition. Deals will have to be made and compromises worked out. If Labour want to be in government and if Ed Miliband wants to be PM then they will have to bring one of the third parties into their fold. If not the SNP then who? Which third party would, or indeed should, the Labour party embrace? To answer this let’s look at the issues that matter to British citizens and where Labour and the smaller parties stand, and where we can find the most common ground. According to recent polls the top 2 issues that matter to voters are immigration and race relations, and the economy/spending. These will be the issues this article addresses. The parties included will be the ones looking to take part in the televised debates; namely The Liberal Democrats, The SNP, UKIP, and the Green Party.
Immigration and Race relations
Labour describe their policies here as tough but fair. There is little to no mention within the party about specific number caps. There policies give the appearance of wanting to minimise the negative effects of immigration whilst not being too restrictive on the borders. Labour’s intent seems to be prevent unskilled labour and benefit money being taken on by immigrants in order to protect the interests of their core voters. The Liberal Democrats, too, have made no mention of caps on immigration, instead putting exit checks at the core of their policy to prevent people on temporary visas staying and working in the UK. The SNP are pro-immigration on the whole, arguing for a points based system and a more ‘humane’ approach to refugees and asylum seekers. These policies are, however, born out of a need for more skilled labour in Scotland. How these policies would translate to government is unknown. Similarly the Green party support a more relaxed approach to immigration. The Green party support current immigrants bringing their families, and want to support potential immigrants with their application. UKIP lean in the other direction, they are the only party committed to leaving the EU and seek to control immigration through much more stringent conditions of entry including evidence of financial independency and private health insurance.
It would appear that on this issue UKIP stray too right and the Green party too left. Labour want immigration control without being restrictive, and want to prevent negative effects of immigration on lower income communities. It would appear the best match would be the Liberal Democrats, whose policy of exit checks would be perfectly compatible with Labour’s policies. The SNP could work with Labour; their predisposition to a points based system helping to keep new immigrants above a certain skill level. That would be a point for negotiation and compromise.
The Economy and Spending
Labour are keen to protect key public services and balance the books, as well as coping with the cost of living crisis. A big challenge. Labour propose increasing the taxation on the rich and on their million pound homes. They also propose capping benefits that can be accessed by the well off, including capping the winter fuel allowance to the richest pensioners. Labour also propose increasing the minimum wage to £8 an hour. In this respect the Labour party are running close to the more left wing Green party, who want to increase spending, increase direct taxation on the richest in society, close tax loopholes, and raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour. The Liberal democrats also support the ‘mansion tax’ and seek to decrease the amount of tax paid by low income families. They also support investment in under invested areas of the economy such as manufacturing. The SNP propose investment in national businesses and the creation of jobs, especially youth jobs in the form of apprenticeships. UKIP have estimated a necessary spending cut of £20 billion to reduce the deficit and are the only party wanting to reduce the tax paid by top earners; raising the 40% tax rate to earning over £55,000.
The majority of the parties support increasing taxation on the rich, closing tax loopholes, and investing in the creation of jobs, especially for the young in society. In this respect Labour could stand to deal with any of the parties with the exception of UKIP. There will always be compromises, especially if they do have to deal with the SNP who will expect an increase of funding in Scottish industries.
When we look at the issues above we see that Labour sits quite comfortably with the majority of the small parties and can possibly work with any of them. I am aware that these two issues do not provide a total insight into the parties, however I would argue that they provide a good indication of the ways the parties lean and how they address key issues. The issue that faces Labour is that looking at recent seat predictions they will be limited in who they can deal with and still get a majority in the commons. The SNP look to control the balance of power in Parliament with a prediction of anywhere between 40 and 50 seats. Even if Labour did a deal with the Lib Dems, which would seem to be the most ideologically coherent, they would be unlikely to be able to form a majority. Labour may have to face up to the truth that no other party will have as many seats and be ideologically similar. Labour will have few options and the SNP may be there best bet to form a coalition government without having to sacrifice their beliefs to court the small number of extreme seats that may occur. They just have to overlook the issue of Scottish independence for 5 years.